A true fire-breathing monster that does great magic with its 640 horsepower.
In today’s golden age of performance vehicles, many cars across a wide variety of price ranges and form factors are throwing down serious numbers, both on paper and in practice. The 2018 Cadillac CTS-V is one clear example, and in its third generation, it stays true to its formula of big power from a forced induction V8 being sent to the rear wheels. The chassis itself has been around for a few years now, but has always been renowned as a good driver’s car. With other elephants in the room being released such as the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S (reviewed here), the CTS-V has its work cut out for itself if it wants to stay relevant. Can it keep up?
Starting at a base price of $93,385, the speedy Caddy comes pretty well loaded. Standard equipment includes an electronic limited slip differential, magnetic ride control, massive Brembo brakes, wireless charging, Bose audio, as well as GM’s corporate-spec 4GLTE Wi-Fi hotspot. Blind spot monitoring, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist round out the safety equipment that today’s cars are getting.
Options on the test vehicle include a $7,195 Carbon Fibre Package, which adds a carbon fibre front splitter, hood vent, spoiler, and rear diffuser. Recaro front seats are $2,645, and the Luxury Package is another $2,595, which brings in a rear camera mirror, heated rear seats, a power rear window sunshade (with manual side shades), and a 110-Volt AC power outlet, among other things. A power sunroof is $1,685, and the Advanced Security Package, Dark Gold Brembo calipers, and a black chrome grille were $685 each. As-tested, the CTS-V was $109,570, which undercuts the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E 63 by a decent margin.
Packing the punch in the V is General Motors’ tried and true pushrod V8 – the LT4 – bringing with it 640 supercharged horsepower at 6,400RPM and 630 lb-ft of torque at 3,600RPM. The soundtrack is nothing short of delicious, and the bark of the exhaust during a cold start is enough to make any gearhead’s pulse start racing. Yes, it has two valves per cylinder, but don’t let that fool you; the boosted V8 flows plenty of air, is physically small and compact despite its 6.2-litre displacement, and makes the absolute most of a classic design.
With the pedal to the metal, acceleration can only be described as absolutely ridiculous. Cadillac quotes the zero to 96 kilometre-per-hour sprint (60 miles per hour) happening in 3.7 seconds, and top speed is rated at 322 kilometres per hour (200 miles per hour). Throttle response is instant, and supercharging in lieu of turbocharging means that torque is available right away. Throughout the rev range, there’s a whole lot of thrust available, and the 295/30ZR19 rear (265/35ZR19 front) Michelin Pilot Super Sport have to continuously fight for traction. Thankfully, the excellent GM Performance Traction Management system is one of the best stability control systems in the business, with four modes (Tour, Sport, Track, Snow/Ice) available to the driver. In the Tour and Track settings, it will allow a reasonable amount of slip and slide before intervening. Closed course use only!
Taking on the shifting duty in all forms of Cadillac CTS-V is an eight-speed torque converter automatic. Known as the 8L90 in GM circles, it’s a heavy-duty gearbox designed to take on the rigours of 630 lb-ft of torque. Shift quality when driving hard is excellent – the transmission does a good job of shifting up and down at the right time during performance driving. On the street, however, it’s a little more unsure of itself and likes to drag out first gear when taking it easy. The ZF 8HP used by BMW and Mercedes 9G-Tronic do better here.
For its trouble, the big V8 does as well as expected with respect to fuel economy. City consumption is rated at 16.5L/100KM, and it’s good for 11.1L/100KM on the highway. Active Fuel Management, or the ability to go into V4 mode under light load cruising, helps highway consumption quite a bit, and a trained right foot can easily beat rated figures (but what fun would that be in a 640-horse Caddy?). Observed economy over a week of lead-footing and mostly highway driving more or less split the two ratings at 13.5L/100KM. Tank capacity is 72 litres, and to nobody’s surprise, premium fuel is required.
As the division to get much of GM’s latest and greatest technology, the Cadillac also gets to show off its wares in the handling department. With a curb weight of 1,878 kilograms (4,141 pounds), it’s a pretty portly car, but drivers would almost never know it based on the way it handles. Steering is heavy and provides a good feel for the road, much like the “good old days” of motoring. Turn-in is sharp and immediate, and the balanced rear-wheel drive setup really allows the magnetic ride suspension to generate a whole lot of lateral Gs.
Additional kudos go to GM engineers for sticking to a 19-inch wheel, which offers better performance due to lower unsprung weight as opposed to a flashier but heavier 20-inch unit. The front six-piston Brembo brakes do their best to haul it down, and pedal feel is one of the best in the business. Street, strip, or track, the CTS-V is able to do it all.
Inside, the CTS-V gets a fairly standard Cadillac interior, which, while luxurious, includes plenty of glossy piano black plastic that will end up scratching easily. Other colour schemes that include a little more tan are available, and can liven up the monotonous environment of the test car. The steering wheel is nice and meaty, and is one of the better points in an interior that finds itself being a little out of date, having been released for the 2014 model year. The feel of the touch points are above average relative to the rest of GM lineup, but it still falls short of its European rivals. Good points include the head-up display, LCD screen gauge cluster, and the optional Recaro front seats (that delete the ventilated function) that are very supportive and are functional for when the going gets twisty.
From a technology standpoint, Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system has been heavily reworked and is no longer the slow, frustrating behemoth it once was. It’s closely related to the interfaces available on Chevrolet and GMC products, which works well as an intuitive system that’s much easier to use. The touch-based volume and climate control functions do feature haptic feedback, but still require more eyes off the road than necessary in terms of avoiding distraction. Buttons would have been king here. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality make smartphone connectivity a standard and more powerful affair, and can be paired with GM’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot data plan, if the vehicle is equipped beyond the free OnStar trial period.
All in all, the 2018 Cadillac CTS-V sedan is a true fire-breathing monster that does great magic with its 640 horsepower. More than just a pretty face with a big engine, it has the ability to take a turn while being a luxury car at the same time. While some may find it a bit too wild to be a daily driver, it undercuts the competition by tens of thousands of dollars. The Germans, having come out later on – the M5 being fresh for this year – are noticeably better cars inside and out, but the price delta is a lot to ask. The CTS-V handily outperforms the slightly cheaper Lexus GS F, and is a worthy consideration over the lower-end Mercedes-AMG E 43, C 63, or BMW M550i. Make no mistake, though: the CTS-V is one of the best ways to comfortably get your adrenaline pumping.