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2006 Cadillac CTS-V Review

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A Luxurious Rocket
By Steve Purdy
TheAutoChannel Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Cadillac

I’ve been looking forward to this one. I’m one of those guys who think you can’t have too much horsepower, torque or leather. Where can you use all that power, you might ask? Why worry. We’ll find a way, I say.

The Cadillac CTS, in my subjective view, can look a bit plain in some colors, and in the lesser trim levels, in spite of Cadillac’s exciting edgy new styling language. That language was first translated into production with this CTS after being previewed by the EVOQ concept roadster at the North American International Auto Show some years ago. With just a touch of added bling this brash design can go from tepid to hot. CTS-V does just that with big, sexy wheels, a shinny mesh grille, a bit of body cladding and those nicely understated ‘V’ badges. I’m sold already.

Our colleague, John Heilig, calls it a 4-door Corvette. (See his review of the first 2004 CTS-V on There have been a few updates to the car since his report, particularly a modest increase in displacement, torque and price, but not enough to change its character in the least. Displacement is upped from 5.7 to 6.0-litres, torque from 390 to 395 lb-ft and price from 49 grand to 51. I don’t think anyone will notice.

I slide easily into the black leather seats with suede inserts. A bit more bolster than the standard buckets provide some needed lateral support for those unavoidable times we need to corner a bit aggressively. The relatively short-throw stick shifter pokes invitingly out of the center console. The center stack, steering wheel, and all the interior amenities appear stylish and well designed. While the materials, ergonomics and surfaces are not quite in the same league with the finest Europeans, they are damn close.

Within moments of its delivery I’m on the road to town. Fortunately, that route consists of straight, smooth-topped country roads with a couple of 90-degree turns where there is seldom any oncoming traffic - not much trouble to get into while acclimating myself to all that power and crisp handling. The clutch is a tad light and the shifter sort of rubbery. Modulating the clutch, gas and 6-speed manual shifter smoothly is not easy at first but with practice I learn quickly. The accelerator is tied tightly to that 400 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque of the LS2 Corvette V-8, so that modulation is important if you don’t want to be jerky. Thrust is amazing. Cadillac claims a zero-60 time of 4.6 seconds and I certainly have no reason to doubt. Large 4-piston Brembo brakes with vented rotors bring it back to zero very decisively as well.

Suspension is tuned for high performance driving. It’s just stiff enough. Both front and rear independent suspension feature coil-over monotube dampers and antisway bars calibrated more than 25% stiffer than the standard CTS. Our purpose, of course, is to go quickly, enthusiastically and safely. (Yes, Mother, those are compatible.) Contributing to our control are the 18-inch, 245/45 Goodyear Eagle RS-A performance tires that come standard on the CTS-V.

Safety features include seat-mounted side-impact airbags in front and side curtain airbags for rear passengers. Effective crumple zones have been engineered into the structure of this first generation of the high-performance Sigma platform. CTS earned a “Best Pick” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Exploring the trunk and back seat, and especially when putting it in the garage, the CTS seems bigger than it looks. My rear seat passengers report being comfortable and feeling secure in spite of watching the speedometer over my shoulder. The CTS-V has the best backup lights ever. Nearly like rear-facing headlights.

Auditory ambiance is important. The CTS-V is perfectly balanced between rumble, grumble and rhythm from inside the well-insulated cabin. Put your foot into it and get the revs up around 5000 or so and we hear just a resonate, throaty rumble, nothing intrusive or crass, just a pleasant reminder of the 400 horses under the hood. I needed to know what it sounded like from outside, however, so on the way back from our regular Thursday lunch with my journalist pals in East Lansing I had my young nephew, Gregor the technology guy, who joined us that day, run the car at full throttle back a forth along one of the clear, open paved two-lanes through the MSU farms. I stood by the side of the road, listened and watched and he scooted off in one direction, chirping between shifts, then back. He repeated two or three passes as I assessed. Well, I must say it was considerably quieter from the outside than I had expected. The enlarged dual-exhaust system sounded rich and resonate but not over loud. A class act, I would say.

Gregor isn’t at all fond of the styling of the CTS - perhaps a generational thing. He also couldn’t understand why he got such perfect little chirps with no excessive wheel spin when shifting hard and accelerating at the max. Traction control, of course. We turned the traction control off and gave her another go. Much different, indeed. We probably could have used up those tires in short order if we weren’t such conservative fellows.

GM’s aspiration to compete head to head with the finest of European cars has finally begun to be realized with the redefinition of Cadillac. CTS, of course, was the leading edge of that redefinition. The CTS-V put Cadillac in the market with the BMW M5 and Mercedes AMG sedans. It may be the case that Cadillac has not quite achieved the ultimate sophistication of those two but remember the CTS-V costs way, way less. The M5, for example, costs about $80,000 and many of the AMG products cost even more. For my money the CTS-V is a bargain in its own class selling for $51,395 including the destination charge. Features included for that price are: Stabilitrak stability control, sunroof, full leather seating with suede insert, power and heated seats, split folding rear seats, AM/FM/CD with 8 speaker and DVD navigation system, XM satellite radio, daytime running lights (with an override), OnStar with one year activation, and all the other usual stuff. Warranty is 4 years/50,000 miles.

The window sticker claims gas mileage of 16-mpg city and 25 highway, using premium, of course. I think that is pretty optimistic. I observed just over 17 mpg in the variety of driving I did. Admittedly, I had my foot in it a good share of the time but I was on the highway quite a bit as well. To be quite frank, I’m not sure how anyone could have a car like this and not have their foot in it often. It would be just too much to resist – kind of like a chocolate junkie with a bowl of M&Ms on their desk all the time.

Much of the development testing for the Lansing, Michigan-built CTS-V was done at the famous Neurbergring track in Germany, a long, undulating, very demanding venue. Wouldn’t you love to have been a part of that team? That’s where you could really use all that power. Here in dead-of-winter-Michigan we could use it for a few short moments at a time. But, Oh Well! I shouldn’t complain, should I?