For what it's worth, GM management should find the guy who first suggested that they bolt an LS6 Corvette engine in the Cadillac CTS and give him a raise and move him into a corner office. That's what we think of this machine after spending an all-too-short week behind the wheel.
Sure, it's a big four-door sedan, and yes, its shipping weight is almost 3,900 pounds. So what-this is the kind of sedan that Europe has always touted as an ultimate road car. In fact, GM engineers spent months developing the CTS-V's suspension, ride, and handling on the imposing German road course at Nurburgring. Yeah, we know-tough job.
Cadillac is cranking up the horsepower to back up its Led Zeppelin-scored TV ads by stuffing a variant of the Corvette 400hp LS6 engine in between the wheelwells of its four-door sedan, backed with an updated Tremec T-56 six-speed and an independent rear suspension with acceleration-enriched 3.73 cogs. These are hot rod specs that would make an F-car guy jealous, but it's all fitted under a luxury-appointed four-door sedan skin. We didn't get a chance to drag test this car, but this is an honest-to-goodness low-13-second ride with 105-mph trap speed capabilities.
But there's much more to this radical Cadillac than just its pure straight-line acceleration abilities. All four corners are independently suspended and attached to the pavement with 18-inch aluminum six-lug wheels mounting Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber measuring 245/50WR18 run-flat tires. Helping to keep the tires firmly planted to the tarmac is a four-channeled StabiliTrak system that's been specifically calibrated for the increased horsepower.
For normal driving, the traction control and stability controls are on. If you push the car through a corner, the driver information screen will flash to instantly inform you that the stability system has been engaged. If you desire less computer control, you can easily disable the traction control yet allow the stability control to remain on. This level is the competition mode where the StabiliTrak system exerts a minor amount of control, saving its input for, as Cadillac puts it, for "extreme oversteer or acceleration" situations. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
The V is more than just a CTS with an LS6 shoved between the fenderwells. Engineers strengthened both front and rear cradles to control the LS6's torque, pumping up the 8.42-inch diameter ring gear, independent rear axle centersection, along with a more performance-oriented steering gear changes, a bigger driveshaft and U-joints, and topping it off with a large tower-to-tower cross brace in the engine compartment.
Not surprisingly, Cadillac also upscaled the brakes. In fact, except for the fantastic power exhibited by the LS6, the best part of this CTS-V is certainly the braking system. Even just sitting dead still in the driveway with the engine running, the first time you step on the pedal, you know there's substantial power under your foot. The pedal is incredibly firm with no squirming or deflection that is common with typical production passenger cars.
This comes from the Nurburgring-tuned Brembo four-wheel disc brakes consisting of a monster pair of 14.0x1.25-inch front discs braced by a pair of four-piston calipers. The rear rotors are even larger in diameter at 14.4x1.10 inches also with four-piston calipers. The performance linings are tuned for reduced noise without sacrificing braking efficiency. The brakes are serious enough to survive a day at the track while still delivering OEM-quality braking when dead cold. Even at 2 tons, this is one Cadillac that can haul down from speed in a hurry.
Of course, there's more to this machine than just visceral thrills behind the wheel. The CTS-V comes with an awesome Bose sound system that we cranked up almost as much as we did the rpm on the LS6. There's also an XM satellite radio network capability in case you run out of CDs. Your parents may have listened to Lawrence Welk on their Caddy, but this system begs to crank up the tunes with a thumpin' rock 'n' roll system that not only has sound power, but a clarity that makes you want to plant it right in the middle of your living room.
On our road trip to Phoenix, we even employed the onboard navigation system in search of a decent place to eat. We now know the location of every BBQ eatery between Los Angeles and Phoenix. The CTS-V can also play DVD discs in the video screen, but only allows viewing when the car is not in motion. But who needs Hollywood when you've got all this power and style wrapped up in a package that just begs to be driven? It feels like a four-seat Corvette. This is unlike any Cadillac ever built, and it may not be at the top of the typical car crafter's Top 10 Wish List, but combine performance with style with an effortless road machine, and the CTS-V stacks up against cars costing much more that deliver less.
Car: '04 Cadillac CTS-V
Engine: 5.7L LS6, 3.89-inch bore and 3.62-inch stroke, 400 hp @ 6,000, 395 lb-ft torque @ 4,800, 10.5:1 compression ratio, 75mm throttle-body, aluminum block and heads, hydraulic roller camshaft, 1.7:1 roller rockers, engine weight: 454 pounds
Transmission: Tremec six-speed manual, Third and Fourth gears double- and Second gear triple-cone synchronizers, needle bearings on all forward gearsets, dual mass flywheel to eliminate gear rattle, and remote-mounted shifter.
Rearend: Cast-aluminum independent rear axle housing, 8.42-inch ring gear, limited-slip differential, GKN-built 2.75-inch diameter driveshaft, 3.73:1 rear gear ratio, electronic traction control
Front suspension: Thicker front cradle, unequal-length, aluminum upper and lower control arms, electronically controlled, larger-diameter Nivomat 46mm shocks, larger 26.6mm hollow front stabilizer bar, four-channel StabiliTrak
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion steering with increased effort for road feel
Rear suspension: Independent rear suspension, reinforced rear subframe, electronically controlled Nivomat shocks and four-channel StabiliTrak chassis control
Brakes: (Front) 14x1.25-inch rotors with Brembo four-piston calipers, specially tuned brake pads; (rear) 14.4x1.20-inch rotors with Brembo four-piston calipers, and full four-wheel antilock braking system (ABS)
Wheels and tires: 18x8.5-inch aluminum six-lug wheels with P245/45WR18 Goodyear F1 extended mobility tires (EMT), tire pressure monitored via a sensor in each valve stem
Wheelbase: 115.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,833 pounds
Vehicle height: 58.1 inches
Tread width: Front, 62.0; rear, 62.3 inches
Performance: 13.50 @ 105 mph (Motor Trend)
Base price: $49,300
Price as tested: $51,195