2004 Cadillac CTS-V
This Corvette-engined Caddy is a true "Ringer"
By Douglas Kott
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"They didn't quite know what to make of us at first," says Ken Morris, Program Engineering Manager of the Cadillac CTS-V, "but I think we've earned their respect now."
Photo Gallery: Cadillac CTS-V More photos
of the Cadillac CTS-V at the Nürburgring.
Cut to the Karussell's exit, as Morris expertly flicks the CTS-V out of this concrete-lined cereal bowl, perhaps the most famous turn on this automotive developmental playground known as the Nürburgring's Nordschleife. The car unweights out of the transition and Morris countersteers, then upshifts with the sort of hummingbird quickness you might expect from a wiry F1 driver, not a soft-spoken engineer with a linebacker's build. A lap later, through a scary-fast, plunging downhill kink known as Fuchsröhre, both he and the car are pillars of composure. Blind, stomach-knotting crests at more than 100 mph? His throttle foot doesn't flinch (I do, though). A Cadillac at the Nürburgring? Hallowed testing ground of BMW and Porsche, and sanctuary of European performance? You betcha. The CTS's rear-drive Sigma platform was fine-tuned here, and the development continues with the CTS-V, a muscled-up, hunkered-down M5 fighter with a V-8 heart straight from a Z06 Corvette.
Now you may be thinking, why didn't Cadillac use some variant of its Northstar V-8 here? Well, Morris explains that a supercharged version was tried but was too wide. The Vette's slimmer 5.7-liter pushrod V-8 slipped in without any sheet-metal changes.
Potent LS6 V-8 is a neat fit within the CTS-V’s bay.
The engine's accessory drive was squeezed about 1.5 in. closer to the block for proper longitudinal fit, and the deeper oil sump and cast-iron exhaust manifolds are new for packaging purposes. The intake tract from the airbox to the manifold is redone, and incorporates three separate inlets to keep the charge as cool as possible. On the exhaust end, 2.5-in. stainless-steel pipes merge into a substantial central resonator, then branch back out to dual mufflers and oval tips, for a throaty, mellow sound that's like driving a Corvette with cotton balls in your ears. The LS6's considerable force — 400 bhp at 6000 rpm, 390 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800 — channels through a Tremec T56 6-speed manual transmission, a variant of the Corvette's gearbox. A sturdier propshaft, CV joints and halfshafts deliver the torque, aided by a clutch-pack-type limited-slip differential whose aluminum case has been strengthened and modified with 3-in. cooling fins.
At 3833 lb., the CTS-V weighs 264 lb. more than a base CTS, the V-8 accounting for 60 lb. of that. The rest is high-quality hardware: 4-piston Brembo fixed calipers clamping enormous (14.0-in.!) Italian rotors, Speedline wheels mounting P245/45ZR-18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar run-flats, thicker-gauge steel subframes with double-thickness attachment points for the suspension; revalved 46-mm monotube shocks, bigger anti-roll bars, and 27- percent-stiffer springs. The only change to the basic structure is a bolt-on shock tower brace that spans the engine bay.
It's weight well spent, as our small group of journalists found during our 10 or so glorious laps of the Ring. The CTS-V feels impressively locked down when you need it, yet thoroughly chuckable thanks to a 50/50 weight distribution and chassis tuning that yields only mild steady-state understeer. Ride is taut, yet compliant enough to bounce off the curbs without upsetting the chassis. The V-8 pulls with locomotive-like authority (Cadillac claims a 4.7-sec. 0-60 sprint is possible) and the firm-pedal brakes encourage you to try deeper and deeper forays into corners. Steering is nicely weighted and copes well with the extra unsprung mass; revised valving here reduces the low-speed effort, but not at the expense of high-speed feel.
Dynamically, this is an extremely satisfying car, with a couple of exceptions — the shifter's throws are on the long, loopy side, especially when you're used to the delicate, precise throws of the 3.2-liter CTS's Getrag 5-speed, and the seats could use more side bolstering to cope with the increased cornering forces the CTS-V is capable of.
Perfect, no, but this hot-rod Caddy is a highly desirable performance sedan that should sell in the "mid to high forties," in any color as long as it's black or silver. Expect to see the CTS-V in Cadillac showrooms by November or December.