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2009 Cadillac CTS / CTS-V Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

Introduction

Arguably the best GM car available in North America, the CTS is proof that Cadillac can build a world-class competitor against the best from the German and Japanese luxury brands. For 2009, the CTS received its second 10Best Cars award from our editors.

Perhaps the best part of the CTS is its ability to become Clark Kent or Superman, depending on who is behind the wheel. For those who seek classic Cadillac-brand luxury, the CTS will coddle occupants with a smooth and supple ride. The interior is quiet and subdued, and engine noise remains distant. And yet should one ask the CTS to act like a sports car, it happily obliges. Quick responses, direct and accurate steering, a solid and imperturbable structure, and lively rear-wheel-drive handling give the CTS sports-sedan credentials that were once exclusive to sedans from Germany. Opt for the new-for-2009 supercharged CTS- V , and the CTS then becomes a rival to the fastest four-doors in the world. The CTS- V is quick enough and refined enough to take on the Audi S6, BMW M3 and M5, Lexus IS-F, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and E63 AMG.

Three engines are offered in the CTS. The base engine is a 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 with 263 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque. The next rung up is a direct-fuel-injection version of the 3.6-liter V-6 that musters a serious 304 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Both V-6s come with a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. In our testing, we found that the less powerful engine was only 0.4 second slower in 0-to-60 acceleration, something most buyers will never notice. What buyers will notice is the 556 hp of the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 in the CTS- V . Acceleration in the V car is spectacular, with 60 mph arriving in 4.3 seconds in the manual car and 4.0 seconds in the automatic-equipped version.

Both V-6s deliver nearly identical fuel-economy numbers and burn regular fuel. With the automatic transmission, the base 3.6-liter delivers EPA ratings of 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Opting for the more powerful direct-injection version of the engine hurts fuel economy by only 1 mpg in the city cycle. Manual versions of both engines deliver 16 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. When equipped with all-wheel drive, the base engine returns 17 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. All-wheel-drive versions of the direct-injection V-6 get 17 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. The supercharged V-8 in the CTS- V delivers an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway.

The interior of the CTS is a huge improvement over that of its predecessor. A vinyl-wrapped dashboard mimics the leather dashboards of far more expensive cars and is standard on all models. Handsome analog gauges are nestled behind a thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels good in your hands. Many of the CTS’s controls and switchgear are exclusive to the CTS and look expensive with a nice feel. An optional navigation system rises out of the top of the dashboard at the push of a button. Back-seat space is excellent, especially when compared with German and Japanese cars that cost about the same as the CTS. In fact, the CTS is a size up on the BMW 3-series, Lexus IS, and Mercedes-Benz C-class.

In its only comparison test thus far, a CTS with a manual transmission was pitted against a BMW 328i manual, Infiniti G35 manual, and Mercedes-Benz C300 manual. The Cadillac finished in third place, mostly because the manual transmission in the car lacked refinement. We did, however, celebrate the CTS’s handling, solidity, interior quality, handsome looks, and interior space. We suspect that an automatic-equipped CTS would have fared better against the competition.

Verdict

The CTS is a refined and handsome sports sedan that will coddle traditionalists and convert buyers raised on German and Japanese sports sedans. The CTS’s interior is world-class, the car has exceptional handling, the exterior is unique without being garish, and the CTS is priced below other sports sedans its size. Both V-6 engines provide more than enough power, but for those seeking even more performance, the CTS- V delivers a very serious 556-hp punch and track-ready handling.

What’s New for 2009

For 2009, the regular CTS is unchanged. The big news for 2009 is the addition of the supercharged and track-tuned CTS- V to the lineup. Later this year, a wagon version of the CTS will hit showrooms as a 2010 model.

Highlights and Recommendations

Most buyers will be satisfied with the power of the base V-6 engine and the excellent six-speed automatic transmission. Only the most hard-core enthusiasts should opt for the unrefined six-speed manual transmission. Stepping up to the 304-hp V-6 brings a Sport package that adds aggressive summer tires. Those who dwell in the Snowbelt might be interested in the optional all-wheel-drive system that is available with either V-6 engine. CTS- V customers should consider upgrading to the supportive Recaro seats and the microfiber-wrapped steering wheel.

Safety

Dual front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side-impact front and rear curtain airbags, front-seatbelt pretensioners, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control are standard on all CTS models.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.