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Cadillac, the luxury arm of auto giant General Motors, appeared to not anticipate the insatiable hunger consumers have for SUVs and crossovers.
While Cadillac tried to out-German BMW and Mercedes with a lineup of sports sedans with impressive driving dynamics and great prices, the Germans padded their lineups with seven crossovers each. Cadillac, until 2018, offered only one.
The company is now retreating back to Detroit after a few years in New York. They've announced the XT4 and XT6 crossovers to compliment the XT5 and Escalade and are consolidating the CTS and ATS into the CT5 sedan.
This, the fire-breathing, 200-mile-per-hour CTS-V, is a testament to how well Cadillac accomplished its mission of building amazing sports sedans. Unfortunately, the market wanted something else.
"Parts sharing" is almost a dirty word in the industry. It conjures images of Cadillac Cimmarons and Lincoln Blackwoods that were thrown together with mainstream parts and adorned with luxury nameplates. But sometimes, it makes sense.
For instance, the engine of the CTS-V is shared with a Chevy. Spending $106,180 on a Cadillac with a Chevy motor may sound absurd, until you realize that it's the supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 yanked out of a Corvette Z06. With 640 horsepower and a slick eight-speed automatic swapping cogs, the CTS-V will hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and keep pulling onto a claimed top speed of 200 mph.
While it's more than enough power to do burnouts on command, the chassis is well suited to handle the force at the rear wheels. Years after its debut, the CTS-V still offers one of the most impressive chassis of any sports sedan. Especially teamed with the advanced traction and stability control system, the CTS-V is easy to drive fast and incredibly controllable for something so massive.
Steering is direct and provides a lot of feedback, though it can feel artificially heavy. With paddle shifters and a rev counter in the head-up display, it's also fun to manually control the impressive automatic transmission. It's not quite as ferociously quick as a dual-clutch transmission, but it's smoother in normal operation than most performance gearboxes.
So, too, is the ride. Thanks to magnetic shocks that can vary their stiffness on the fly, the CTS-V can deliver a smooth and livable ride or enough stiffness to attack a race track. It's a good match for the engine, which can roar to the redline or quietly churn away on the highway without any coarseness.
As for pricing, we understand that $106,180 sounds like a lot of money for a Cadillac. But our tester was fully loaded with a pricey carbon fiber package and carbon fiber engine cover responsible for over $7,000 of the Caddy's retail price.
A base CTS-V, with the required destination charge and gas guzzler tax, costs $89,290. The car's chief rivals, the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63 S, both start above $100,000. It's a bargain for the segment.
Inside, they don't do a great job of hiding the bargain price. As we've often complained with Cadillac products, the company's interiors can't compete with the best in the class. The CTS-V feels significantly cheaper inside than just about anything at this price point, with lots of black plastics and chintzy controls.
It also uses capacitive buttons — basically touch screen buttons, instead of a knob — for climate control, volume and other controls. We won't mince words: they don't work well. They don't always activate on the first try and at their best feel clunkier than the normal switches you'd expect.
That second-rate approach also applies to technology, where the CTS-V feels far behind its rivals. We can excuse the lack of advanced driver assists in a performance-oriented vehicle, but even the technology that is on board feels poorly implemented. The backup camera has poor resolution, the gauge cluster looks tacky, and Cadillac's infotainment system can't compare with the slickness or user-friendliness of, say, BMW's.
The CTS-V doesn't feel as expensive inside as an M5 and there's no amount of options you can add to change that. This car is perfect for people who want to maximize the amount of performance they get for their money and aren't concerned about the latest tech or nicest interior. As such, we don't think you should go crazy with the options.
We'd certainly skip the carbon fiber package. Not only does it cost a lot, but the carbon fiber splitter sticks out of the car's chin and can easily get scraped. Replacing it isn't cheap.
In fact, unless you want to pick a different wheel style for $900, we think the best value is in skipping all of the options. The CTS-V comes standard with just about everything you'd need, so we don't think you should push the price past the $89,290 it'll cost to get your hands on a basic CTS-V.
The CTS-V offers an extreme amount of performance for the dollar. It's capable of ferrying five people in relative comfort to 200 mph, a speed some supercars can't reach. It looks good, handles well and is a ton of fun on the road. It's totally usable as a daily driver and comfortable to drive.
It's not the most luxurious or modern option. It doesn't represent the next big thing or the future of Cadillac. But it's rolling proof that, when the company wants to build the best performance sedan for the money, it's capable of accomplishing that mission. We hope that, even as the focus shifts toward SUVs, Cadillac will keep making compelling sedans that make our hearts race.
Driving Experience: 5
Price as tested: $106,180
*Ratings out of 5.