by Roger Biermann
It's the year 2019, and you can buy a 640-horsepower Cadillac that will accelerate as fast as a Porsche and stick with a BMW M5 around the corners. It's a great time to be alive. The CTS-V is now in its last year of production, but it is still as great as ever and continues to shock us with its outright pace and impressive cornering abilities. Starting from $86,995, this 6.2-liter supercharged V8 beast of a midsize luxury performance sedan represents amazing value for money, and includes standard features such as a head-up display system and wireless phone charging. The CTS-V goes up against the likes of BMW's more luxurious M5 as well as the other German muscle car, the Mercedes-AMG E63, both of which carry a price premium over the CTS-V, but are also both far newer.
2019 is the last year that the mighty CTS-V super sedan will be on sale, and it carries over most of the features from 2018.
The CTS-V wears its heart on its sleeve when it comes to its exterior styling; everything is flared and vented, and one gets the immediate impression that this is one seriously angry car. The CTS range of cars has been rather polarizing in the looks department ever since its launch and has developed a love/hate relationship with the general car-buying public, but there's no denying the fact that the performance-oriented CTS-V looks mean. Exterior appearance features for 2019 include a sporty front splitter, rocker panels, and a rear spoiler, as well as a GT3-looking carbon fiber hood with massive venting slats. The front of the car gets an exclusive CTS-V grille while the rear is finished off with quad exhaust outlets. Lighting the way in the dark is a set of adaptive HID headlights with LED vertical signature lighting and LED taillights. The whole show rolls on a set of CTS-V exclusive 19-inch forged aluminum wheels.
The CTS-V sits on the same 114.6-inch wheelbase as the standard CTS car, but its total length of 197.6 inches is 2.1 inches longer, and it makes use of a slightly wider front track, and narrower rear track. Overall height comes in at 57.2 inches, which is lower than both the BMW M5 and Dodge Charger Hellcat, but the CTS-V's max width of 72.2 is narrower than both its competitors. Its curb weight of 4,141 lbs is significantly lighter than that of the BMW (4,370 lbs).
The muscular CTS-V deserves to have its bulging hood, massive air intakes, and muscular rear end accentuated, and Cadillac gives new owners a selection of five colors to get the job done. Velocity Red and Wave Metallic have proven to be rare color choices, with most customers opting for the more menacing Satin Steel Metallic, or the popular Black Raven, which adds at least 50 horsepower from the word go. Crystal White Tricoat has also proven to be a popular choice with those who like to keep a low profile. We know that black cars love to highlight dirt and scratches, but the CTS-V in black just looks right.
The Cadillac CTS-V feels like a true performance car as soon as you turn the key (or in this case, press the start button). Unlike so many brands that advertise sporty characteristics, but fail to back up those claims with actual hardware and software upgrades, the CTS-V comes jam-packed with enough motorsports gears to make you think that it's some sort of homologation race car. The homicidal 640-hp supercharged V8 sits at the center of the CTS-V's performance offering, but surprisingly doesn't dominate the overall driving experience, despite insane numbers such as a 3.7-second zero to sixty sprint, or a top speed of 200 mph. The Magnetic ride control, sports-tuned gear ratios and Brembo performance brakes all come together to deliver a driving experience that feels more exotic than it's sedan body style would suggest, and while it might not be able to keep up with a Tesla Model S in a straight line, it offers a beautifully balanced package that's hard to beat in its class. Unlike rivals such as the M5 and E63 that have transitioned to all-wheel-drive systems, the CTS-V remains a part of the old guard, relying solely on RWD to get the job done.
At the heart of the 2019 Cadillac CTS-V lies a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 producing a catastrophic 640 hp and 610 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. Cadillac has spent some time developing the supercharger, which now features a 1.7-liter displacement and churns air into the engine via a four-lobe Eaton design. The big 6.2-liter engine is known for delivering masses of low to mid-range torque, so the addition of the supercharger accentuates those characteristics tenfold: the CTS-V delivers gut-wrenching acceleration from low in the rev range and continues to accelerate like a freight train with failed brakes. Power is transferred to the back wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission that features unique software algorithms that make split-second decisions about shifting points and gear availability. The driver gets to play with a set of flappy magnesium paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Its motorsport bias might explain the sporadically rough shift feeling, even in relaxed touring mode, but overall, the engine and gearbox work well together in most daily driving situations.
Whereas the CTS-V's competition, especially from Europe, has focused more on comfort and less on all-out performance driving, the fast Caddy has sharpened up its handling capabilities to the extent that it has become one of the best-handling midsize sedans on the road today. Hit the road in touring mode, and the steering feels soft and comfortable, perfect for daily driving. Sport and Track modes get progressively heavier to the point where it would be uncomfortable to use on shopping runs. Feedback is good in any mode, although an electrically assisted feeling still persists. Cadillac realized that the CTS-V would be driven by drivers of all levels, so they made sure to cloak the car in layers of electronic safety systems, which can be switched on and off at the driver's will. One thing that becomes abundantly clear when you first drive the CTS-V with vigor is the sheer amount of tire grip around mid to high-speed corners, partly thanks to a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Punching the throttle destroys that feature almost instantly. The magnetic ride control keeps everything in check and impresses with its ability to switch from cruising to track mode on the fly. Bringing everything to a halt is a set of massive Brembo brakes, designed for mixed track and commuter work.
The privilege of owning a supercharged V8 sports sedan comes with certain costs, a major one being an exorbitant fuel bill. Official numbers are 14/21/16 mpg city/highway/combined, but even that rather horrendous number is wishful thinking; expect that number to drop considerably out in the real world, where every stretch of straight road becomes a drag strip. The competition doesn't fare much better: the BMW M5, powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, manages 15/21/17 mpg while the Charger Hellcat with its more powerful 6.2-liter supercharged 6.2-liter V8 will do 12/22/16 mpg. With a standard 19-gallon fuel tank, the CTS-V will offer an estimated maximum range of 304 miles.
Cadillac has clearly gone through lots of effort to get every single aspect of the CTS-V on par with what the best of the class has to offer, and in many ways, it has achieved this with flying colors, but this cannot be said about the interior. Far from being a stereotypically comfortable and mushy place as found in Cadillacs of old, the CTS-V's interior looks sharp and sporty but fails to impress with its general layout, and general oversight over things like button placement and seat adjustment controls. Nevertheless, the range-topping CTS-V features a number of standard features that give it an upmarket feel. Expect to find dual-zone climate control, 4G LTE Wi-Fi internet connectivity, keyless access with adaptive remote start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and 20-way power-adjustable Recaro sports seats. Cadillac wanted to make sure that occupants getting into the CTS-V know that it's a special occasion by adding illuminated and branded door sills, as well as branded floor mats.
Officially capable of carrying five people, the Cadillac CTS-V doesn't try to hide the fact that those in the front are best catered to. Front legroom measures a healthy 45.7 inches, miles ahead of the 41.4 offered in the BMW M5. The front headroom is an equally impressive 40.4 inches, which means six-foot-plus passengers will have no problem getting in the front. Things take a change for the worse when you move to the back seats: Legroom shrinks to 35.4 inches, a lower number when compared to the BMW, and headroom now measures 37.5 inches - which is on par with the BMW. The large and wide-opening front doors make getting in and out of the CTS-V an easy exercise, but the sloping roof in the rear limits back seat access. The standard front seats offer good support but don't feel like all-out performance seats. The optional Recaro seats are the ones to go for if you're a driving enthusiast.
There's a lot of leather and carbon fiber to be found inside the 2019 CTS-V, which is never a bad thing, but Cadillac's unhealthy addiction to simulated-suede leaves a bad taste in the mouth and shows how far the American luxury automaker still has to come to offer the same tasteful and well-executed interiors found in the likes of the BMW M5 or Mercedes-AMG cars. Nevertheless, Cadillac's choice of upholstery and trim materials offers a contemporary mix of luxury and sportiness that should appeal to a wide range of clients. There are three seat material options to choose from: Jet Black semi-aniline leather with suede microfiber inserts combined with Jet Black interior accents, Light Platinum seats with Jet Black accents, or Jet Black seats with Saffron accents. These three color and material combinations are all paired up with V-Carbon interior trim, and can all be applied to the optional Recaro sport seats.
The limited rear passenger space continues on to the trunk, where Cadillac offers a minuscule 13.7 cubic feet of space. The shallow but wide trunk space is easily accessed through a big trunk opening, but it simply can't compete with the BMW M5's massive 18.7 cubic feet. The rear seats can't be folded flat, but the center armrest does create a small opening when folded flat, allowing for long and slim objects such as junior-sized fishing rods to be squeezed in. The small trunk space is a major oversight on the part of Cadillac: mid-sized sedans are expected to offer decent levels of trunk space, but the CTS-V can only muster compact sedan numbers. Inside, occupants have to make do with slim door pockets, a small center console and glove box, as well as a motorized hidden compartment in the dash large enough for a set of keys.
As Cadillac's premier sedan offering, the CTS-V comes stacked with interior and exterior features. The most notable exterior features include a full carbon fiber hood with a massive air extractor that gives the CTS-V much of its on-road presence. The Magnetic Ride Control suspension and Brembo brakes all play a pivotal role in the overall offering. Inside the cabin, you'll find dual-zone climate control with auto air filtration technology, 4G LTE Wi-Fi with a three-month trial subscription, as well as a suede microfiber headliner, keyless access, wireless phone charging, and ambient LED lighting. Front passengers get to enjoy sport bucket seats adjustable in 20 different ways and trimmed in semi-aniline leather with microfiber inserts. For those who'd like a more luxurious experience, Cadillac offers three-zone climate control, a rear camera mirror, rear power sunshades, and more, and for the performance-minded, there are the must-have 20-way adjustable Recaro bucket seats.
The infotainment system on the 2019 Cadillac CTS-V has to be one of the worst-performing systems in this class. The 6.8-inch display is small by modern standards, and its positioning makes it awkward for the driver to interact with the screen, which is a blessing in disguise, as the interface of the CUE system is clunky and prone to freezing at the most inopportune moments. Despite these setbacks, Cadillac deserves to be lauded for including most of the modern-day features we've come to expect at this level: there's Bluetooth streaming, voice recognition, 4G LTE connectivity as well as navigation, wireless phone charging, SiriusXM satellite radio, and dual USB ports. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are also included, and the system emits sounds through a well-balanced 13-speaker Bose setup that delivers a balanced experience that's not too reliant on heavy bass notes.
With a J.D. Power score rating of 82, the Cadillac CTS-V has proven to be a reliable car and has enjoyed two years of recall-free production. The last recall issued in 2017 was caused by a power steering issue that affected certain 2016-2018 Cadillac CTS vehicles. Cadillac backs up their solid reliability track record with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which includes a four-year/50,000-mile corrosion protection plan, six years or 60,000 miles worth of drivetrain cover and roadside assistance, as well as a one-year/one-visit maintenance plan and six years of rust-through protection.
While the CTS-V hasn't been tested by the IIHS, the standard CTS has been put through its paces, and returned a middling score, most notably offering disappointing results in the small overlap and headlight categories, but Good scores in the other categories. The 2018 Cadillac CTS-V was tested by the NHTSA, where it managed to score four out of five stars. The BMW 5 Series has been tested by the IIHS, where it was awarded a Top Safety Pick Plus award, setting the standard for the rest of the midsize luxury sedan class - although the M5 remains untested.
Although its safety record might not be as impressive as that of its German counterpart, the 2019 CTS-V still comes with a range of modern safety systems. Inside there's a standard 10-airbag system, as well as cruise control, hill start assist, and a curb-view camera system. More advanced systems include forward collision warning with following distance alert, a head-up display system, lane change and blind-spot alert, lane-keeping, and lane departure warning. Rear cross-traffic alert and an OnStar safety and security plan are also standard. The CTS-V includes all available safety features as standard, but misses out on advanced offerings such as adaptive cruise control and emergency forward braking.
When the CTS-V first appeared back in 2016, we were not only impressed with its massive power and straight-line speed, but also with its impressive road-holding capabilities, a feature that truly placed it amongst the best in its class. Back then, the sub-par interior could be forgiven, as the rest of the car was so good. Fast forward to 2019, and not a lot has changed: the 640-hp supercharged V8 engine is still a blast, handling and braking are still up there with the best, but the interior design and material choices let it down. The aging infotainment system is another sore point to what is otherwise a well put together interior, featuring most modern-day safety and infotainment tech. While the CTS-V might be able to hold its own out on the track, it proves to be unable to match its German rivals in terms of safety, and misses out on specific modern safety systems such as emergency front braking. It's also one of the thirstiest cars you can buy, returning only 14/21/16 mpg. Despite these drawbacks, the Cadillac CTS-V offers a competent overall package at a fantastic price that, even after three years, is still a thorn in the side of more established performance sedans. At the end of its life, now may be your last chance to get a piece of the American M5 rival - but we have a feeling forthcoming product from Cadillac will quickly usurp the CTS-V's charms.
Without any options, the 2019 Cadillac goes for an MSRP of $86,995 (excluding a $995 destination fee), slotting between the $65,795 Dodge Charger Hellcat and the $102,700 BMW M5. Coming in at $15,705 under the BMW shows just how good a bargain the American muscle sedan really is, and although it can't match the BMW in terms of interior quality or safety, it comes close to matching the historical class-leader in terms of performance and driver engagement.
The CTS-V is the high-performance model of the CTS range of sedans and is only available in one trim. The CTS-V is exclusively powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 producing 640 hp and 610 lb-ft of torque, which is attached to an eight-speed automatic transmission and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Performance suspension with magnetic ride control, Brembo brakes, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires ensure confident handling. Standard features include adaptive remote start, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, a 13-speaker Bose sound system as well as navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. Standard active safety features for 2019 include forward collision warning, lane change alert with blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. As the range-topping car for the CTS lineup, the CTS-V is offered with limited optional packages.
6.2-liter Supercharged V8 Gas
The CTS-V is Cadillac's range-topping performance sedan for 2019 and comes packed with standard features - but Cadillac has left some interesting features for the options list.
The Advanced Security Package (which becomes available when selecting the luxury package) includes an advanced security system, locking wheel nuts, and a steering column lock and costs $600. The CTS-V's Brembo calipers can be chosen in Red or Dark Gold. Opting for the $6,250 Carbon Fiber Package will add a carbon fiber front splitter, hood vent, rear diffuser, and rear spoiler. The Luxury Package is worth noting since it includes three-zone climate control, a rear camera mirror, a split-folding seat that greatly improves practicality, and also adds heated rear seats, rear-window power shades, and a 110-volt outlet, at the cost of $2,500.
For the track-day bros, you can select a performance data and video recorder for $1,600, which will tell you where you can improve your lap times. The $2,300 Recaro bucket seats are simply sublime and add a level of sportiness that suits the car perfectly. A Suede steering wheel, power sunroof, and two choices of forged 19-inch wheels round out the options list.
There's only one 2019 Cadillac CTS-V model on sale, so you'll have to take a gander at the options list to decide if you want anything over and above the standard package. We'd suggest stretching for the Luxury Package, which adds three-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera mirror, a split-folding seat that gives the CTS-V some actual practical cargo space, as well as heated rear seats, rear power sunshades and more. The performance junkies will be pleased to note that they can get a performance data and video recorder that allows the driver to pinpoint areas of improvement while going around the track. The Recaro bucket seats not only look good but offer superior support over the standard seats, further improving the performance potential of this fast Caddy. Equipping all of these will put your total cost at around $93,395.
The BMW M5 set the bar for performance sedans way back in 1984 when the German automaker decided to shoehorn a 3.5-liter inline-six motor into their humble midsize luxury sedan. Since then, the M5 has become the car against which all other car manufacturers compare their midsize sport sedan offerings. The 2019 M5 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that produces 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. This gets the M5 from zero to sixty in only 3.1 seconds, thanks to all-wheel-drive versus the CTS-V's RWD system. It is undeniable that the M5 is the more accomplished car; it offers a more refined interior, driving experience, and improved practicality, and is a safer car as well; but, it can't match the CTS-V in terms of outright attitude and driver engagement. It's also $15,000 more expensive, so if you're looking for a performance bargain, the Caddy is a great choice.
Choosing between these two cars will wholly depend on what type of driving experience you're after: the Charger Hellcat is a no-nonsense hammer-blow of a car, offering mountains of power all wrapped up in a cool-looking retro muscle car body, which is more practical than you'd think. The Charger offers more cargo and legroom space but isn't as luxurious or refined as the CTS-V. In a straight line, it will dominate the Caddy, but put them on a tight track, and the CTS-V will show the Charger its heels. So, are you looking for a big bruiser, or a super-luxury sedan? The Charger's low asking price of only $65,795 might just sway us.