Fun Cars On A $20,000 Budget: America’s Original BMW M3 Killer

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How does the original CTS-V hold up after over a decade?

At the turn of the century, it seemed like the US car industry was heading in a very different direction than the European car industry. In the US, a luxury car was just a normal car with a different badge, some hard leather, fake wood, and let’s not forget the chrome. In 2001, BMW gave us the E46, which to this day remains one of the greatest sports saloons of all time. The US had received the previous E36 M3, but it was a watered down version of what Europe got. The E46 was practically perfect, and it was going to be tough to beat.

The E46 M3 didn’t have much competition at first. Sure there were a few cars from AMG, but they were more focused on burning rubber at a set of lights than setting fast lap times. The E46 M3 had a 3.2-liter inline-six, which produced 333 hp. This gave it a blistering 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds. That was almost as fast as a Corvette at the time. It seemed unlikely that any automaker could conquer the M3, but that didn’t stop Cadillac from taking one hell of a swing at it. The result from Cadillac’s hard work was the original CTS-V. Basically, Cadillac took its midsize sedan, and stuffed in the Z06’s 5.7-liter LS6 V8, which gave the CTS-V 400 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. America was ready to smash the Germans with V8 power.

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The CTS-V was astonishingly good value because a base M3 Coupe cost $47,100 in 2004, whereas the much more powerful CTS-V was $51,500, just $4,400 more. But how do these two cars fair now that both have been out of production for over ten years? Both cars can be purchased for under $20,000, but which one is the better value? As we said, the CTS-V was the much more powerful car, but this only helped it get to 60 mph in just 0.2 of a second faster at 4.6 seconds. This may be due to the Cadillac hauling around an extra 400 pounds of curb weight. Whereas the E46 has a growing collector circle around it, people seem to have forgotten about the CTS-V.

Everyone wants the much more powerful second generation CTS-V, which means that the first gen cars have often been overlooked. Even though we found plenty of M3s and CTS-Vs under $20,000, the price range was much smaller for the Cadillac. Even the most expensive CTS-V that we found was only $30,000, but a pristine M3 can command over $70,000. Anyone looking for a sound investment should probably stick with the M3, but that doesn’t mean that the Cadillac doesn’t have its advantages. Maintaining an old BMW M car is very expensive and can be a big undertaking. The Cadillac on the other hand is all GM parts so it can be much cheaper and easier to maintain.

In 2006, the Cadillac replaced the LS6 with the more modern LS2, which offered a broader torque curve with the higher displacement of 6.0 liters. It didn't help performance much, but the LS2 does have a very big aftermarket.

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