’16 Cadillac CTS-V Express Jet for Street, Track

A 640-hp 6.2L supercharged LT4 V-8 spins up so quickly and pins its passengers into their seats so firmly you’d expect to hear, “flight attendants, prepare for departure,” before taking off.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

August 14, 2015

7 Min Read
Third time charm for Cadillac CTSV
Third time charm for Cadillac CTS-V.

ELKHART LAKE, WI – Wow, the third time is definitely the charm for the Cadillac CTS-V.

An express jet version of the redesigned CTS large sedan, the ’16 CTS-V, surprisingly enough, does not run on turbine fuel. But its 640-hp 6.2L supercharged LT4 V-8 spins up so quickly and pins its passengers into their seats so firmly you’d expect to hear, “flight attendants, prepare for departure,” before taking off.

In fact, we’re a bit curious why the tricked-out luxury sedan, the fastest car the General Motors unit has ever produced and arriving at U.S. dealers in the coming weeks, does not get airborne coming over the crest of the legendary Road America Straight here. The car’s hefty 4,145 lbs. (1,880 kg) likely plays one factor, although in the bends and sweeps of this Berserker of a race track a perfectly balanced chassis rigged more tightly than a snare drum makes all that weight disappear.

Yeah, we’re pretty impressed, but as far as the new batch of Cadillac rocket ships go, the smaller twin-turbo V-6-powered ATS-V we drove just a few weeks earlier at Circuit of the Americas in Texas still gets our nod as the brand’s stealthiest out-of-the-box track killer.

The CTS-V by comparison, while no slouch itself on a road course with its Eaton supercharger helping dole out a peak 630 lb.-ft. (855 Nm) of torque at 3,600 rpm for rip-roaring fun out of the corners, is the more refined and mature of the two.

For example, there’s no manual transmission option on the third-generation CTS-V, a clear nod from GM product planners that the car will see the street more often than the paddock. But the 8-speed automatic shifts enthusiastically and the magnesium paddle shifters are a fine substitute for a stick.

At the same time, there are options on the base car that are not available on the CTS-V. There’s no adaptive cruise control, a staple in the luxury segment these days, because the radar sensors necessary to run the technology occupy precious cooling intake space in the grille. No big deal, though; this car was meant to lead, not follow.

A quick check of the trunk reveals the absence of a fullsize spare, an omission old-school American luxury buyers would consider heresy. But engineers scrutinized every ounce of the CTS-V, so an inflator kit will have to do. No all-wheel-drive option, either. Too heavy, GM engineers say.

And by the way, yes, the car’s battery is in the trunk, to achieve the optimal 50-50 weight distribution just in case owners want to track it on a random weekend.

High-Tech Bits, Pieces

The car also is outfitted with specially developed 19-in. Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires. The three different compounds of the tires are designed specifically for track use. And while they are as sticky as they come, the rubber is pleasantly quiet on the highway with superb drivability, even on the corrugated mess of Wisconsin’s Highway 23.

The tires wrap lightweight forged aluminum wheels, which measure 9.5 ins. wide up front and 10 ins. at the rear. GM engineers on hand here for the test drive boast something about the wheel design reducing unsprung weight and improving agility and steering feel.

Perhaps so, but we were distracted by the car’s impossibly tight wheel-to-body relation, which comes under fender flares that resemble sculpted deltoids. Talk about owning a room, the CTS-V is Hugh Jackman in full Wolverine grade.

A good deal of credit for the pliant ride, however, goes to GM’s latest generation of Magnetic Ride Control, a magnetorheological damping system that reads road conditions at an astonishing 1,000 times per second, or 40% faster than the previous generation. So for every inch of road the car travels, MRC can make a suspension adjustment.

There’s also a range of selectable driving modes for touring, sport, track and snow, which are complemented by a list of traction management choices to perfectly fit stability demands. It’s like the buffet at the Bellagio: Mix and match as you like, Rolaids not included.

Like its little brother the ATS-V, GM outfits the CTS-V with an electronic limited-slip rear differential. The Magna-supplied technology, in short, puts maximum traction to the wheels that need it most to make sure drivers can go full power out of the corners and on off-camber roadway. Here’s the really neat thing about ELSD: A less-expensive, torque vectoring by braking technology would do the same thing, but as one GM engineer offered, “Why slow the car down when the objective is to go faster?” Hear, here, we say.

The ZF-sourced variable-ratio electric power steering is precise, and combined with all the chassis and suspension technologies, it makes the big sedan feel much smaller.

As for the supercharged V-8, it is impressive how GM engineers have tamed the monster from its first application in the ’15 Chevy Corvette Z06. In the Z06, the blown small-block will scare the daylights, and perhaps breakfast, out of you in a New York minute, as WardsAuto editor Tom Murphy discovered riding shotgun in the sport coupe.

In the CTS-V, the LT4 lulls you into a false sense of security. Cruising on the highway, it’s easy to mistake 85 mph (137 km/h) for 65 mph (105 km/h). Sure, the airtight cabin locks out freeway noise, but the engine is so agreeable and effortless to drive it is hard to believe 640 ponies lurk beneath the hood and a top speed of 200 mph (322 km/h) would be just seconds away.

Then you mash the accelerator and the Hydra-Matic 8-speed transmission ratchets down a couple of gears and the supercharger unleashes its soprano whine against a booming, baritone exhaust, pinning you into the optional Recaro high-performance seats. It would be frightening if it weren’t so exhilarating.

Unique, Refreshing Interior

The interior of the CTS-V is breathtaking, too. Cadillac, in its reborn state, has the luxury to take risks German premium brands reined in by their Teutonic design legacies would not dare. The CTS-V’s supple, stitched leather, exposed wood grains, carbon fiber and piano black combine for a high-tech, high-performance luxury feel unlike anything in the segment.

A quick note on the CUE infotainment system in the CTS-V: It is sort of a next-generation execution of the controversial touchscreen interface. It retains the same look but has been amped up for faster responsiveness and more features.

Punching in our navigation destination to Road America is a snap and now the system has an icon on the map to exit guidance, whereas before it required users to page back. The system also boasts 1.5 million points of interest, compared with about 1,500 before. There’s also Apple CarPlay compatibility with Android Auto coming later in the model year.

For those folks who just cannot live without knobs on their center stack, product managers here say one or two could be coming with the next-generation CUE.

With a base price of roughly $85,000, the CTS-V undercuts the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG by a couple grand, giving the car a fighting chance against the historically more-heralded Germans. But it still may be too much for some purists to swallow and in the end the only thing keeping this Cadillac’s wings on the ground.

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'16 Cadillac CTS-V Specifications

Vehicle type

5-passenger RWD performance luxury sedan


6.2L supercharged DI OHV V-8, aluminum block/head

Power (SAE net)

640 hp @ 6,400 rpm


630 lb.-ft. (855 Nm) @ 3,600 rpm

Bore x stroke (mm)

103.25 x 92

Compression ratio



Hydra-Matic 8-speed automatic


114.6 ins. (2,910 mm)

Overall length

197.6 ins. (5,021 mm)

Overall width

72.2 ins. (1,833 mm)

Overall height

57.2 ins. (1,454 mm)

Curb weight

4,145 lbs. (1,880 kg)

Price as tested


Fuel economy

14-21 city/hwy (16.8-11.2 L/100 km)


BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, Audi RS6, Jaguar XF R-Sport



Express jet power

Auto gearbox only

Well-rigged suspension

No adaptive cruise control

One-of-a-kind interior

Little brother better track car



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