Rock and roll once touted the excitement of driving a hot rod Lincoln. But these days it’s Cadillac that’s at the top of the charts in domestic high performance luxury, and from the factory no less. Cadillac’s hottest property is a euro-tuned version of its popular CTS sedan, the CTS-V. So does V stand for velocity?
Actually, V stands for voracious. No longer content to be just a domestic luxury brand, the ambitious 2004 CTS-V is yet another exciting Cadillac with a racier image and global appeal. And we mean really racing, with a full factory effort underway in the very competitive Speed World Challenge series. The Speed series requires stock vehicles, and that spurred Caddy’s Performance Division to produce the 2004 CTS-V.
From first look this is certainly not your standard CTS. The front end wears a stainless steel wire mesh grille, and deep, aggressive front fascia with larger air inlet. The profile speaks with ground-effects rocker panels that sweep back towards the rear wheels, while out back the facia is dropped as well, with sharp character lines and stainless dual exhausts.
The hunkered-down look is completed by 18-inch painted alloys wearing Goodyear 245/45 run-flat tires. But this CTS is no styling exercise. The 7-spoke 6-bolt wheels barely hide big Brembo disc brakes, with 4-piston calipers all around.
You’ll need them to slow the momentum provided by a 5.7-liter LS6 V8 from the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. That means 400 horsepower, 180 more than the V-6 CTS, and 395 pound-feet of torque. Talk about a hot-rod Cadillac!
But what’s the Z06 engine without a 6-speed Tremec manual transmission with the same guts as the Vette’s transaxle? Which when rowed through the gears takes the ‘‘V’’ to 60 in only 5.3-seconds, and through the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds at 108 miles-per-hour. That’s edging into Porsche territory!
The shift linkage isn’t as refined as in the Corvette, with mental effort required to go smoothly from 4th to 5th. Its no slap-and-go. But there is generous power all along the rev band, so few shifts are needed. And we love the V8’s heavy rumble as the drive train catapults the CTS-V out of corners.
With larger monotube shocks, stiffer springs, heavy duty front and rear cradles, retuned steering, and front shock tower brace, the nimble V delivers a great balance and a solid, predictable feel. It’s much tighter than the standard CTS, which was already impressive.
There is notable understeer at track speeds, along with the abundant body roll of an early 90s BMW 7-Series. Still, along with gobs of power, a StabiliTrak chassis control system defuses most dramas with four stability settings, including one for competition mode.
The huge Brembo brakes deliver short, stable stops of only 123 feet from 60, but a soft low-feel pedal, along with a fairly soft suspension, gives the V a character that still shines brightest, as it should, on the street.
Indeed, the CTS-V is a formidable road warrior, with acceleration that will shock any stop-light bandit in a nitrous-breathing import, and yet still delivers a refined ride that soaks up rough pavement like a Cadillac should, but will never leave a corner unturned. We love driving this car anywhere, anytime.
And delivers plenty of Cadillac luxury as well, if that too in more of an international style. Compared to the standard CTS, the V’s cabin has a sportier atmosphere courtesy of new metallic accents, aircraft-style white-on-black gauges, and grippy suede leather inserts on the seats.
Of course, you do pay for all that. The base price of the CTS-V is $49,995. That’s 19-grand more than a standard CTS, but about $30,000 less than true Euro-tuners like the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG.
Now we know the 2004 CTS-V isn’t quite an E55, but it is an exceptional first effort from Cadillac’s Performance Division and gives domestic luxury fans a genuine muscle machine that can hold its head up alongside the world’s top quality sport-sedans. Delivering style, sensuality, and speed Ð pardon us, velocity Ð in a way that is oh so uniquely Cadillac.
Engine: 5.7-Liter Ls6 V8
Torque: 395 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.3 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.7 Seconds @ 108 MPH
60-0 MPH: 123 Feet
EPA Mileage: 16 MPG City 25 MPG Highway