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Rust or Lust: 2003-2007 Cadillac CTS-V

Posted in Cadillac, car modifications, Car Tech, Fast Cars, Horsepower, Luxury Cars, Rust or Lust by Alex Kierstein | July 15th, 2009 | 7 Responses |

Last week we LUSTed after the VW Phaeton, a hot sleeper packing a W12 engine and loads of gadgets. Today we’re taking a look at a slightly different idea: a pumped up sedan fielded by Uncle Sam to do battle with the Germans … the Cadillac CTS-V. Was it a four-door Corvette or a Catera redux? Click through to find out!


The Car: Cadillac CTS-V (First Generation)


The Cadillac CTS-V is in many ways such a revolutionary Cadillac that it is difficult to imagine how it came to be in the first place. GM’s long obsession with wringing the passion out of their top luxury brand had culminated in the 1980s with their execrable Cimmaron, possibly the most poorly received piece of badge-engineered crap since the Edsel’s genital-shaped grille hit the market in the 1950s. Transverse V8 engines have no place in the front of vehicles, and buyers who cared about this important fact shunned Cadillac dealerships. That is, except for the Metamucil set, who loved the cushiness and power, and really didn’t give a flying Matlock what sort of engine was placed where. And don’t even mention the Catera or the Allante …


And then Cadillac reskinned the Corvette as the XLR, and all bets were off. Cadillac wasn’t half-assing it this time; they wanted a real performance credential to put on the mantle next to their luxo-barge award (which, interestingly enough, is shaped like a Barcalounger ). The new styling language was called “Art and Science,” and plenty of more eloquent writers than I have exhausted all of the “origami” and “creased” analogies, so let’s just say that the new designs were aggressive and hard, and also completely different than the old soft, rounded, suppository-shaped Cadillacs of the mid- to late-1990s. While the Deville soldiered on as the STS, retaining FWD form, the Seville replacement debuted on rear-wheel drive architecture – the GM Sigma platform. There were additional signs that this changeover was for real … for one, the CTS offered the first manual transmission for Cadillac since the aforementioned Cimmaron. Despite being conceived to replace the Catera (and retain the Catera name), GM thankfully changed course, and the C-Series Touring Sedan was born. This was all well and good, as the standard 3.2L V6 made reasonably decent power (220 horses) and proved a decent volume seller.


Then the eggheads from the General Motors Performance Division got their grubby mitts on the CTS, and decided to inject it with a new serum: V-Series. Like Bruce Banner in a fit of rage, the CTS-V bulged forth with 5.7 liter V8 power. The Corvette Z06-derived LS6 produced 400 horsepower in the CTS-V, nearly double what the standard six-cylinder car put out. They also tuned the suspension on the Nurburgring, beefed up the drivetrain componentry to handle the additional torque, and provided the CTS-V with an aggressive mesh grille and larger wheels. 0 to 60 came in 5 seconds flat as the CTS-V rocketed to a 163 MPH top speed like some sort of stealth cruise missile. All-in-all, it performed the part, all while looking like a hired assassin in a crisply creased suit.


Of course, just like an assassin, you’ve hired it to get the job done, and failure in this age of highly reliable vehicles is just inexcusable. The CTS-V has suffered from a host of well-publicized quality control problems. There was the one owner whose excited, fan-boy-style video blogs about taking delivery of his long awaited CTS-V turned into a sour grapes rant as his vehicle flipped into safety mode on the highway, hobbling the car to a slow computer-governed speed (click here to watch a video by that guy). There was the Road & Track road test where the CTS-V’s rear differential committed ritual suicide upon being asked to do routine acceleration testing. Rattles, creaks, groans, and other sounds of under-development distress plagued the first generation of the car, leading to much consternation among owners.


So where does this leave us?

Verdict: RUST

<i>Image: Muscle Car Garage AZ</i>

Image: Muscle Car Garage AZ

Don’t get us wrong: we love the idea of the CTS-V. We love that Cadillac’s challenge to BMW’s M-division and Mercedes’s AMG cars was, on paper at least, a totally worth opponent. What turns our LUST meter off is the execution. Cadillac had a halo car in the XLR, but this was the halo car you could you could actually put in your driveway. And it simply was undercooked. In addition, like many performance cars that real people can actually afford, many will undoubtedly fall into the “let’s do a burnout and then slam into a curb and waste the suspension!” crowd. Finding a good used one is going to prove difficult, especially since the problems the CTS-V had from the factory aren’t likely to be helped by years worth of hard-driving. We have a feeling most of these will end up in 10 years on craigslist, with an ad saying “just needs some TLC (salvage title, some fire damage, some meth residue) MAKE AN OFFER!!!!!”

Think otherwise? Chime in below in the comments and let me know where you stand.

[Images: Supercars.net]

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7 Responses

  1. dr mad says:

    Well, lets see, where to begin…is the cts-v world class? I have to admit, I have not driven EVERY car there is, but as a surgeon who has owned his share of euro/anglo, jap and american cars, I have to say the cts-v is as good as and probably better than everything I have had the opportunity to drive, and I like the looks…do I drive it to its potential?…No, I am too old, but I like the acceleration, and passing is a lot of fun, and the occasional friend who is proud of his big Mercedes, cools off significantly after a ride in the “v”. ps, it will go much faster than I want to.

  2. AP says:

    Well, all i can honestly say, is that its a serious piece of shit.
    I honestly can’t believe that some stupid ass mother fuckers out there are always using the CTS-V as a bragging right and trying to make themsleves look bettern than the guy in the $400 000 Brabus CLS 55 Rocket V12 Sedan, M5, XFR, etc. There is not fucking comparison. Simply open the door or a 2005 CTS-V and you see the stupid cheap pile of shit is already fucking rusting! OH YA! You got yourself a serious car there, 4 or 5 year old car is already falling apart, well get used to it thats fucking american engineering, and you won’t be getting away from it with Cadillac either… Fuck you CTS-V lovers, fuck all you incompetant self centered, cock sucking sons of bitches! You can’t compare American shit to German luxury!

    Fuck You Cadillac, because the 2011 WRX STi 4 door sedan has already preliminary records set from 7:30.56 to 7:55.00, that’s a whole lot fucking faster than the CTS-V’s 7:59.32!!!!!!!!

    • Kurt says:

      AP, I hope you’re seeing a therapist about your anger issues. Prozac is your friend.

      I just spent two days driving the 2011 CTS-V coupe at Palm Beach International Raceway. Piece of shit? Hardly. I’d call it the equal of the Germand in every regard, including build quality. For the record, the least reliable new car I’ve ever owned was a BMW 3 Series, so go figure. No matter what you though about the last generation, drive a 2011 CTS-V and then tell me it’s no good.

      As for the STI, the 7:55 lap was turned in a pre-production car running a larger turbo and a modified suspension. The Porsche Panamera Turbo alledgedly turned a lap faster than 7:59, but Porsche isn’t advertising this so Caddy retains bragging rights on the world’s fastest sedan for now.

  3. Bad Cad says:

    I own 2 and would buy a third if I could aford it. You could trade me for anything. Call it what you wish but its sleek, fast (very fast) and the girls lov’em.

  4. xke says:

    The first generation CTS-V was pretty well sorted by the time that my 07 was built. After buying it used for well under $20k I can say that it is by far the most “bang-for-your-buck” out there, and I research used cars pricing for a living. I buy cars for the largest (by sales volume) dealer group in our state and we do a lot of business in these cars, especially now the second-gens. I had the pleaseure of driving an 11 with the manual and it is absolutely world-class in every respect; styling, performace, luxury, reliability, you name it and there isn’t one category where this car can be seriously faulted. BTW, we don’t sell new Cadillacs so I can say that I am not biased towards them or any other GM product. Passion for cars is more intrinsic to our culture than anywhere else in the world and sometimes we Americans do get it right.

  5. […] Re: Why so much negative press for 04-07 V's? It wasn't just Top Gear, there were a few sites that gave it a low rating at the end, I dont feel like trying to find the links, they were just web review sites. Then I think car & driver or road & track blew a diff during the acceleration test. I personally am not going to let it persuade me because I drove one on the track and loved it. Here is one of the sites I found a review on. http://www.ridelust.com/rust-or-lust…adillac-cts-v/ […]

  6. Doobster6 says:

    After 42 years of driving, my recently acquired, pristine, low miles ’04 CTS-V has quickly become my all-time favorite car. I’ve owned three Bimmers, six Audis (and an Infiniti) and nothing is more expensive or frustrating to maintain than a German car past its warranty. Besides the financial aggravation, only the v8-powered S4 came close to matching the V’s visceral driving experience. I look forward now to the most mundane of errand runs!
    My guess is that most all of the bad press has come from people tracking their V’s or, people addicted to doing juvenile burnouts. I’ll concede that by now GM should know how to build cars that could withstand that abuse so I’m not letting them off the hook that easy. But, if you drive your V in anything less than all-out gear banging and corner drifting, I think it will provide many years of enjoyable, world-class driving. For this baby boomer anyway, nothing else compares.