2005 Cadillac CTS-V

Defiantly American, ultra-performance sports sedan

No one can deny that GM's Cadillac Division has engineered an astonishing turnaround of its competitiveness and image, beginning with the edgy, stealth-fighter-looking CTS sedan, and continuing through the XLR roadster, SRX sport crossover and new-for-'05 STS sedan. Those who have driven them or read their reviews will agree that these are seriously good cars and competitive in every way. Even the hulky truck-based Escalade SUV has evolved into a cult classic among A-list athletes and celebrities.

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For 2004, the automatic transmission CTS got even better thanks to an excellent new 255-hp V-6, which extends to all CTS models for 2005. Then this awesome 400-hp Corvette-powered CTS-V joined the party in mid-2004. Imagine, if you can, a defiantly American, ultra-performance sport sedan that goes, corners, steers and stops like a Corvette. And rides like, well, a slightly stiff-legged Cadillac.

First to arrive of Cadillac's high-performance V-Series and one of the first products of GM's two-year-old Performance Division, CTS-V wears stainless steel mesh grilles, new aero rockers flowing into a new rear fascia, distinctive V-Series badging and dual oval exhausts. Like the Corvette Z06, the CTS-V's 5.7-liter V-8 pumps 395 lb.-ft. of tarmac-tearing torque through a 6-speed manual transmission launching it from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Also like the Corvette, the CTS-V's development engineers tuned its chassis on Germany's legendary Nurburgring racetrack-some 14 miles of 176 death defying turns through Germany's Eiffel Mountains. Unlike the Corvette, the CTS-V seats four adults in comfort (five in a pinch) and packs six airbags for everyone's safety and 12.5 cu.-ft. of trunk for their stuff.

Based on GM's rear-drive Sigma architecture, CTS-V is the most powerful production Cadillac ever built. Cadillac says it carries the division's performance credentials to a new level, providing high-performance driving enthusiasts "a serious, credible alternative to imports in the highly competitive, low-volume luxury performance segment, including the BMW M Series, Mercedes-Benz AMG-Series and Audi S-Series." It has a computer-limited top speed of 163 mph.

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Highlights of CTS-V's 400-hp 5.7-liter cam-in-block aluminum LS6 engine include improved air induction and enlarged dual exhausts for impressive V-8 sound. The engine's lightweight aluminum heads and block enhance the car's excellent power-to-weight ratio and chassis balance with 54/46 percent front/rear weight distribution. To develop and manage all this power and torque while reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), the LS6 engine boasts performance modifications including a high-profile camshaft to open the valves faster and higher for more air flow, high-strength pistons for improved durability, especially during high-performance driving, and heavy-duty valves with stiffer springs for improved operation with the high-lift cam.

Power is delivered through a six-speed manual Tremec T56 transmission with a dual-mass flywheel for reduced noise and vibration harshness. A heavy-duty, increased diameter (70-mm) prop shaft is used to handle the LS6's higher torque, and the limited-slip rear axle has an aggressive 3.73:1 final drive ratio to optimize acceleration.

Suspension refinements include hydroformed front and rear cradles to handle the engine's greater mass and torque while enhancing NVH; larger stabilizer bars to limit body roll during hard cornering; larger monotube front shocks to increase damping and thermal performance; nivomat rear shocks that automatically adapt damping rates to changing load conditions; stiffer front and rear springs; and performance-tuned elastomeric ride bushings in the aluminum control arms for precise on-center feel and improved high-speed braking performance.

The standard StabiliTrak system helps to maintain the driver's intended path by applying brake force independently and selectively at any corner. It includes four driver-selected modes, including a competition mode for impressive track performance. The Brembo 14-inch front and 14.4-inch rear disc brakes with aluminum four-piston calipers at all four corners enable awesome deceleration. Also standard are V-specific 7-spoke 18x8.5-inch aluminum wheels and Goodyear P245/45WR18 EMT run-flat tires. A tower-to-tower cross-car brace under the hood improves steering response and linearity. And, to help reduce underhood noise, a unique nylon cover with the Cadillac wreath and crest and V-Series logo is fitted over the top of the engine.

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The CTS-V instrument cluster has aircraft-style white-on-black lettering for legibility and satin chrome rings around each gauge. It also has not just one but two driver information centers (DICs). One displays performance information including oil, transmission and coolant temperatures, oil and tire pressures and even peak and momentary lateral acceleration. The other gives odometer, digital speedometer and reverse gear and skip-shift indicators.

The three-spoke steering wheel's bezel is aluminum, while the shift knob, door pulls and door handles sport a subtle satin chrome finish. Both heated, leather-covered front sport seats have power lumbar adjusters and suede fabric inserts to help keep driver and passenger in place during aggressive cornering. And, showing the Performance Div.'s attention to detail, the center armrest is lowered for easier shifting.

We loved the CTS-V's aggressive looks and its performance in every dynamic dimension, except for a surprising amount of axle tramp during hard, drag-style launches from rest. ("Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Then don't do that.") Still, it managed our informal 0-60 sprint in a tick over five seconds. Handling and braking are nothing short of terrific, and the six-speed shifter's feel is strong and precise. One useful addition would be passenger grab handles over the doors.

Additional standard features at the CTS-V's all-inclusive $49,995 sticker price include a split folding rear seat, Homelink programmable garage door opener, power heated outside mirrors, seven-speaker audio and DVD navigation system with XM satellite radio and in-dash six-CD changer. The substantial safety equipment package includes driver and front passenger front and side air bags, front-to-rear head-curtain air bags and front seatbelt pretensioners. With the six-speed manual the only available transmission, its EPA economy ratings are 16 mpg City and 25 mpg Highway. (www.cadillac.com)

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