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2016 Cadillac ATS-V: History’s Fastest Cadillac Storms Hollywood


Every car provides inspiration for how we will analyze and review it, be that screaming down Virginia International Raceway’s back straight at triple-digit speeds, assaulting our nasal passages with scents of fine leather and wood, or packing it full of kids and camping gear. The light-bulb moment for the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V came early in a presentation by chief engineer and not–Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Roma, when a slide comparing the CTS-V’s specs with those of its German competition lit up the screen with an absolutely ridiculous top-speed claim: 200 mph.

No, Seriously—It’ll Go to Plaid

The term “four-door Corvette” has never been as apropos for the CTS-V as it is to this new third-generation car. Previous CTS-Vs shared their V-8 hearts with Chevy’s apple-pie sports car, and so, too, does the 2016 iteration. This time, Cadillac’s sugar daddy is the mighty 2015 Corvette Z06, which donates its supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V-8 engine to the V cause. The transplant means the loss of the Corvette’s dry-sump lubrication and a slight drop in output. The wet-sump CTS-V nonetheless packs a certifiably insane 640 ponies at 6400 rpm and 630 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. The blown V-8 is so powerful that it’s almost unsurprising that the new V sedan can hit 60 mph in a claimed 3.7 seconds.

Like the Z06’s LT4, the CTS-V’s version boasts forged connecting rods, forged aluminum pistons, titanium intake valves, and a 1.7-liter Eaton supercharger. It also gets cylinder deactivation, and although final EPA figures are forthcoming, we’re told the V is expected to avoid the gas-guzzler tax. The sharp-shifting 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmission also appears here, albeit wrapped in a new casing so it can nestle up to the LT4’s tail. (The Corvette uses a rear-mounted transaxle layout.) Gear ratios are shared between the CTS-V and the Vette, and drivers can swap cogs via a solid-feeling set of steering-wheel shift paddles. Unlike the Corvette, the CTS-V is not available with a manual transmission. But it does have the Vette’s electronically controlled limited-slip differential, albeit with its own final-drive ratio.

It Wants to Destroy Everything the M5 or E63 Ever Loved

The presentation slide extolling the 200-mph top speed also compared the V’s horsepower, torque, and power-to-weight ratio to those of the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. Needless to say, the Cadillac cleans house. To hear lead engineer Roma introduce the car, however, it is clear that his team didn’t merely seek horsepower and top-speed honors. Nope, they set out to tear apart the Germans in every metric.

A track-focused obsession permeates every crevice of the CTS-V. Compared with the 3.6-liter V-6 CTS’s duo of heat exchangers—one’s the radiator, the other is part of the air-conditioning compressor—the V comes festooned with an additional five. There is a standard rear differential cooler, which shares its coolant circuit with the transmission’s oil cooler, as well as an engine-oil cooler, an auxiliary intercooler, and an auxiliary radiator. These exchangers are tucked behind and underneath bodywork massaged to make trips deep into triple digits drama-free affairs. Everything forward of the V’s A-pillar is unique, including the carbon-fiber hood, the vented fenders widened by 0.8 inch in total, the chin splitter, and the aggressive fascia with Cadillac’s signature chain-mail grille inserts. A trunklid lip spoiler aids downforce, and a rear diffuser is the final stop for air traveling along the CTS-V’s nearly flat underbody.

Just a single staggered-width wheel-and-tire package will be offered—although three finishes are available for the wheels—with modest 19-inch forged-aluminum wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer rubber. (Cadillac believes that limiting the wheel size and breadth of choice makes it possible to develop its V models’ suspensions with fewer compromises; the 2015 ATS-V coupe and sedan are similarly “focused.”) The Michelin tires provide so much lateral grip, in fact, that Cadillac felt it wise to stiffen the CTS’s already granitelike structure. So there’s an aluminum front strut-tower brace, V-braces tying the firewall to the strut towers, a colossal aluminum shear panel linking the engine cradle to the bottom of the firewall and rockers, and a beefed-up connection between the rear rockers and the rear suspension cradle.

You might be surprised to learn that the V doesn’t even offer carbon-ceramic brake rotors, but Cadillac tells us that sufficiently sized ceramics would have dictated larger wheels and cost a ton of money. (Cadillac’s people are quick to jab their competition over this apparent shortcoming; when asked whether the CTS-V will get a track package with enhanced suspension, pricier braking setups, and more power, they responded by saying, “the 2016 CTS-V is the track package.”) The V’s Brembo-supplied iron discs are said to be able to dissipate more heat at their 15.4-inch front and 14.4-inch rear diameters than could similarly sized carbon-ceramic pieces. GM’s third-generation Magnetic Ride Control magnetorheological dampers are standard, and the units’ brain can now “read” and adjust damping force for every inch of road surface covered at 60 mph. The dampers work with stiffer bushings, new anti-roll bars, higher-rate springs, quicker-ratio steering, and tweaked front and rear suspension geometries to deliver more sharpness and poise from the base CTS’s already outstanding and 10Best Cars–winning chassis.

Flying the Flag, Luxuriously

Unfortunately, all of the chassis Viagra results in the CTS-V being slightly heavier than lesser CTS models. Cadillac claims the curb weight is 4145 pounds, or 179 pounds heartier than the last 2014 CTS Vsport twin-turbo model we tested. Still, the CTS-V is a lightweight compared with the M5 (4300–4398 pounds in our testing) and the E63 AMG (a wagon we tested punched the scales with 4733 pounds of force).

As such, Cadillac says it isn’t worried about the V’s additional pork, and no effort was made to sacrifice any creature comforts on the performance altar. Every CTS-V comes with 20-way power leather front sport seats with heating and ventilation elements, navigation, Bose audio, OnStar with 4G LTE data connectivity, a reconfigurable full-color head-up display, and a new 12.3-inch high-definition LCD digital gauge cluster that will spread to the full CTS lineup for 2016.

The only major options are Recaro sport seats, a panoramic sunroof, and the Corvette’s awesome Performance Data Recorder. A Carbon Fiber package brings a bare carbon finish to the hood vent and a deeper splitter and taller rear spoiler, and Cadillac even book-matches the material’s weave down the pieces’ centerline. There will be safety items like forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and an automatic parking feature, but the only nanny we’re remotely interested in is a new front-facing bumper camera that prevents parking-curb scraping events. Pricing is expected to come in at around $85K, which will save you five figures or so versus the German rivals.

After the presentation ended and we picked up our jaws off of the floor, we did have a few nits to pick. First off, there’s that no-manual thing, thanks to anticipated low sales volumes and the fact that you can get one in the smaller ATS-V. We also take issue with the gorgeous matte-white paint option seen here being restricted to the launch year—it’s that dazzling. And, because some folks will whine about it, yeah, the CTS-V doesn’t out-velocity the sub-$70K Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, but the same could be said of anything that costs more than the Dodge, and the Cadillac crests the magic 200-mph mark using 67 fewer horsepower and 4 cubic centimeters less displacement. But our biggest issue with the CTS-V is that we haven’t driven it yet or compared it directly with the M5, E63, or the upcoming Lexus GS F. Hey, there’s a story idea.

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