An American Psycho: Cadillac CTS-V

Completely psychotic.

By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG by GM via CadillacFaq

CADILLAC’S CTS-V is pure road going violence.

It’s as though a certain fear and loathing drove the designers, the tuners, the machinists, the suppliers, the engineers, the writers, and the executives all to the same point of critical mass. The result is a savage machine of extreme brutality and exacting finesse- an American psycho.

The CTS-V, meine Herren, is Cadillac’s Manhattan Project; it’s 6.2 Liter V8, the de-tuned Little Boy to the Corvette ZR1’s Big Boy.

But with the launch of this new flagship (of sorts) Cadillac’s future is placed on hold along with everyone else’s. There’s nothing in the immediate pipeline that harnesses the same capacity to upset the balance of (horse)power. Not the next SRX. Not the CTS coupe or wagon.

As if America’s luxury market needed upsetting.

Until the smoke of public inquiry clears, there can be no progress beyond CTS-V for Cadillac. Not one cubic inch.

There’s nothing more to be done until whatever new day finds them. And even then, there are no promises.

And that brings us to that nasty thing about fear. There’s no safe. It holds no sanctity for Christmas. Doesn’t guarantee expiration with the New Year. It’s omnipresent so long as there’s cause.

At this point in the marque’s history, does too much depend on the success and recognition of one car?


One sedan – one(!) – suspends America’s proudest icon. The Dolce Vita rocket-finned legacy long suffering in careless hands now has a dedicated crew that’s worked overtime righting past wrongs. The low volume CTS-V is the apogee of those efforts. Numerically, it can’t save the marque but symbolically it must if Cadillac is to have a viable tomorrow.

If all this seems a little too abstract and metaphorical for your reading tastes, you might consider the distractions that faced auto scribes at two recent GM events.

At Cadillac’s 100th Year Anniversary celebration at the Saratoga Auto Museum, a thunderstorm fueled by all the humid convection that the Hudson River can give a July dusk, knocked out the museum’s main power and submerged the party tents outside.

As the band kept playing, panicked museum staffers ushered too many people inside too small a space. The elements outside raged. Still, the party carried on.

At another event, this time held in October at Bear Mountain, NY, a cold front ripped through the morning’s PowerPoint presentations; whipping the tents and assembled cars with frigid rain. Journalists were still clasping tight to their coffees and coats when event reps. invited everyone to abandon shelter and drive any one of just about every new model in GM’s fleet.

With polite determination the press passed over the Saab Turbo X, the Hummer H3 Alpha, the Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid, Pontiac’s (awesome) G8 GT, and an ‘09 Corvette to converge on one car.


“ V” if not for “Victory” against all road going pretense means violence. Unrepentant, unyielding, merciless.
The machine intonations that echo out from beneath the idling hood – pistons stabbing – promise to kill you and take out four lanes of traffic in the offing. Any pretense of passive cell safety, airbags, and electronic nannies are laid prostrate at the first pull of the trigger.

You can’t say you didn’t get the early warning.

On approach, didn’t you see the knifed edges? The executioner’s wire mesh mask? The atomic power dome?

Didn’t you get the facts from the FAQs? Nineteen inch rims trimmed with Michelin Pilots. A magnetic suspension that sodders forty two hundred fifty pounds of suede, leather, and steel to the road. Six point two liters. 556bhp plus 551 torques. An Eaton Supercharger plus one Tremec stick. Cross drilled Brembo stoppers.The sky or 191 mph (whichever comes first) is your limit.

Sixty large.

Close the door shut with a encapsulating – whump. Shift a little deeper into the suede-bound Recaro chair. Take the shifter in your right hand. Run your left tentatively along the thick rim.

Find first. Twist and release the fixed “key.” Hear all eight American cylinders rumble to life.
While you’re still stationary, take in the tranquil cabin.

Six Speed Automatic Shown

There won’t be much opportunity to appreciate the details while underway. There’s a monotone montage of satin hues that stand in contrast to the piano-black veneer’s gloss. The interior design blends a familiar mix of Ingolstadt influences all designed for your comfort. A panorama roof reveals the sky and reminds you that’s where you limits lie.


Launch CTS-V into a series of bends.

Sweeping left now an abrupt right. As driver you’re pinned. Any passengers at this stage of play will have lost their equilibrium. They’ll swear later their skull juices were swirling while their stomach and internal organs found a whisked suspension from the g’s you pulled doing the bait ‘n switch with the helm.

The funny part is – you haven’t switched on Track Mode yet. You’re still in Touring.

Collect your senses, turn the wheel straight ahead and step. A tortured, haunted howl breaks into the cabin peaking into a supercharged wail through the twin musket exhausts.
Heaven help those in your way.

Shift. Shift. Shift.

You’ve passed through one century of progress in throttling towards the next. Reason’s gone. It left you somewhere a quarter mile back. Adrenaline has filled that void. Relentless. You’re reaching your furthest sightlines much too soon.

Let up a little to descend into new corners.

CTS-V transmits road information faster than your synapses are designed to receive it. Indicators of adhesion, slip, and balance flash at you at blinkered rates you can’t possibly acknowledge without total commitment.

Time to stop.

Hard on the brakes. A hint of lock up. Your pectorals and pelvis fold around the seatbelt. CTS-V stops.
It’s quieter again.

The eight idles level – pistons stabbing. Like some dark Gregorian chant, the car’s calling for you to hit it again.

Go on. The machine can take it. It can. Can you? What besides fear stops you? Go on. Hit it.

Have no fear.

[GM provided the test vehicle for this review]

December 12, 2008

About the Author: Gunnar Heinrich is publisher of Automobiles De Luxe online and is executive producer of the Automobiles De Luxe Television series on PBS member station CPTV.

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  1. Great review, Gunnar. My envy for you is now complete.

    The Last Hurrah of the Horsepower Wars.

    Unfortunately for Cadillac, and GM, the CTS is all Caddy has in its arsenal now. A very good car, by any measure, it’s held captive in the market by the deterioration of the Cadillac name and the uncertainty of GM’s future.

    The CTS-V will go down as an iconic American car, and a legendary Cadillac. It’s that good.

    But it’s too little, too late. GM’s headed for Chapter 11, and with it will go the future products that Cadillac needs. Replacements for the aged STS, DTS, SRX, and the Euro BTS. All are on hold as GM desperately tries to hang on.

    At Barrett-Jackson 2040, the CTS-V will join the AMG Mercedes, BMW M-Series, Audi RS models, the ZR-1 Corvette, Shelby GT500KR, Dodge Challenger SRT-8, and Camaro SS models as the cars we all remember from this age of monster motors.

    Smoke ’em while you got ’em.

  2. You’re right, Zarba. Smoke’em while ya got ’em. Amen.

    CTS-V is TOO much, too late, perhaps.

    I didn’t like the standard CTS – as much as it is the most handsome of the semi-precious set (5er, E-Class, etc.) GM needs (when and if it sees through its economic cloud) to redo the standard CTS’ suspension and engine.

    The CTS-V nailed both with the backside of an axe.

  3. Gunnar:

    Re: The standard CTS

    Did you test the 306-hp direct injected engine or the 268 hp version?

    Do you know if Magnaride is available on the standard CTS? If so, it would probably dowonders for the suspension.

    And that is GM’s problem. They fixed all thse things on the 556 hp CTS-V, but the standard version, which will account for 97% of production, doesn’t get the fixes it needs. I really want to like the CTS, but I’ve NO confidence in GM’s build quality or lengevity. Notto mention that GM is about to go bankrupt.

  4. So disappointing…It was the direct injection model. Horrid performer. Bad handling, bad ride quality, bad pickup; the most anemic 300+ hp engine I’ve ever whipped. Shame.

    But in jet black, it was such a sharp sedan.

  5. great tips. I enjoyed reading this

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  1. From An American Psycho Cadillac CTS V Automobiles De Luxe | Wood TV Stand on Jun 1, 2009

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