2004 Cadillac CTS-V
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

A Caddy for enthusiasts

It is a rare occurrence for a car to make such a strong enough impression on me that I have to re-evaluate my perceptions of all things automotive – but the CTS-V is just such a car. In short, I am smitten with it. This four-wheeled marvel of engineering is so far removed from what most people would consider a Cadillac, that it single-handedly moves the brand into a new dimension – that of the enthusiast car. Yes, you heard right. I used the ‘e’ word to describe a Cadillac, and to be honest; no one is more surprised by this than me.

V is for velocity

The CTS-V is a modern muscle car complete with room for 5 passengers and all the luxury trimmings you’d expect in a Cadillac. A ‘halo’ car, much like its luxurious stable-mate the XLR roadster, the CTS-V is designed to attract buyers into showrooms and display to the world what the company can do.

When the CTS first hit the showrooms, it was only available with a rather anemic V6 – Cadillac stressed that its design was too compact to slip the Northstar V8 engine under the hood. However, the CTS engineering team looked to Chevrolet’s Corvette line where they determined that with a few minor modifications the potent LS-6 V8 would fill the engine bay. Generating 400-horsepower and a tire shredding 395-lb.-ft. of torque this new 5.7-litre aluminum-block heart gives the CTS-V driver an adrenaline rush like few other street sedans.

V-Series enhancements

The CTS-V is only available with a 6-speed short-throw manual transmission, and it is one of the slickest-shifting units I have had the pleasure to test. Seven-spoke, lightweight aluminum wheels wear meaty Goodyear Eagle F1 P245/45WR-18 inch run-flat tires, making it unnecessary to carry a spare while saving a little weight. Enormous 14-inch vented Brembo disc brakes with four-piston calipers and an advanced, four setting stability system (derived from that in the Corvette Z06) help to keep the car in control. Beefy anti-roll bars front and rear and a performance suspension help keep the car to go where you point it with very little body roll.

2004 Cadillac CTS-V

2004 Cadillac CTS-V

2004 Cadillac CTS-V
Click image to enlarge

The car’s exterior tweaks are tasteful – buyers in this category don’t want to draw too much attention to themselves or look like they bought a body kit off the shelf and cobbled the car together in their garage. The front fascia sports a racy high-polish mesh grille and cooling ducts for the brakes and engine, as well as integrated driving lights. A deep aerodynamic spoiler helps direct air where it is needed, as do subtle side skirts, but neither a rear wing nor spoiler was deemed necessary. Subtle CTS-V and V-Series badges are sprinkled about, while the engine shroud wears both a Cadillac wreath and the LS6 nomenclature.

Luxurious cockpit

Slipping behind the thick-rimmed, 3-spoke steering wheel you find yourself “glued” to the leather sport seat. Wide and deep side bolsters, a tilt-able head rest and 8-way power adjustability make for a custom fit, while integrated seat heaters and a power lumbar support add comfort and support. The quality of the stitching as well as the suppleness of the top-grain hides and brushed suede inserts make it hard to believe that this is not a much more expensive car that was hand-built in a European coach-works somewhere. Even the feel and look of the door and dash panels is improved over the plain plastics and odd textures found in the first CTS models. Everything seems soft to the touch and lightly padded in an effort to improve safety and comfort.

The steering wheel is rather large in diameter but probably needed to be as it acts as a base for a host of electronics and associated switchgear. No less than eight soft touch controls are within a thumb’s reach, allowing the driver to scroll through everything from tire pressure readings and fuel economy data, as well as the health and operating temperatures of vital fluids. The big surprise was the presence of a digital G-Force meter, which allows the user to monitor and record lateral G readings for prosperity and garage bragging rights.

A well laid out gauge cluster takes centre stage, and is dominated by two large, round dials, one a 300-km/h speedometer and the other an 8000-rpm tachometer. This car loves to explore the reaches on both, and liberal use of the seemingly endless throttle and the close-ratio TREMEC T56 6-speed gearbox will help you do both.

2004 Cadillac CTS-V
Click image to enlarge

An advanced driver information centre integrates seamlessly with both the stereo /DVD/ navigation screen as well as the instrument cluster, and many of the features can be accessed via secondary controls fitted to the steering wheel. The DVD-based navigation system offers voice recognition, voice prompts and infrared data transfer to simplify its use and acts as the command unit for the AM/FM stereo, integrated 6 CD changer, and Bose-engineered 8-speaker system. The screen doubles as a DVD movie player when the vehicle is in park, a feature that will make those long waits in ferry line-ups and traffic jams a little more bearable.

Advanced safety devices such as a tire pressure monitor system, child safety rear windows and door locks, tamper alarm and advanced immobilizer come standard, as does On-Star – although a subscription must be renewed by the vehicle owner to maintain this latter service after the first year of ownership. Front seat-mounted side-impact airbags as well as outboard roof-mounted side-impact head curtains front and rear supplement the driver and front passenger frontal airbags. This combination should go along way to protect occupants in the event of a major collision or cockpit intrusion.

The driving experience

2004 Cadillac CTS-V

2004 Cadillac CTS-V

2004 Cadillac CTS-V
Click image to enlarge

Unlike European luxury missiles like the BMW M5, Audi RS-6 and Jaguar’s XJ-R, the CTS-V makes sure that you are well aware of its performance at the first blip of the throttle. An aggressive bark erupts from under the hood, followed by subtle body tremors and a throaty rumble from the sport exhaust. As you accelerate the roar continues as the speed rises, becoming more menacing with each shift up or down.

Acceleration is brisk, with factory claims of 0-96 km/h runs taking a mere 4.6-seconds – but I swear it is faster. A smooth shift from 1st to 2nd as the tach kisses the 6,750 rpm redline results in a feeling of controlled fury similar to that felt in a dedicated door-slammer at the drag strip. To handle the massive 395-lb.-ft. of torque the transmission is equipped with a larger drive shaft, a dual mass-flywheel and heavy-duty CV joints. To ensure that the car’s chassis retains its stiffness when the car is operating in anger, a beefy cross-brace spans across the front shock towers.

The best part is all this torque is useable, seemingly ready to transmit to the rear wheels at any speed. The fade-resistant brakes are more than up to reigning the car in without too much drama, while almost endless grunt lets you power this well-balanced machine through the curves with just a hint of tail wagging. In my opinion, this car offers the enthusiast driver more than enough smiles-per-mile to counter its $70,000 asking price.


The Cadillac CTS-V represents the first model in the V-Series of ultra-high-performance Cadillacs, and for a first effort the car and its designers deserve a great deal of praise. They have created a car that sets new benchmarks for the brand in both its levels of luxury and performance. Cadillac has taken a page from its foreign rivals, putting the emphasis on the driving experience itself rather than on just providing a comfortable means of travel.

As a ’boutique’ model, the CTS-V is unlikely to ever be produced in large numbers. Cadillac plans to unleash a mere 200 units in Canada this model year. For the lucky few, the daily commute might just become their favourite part of the day.

Technical Data: 2004 Cadillac CTS-V

Base price (MSRP) $70,000
Options $ 1,660 (sunroof)
Freight $ 1,050
A/C tax $ 100
Price as tested $71,150
Type 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine 5.7 litre V8
Horsepower 400 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 395 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Gearbox Tremec 6-speed manual
Weight 1748 kg (3847 lb.)
Length 4853 mm (191.5 in.)
Width 1793 mm (70.6 in.)
Height 1455 mm (57.3 in.)
Wheelbase 2880 mm (113.4 in.)
Cargo capacity 362 litres (12.8 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 16.2 l/100 km (17 mpg)
  Hwy: 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg)
Fuel Type 91 octane premium
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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