2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Review

Cadillac Expert Reviews Feature Articles

By David Colman

For: Can-Am car for the street
Against: Frequent gas buyer miles

Last Summer I was treated to a hot lap around Infineon Raceway’s 2.2 mile IndyCar short course in the works-prepared Cadillac CTS-V competing in SCCA’s World Challenge series. Driven by top GM racing pilot Andy Pilgrim, the CTS-V left an indelible impression on me of noise, heat and prodigious speed. So it was with whetted anticipation that I took delivery of a 2012 CTS-V for a one week test drive. Even that searingly hot lap around Infineon failed to prepare me for the boundless performance of this eminently streetable hot rod.

Under the hood, the bad Cad shares a detuned and downsized version of the motor used in the ultimate Corvette, the ZR1. In the case of the CTS-V, you get 6.2 liters of supercharged V8 good for 556 horsepower and 551 lb.-ft. of torque. You can order your V with either the 6-speed manual Tremec TR6060 gearbox, or the GM Hydra-Matic 6190, which also provides 6 speeds, plus steering wheel shift controls. Our test car’s Tremec manual operated flawlessly, with nicely spring loaded gates to guide you from slot to slot without missing a shift. With this much torque, you could probably get away with a 2 speed transmission, but the 6-speed manual is so rewarding to shift that you’ll find yourself chasing gears just for pleasure. Equally rewarding is listening to the sound of the powder keg V8 snorting its way through the rev range.


The V’s handling is impeccable, with enough rubber on the road to float a landing craft. Optional 19 inch satin graphite wheels ($900) look extra nasty in support of Michelin Sport Pilot tires measuring 255/40R19 up front and 285/35R19 in back. But just because you’ve got this much rubber at each contact patch, don’t assume the V will never lose adhesion. I got a graphic demonstration of the laws of physics when I switched the Caddy’s handling program into “Competitive Mode” mode with a couple of quick taps on the steering wheel mounted button. Doing so tones down the nanny program called Stabilitrak. While traveling an innocuous 15 MPH, I floored the throttle to pass a slower vehicle and got a big surprise when the V’s 551 pounds of torque kicked in with a whomp and instantly overwhelmed the rear tires. A bit of quick corrective work at the steering wheel rectified the situation. If you’re going to assume an expert stance by overriding Stabilitrak, you’d better be prepared to deal with the consequences, because the V is a loaded milspec grade weapon that does not suffer fools kindly.

On the other hand, if you just let GM’s governance committee oversee your spirited driving with full Stabilitrak in effect, rest assured that the CTS-V will perform like the most well mannered aristocrat of the road. Thanks to magnetorheological shock absorbers pioneered by Corvette and licensed by Ferrari, no less, the ride of the V is limousine comfortable most of the time. When you pick up the pace, however, the swarm of magnetic particles inside the shocks congregate to stiffen the ride appropriately. Passenger comfort has a magic quality seemingly controlled by some extraterrestrial force.

The cockpit of this fighter craft is so soothingly swathed in riches that you might think you’re in a Bentley rather than a thinly disguised Can-Am car. Settle yourself into the terrific Recaro seats, a worthy option at $3,400, and you’ve got setting combinations to the 12th power. Sapele wood and Obsidian trim glisten along the contours of the dash and doors. A huge navigation screen pops out of the dash when needed and stores when not. The back seat is comfortable enough for two adult prisoners, but a messy affair to navigate on entry and exit. If you need more space, then opt for the 4-door sedan or even the 5-door wagon. But if you’re after the lightest (4,250 lb.), stiffest, best handling CTS-V, the coupe is the one to have. In 20 years they’ll be selling this one at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale for twice its current bargain basement base price of $63,125, because it’s the 21st Century version of the Hemi ‘Cuda.

2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

  • Engine: 6.2 liter 16 valve V8, supercharged and intercooled
  • Horsepower: 556hp at 5,100rpm
  • Torque: 551 lb.-ft. at 3,800rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 14 MPG City/19 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $71,185
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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