Which Cadillac CTS Is Right for You?

2018 Cadillac CTS-V Sedan 7 photos
Photo: General Motors
Cadillac CTS Wagon InteriorCadillac CTS WagonCadillac CTS CoupeBrembo Brakes are standard on all CTS-V models2013 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe2018 Cadillac CTS Interior
It only takes one car to save a brand, so which model CTS fits your budget and your sensibilities? Let’s see where price, style, and power intersect to land an American supercar in your collection.
Once the Christmas clutter was cleaned, I decided to make a few strategic moves downstairs. I moved the 2018 Cadillac CTS outside to clear a path for my 2004 CTS-V. While they both share a name, they span three generations of ingenuity. For complete disclosure, everyone needs to raise a glass to the United Auto Workers at the Lansing Grand River Plant, who are currently re-tooling for GM’s EV future.

It was there in 2003 when someone noticed how easily the Corvette Z06’s 405 horsepower V8 would fit under the hood of a CTS. The first-generation cars debuted a year prior as Caddy’s first new RWD platform since the death of the B-body in 1996. Not only was it comfortable and quiet, the smooth & light LS6 has endured 19 years of murderous rage inflicted by my hands and the dismal Florida roads.

The first CTS-V was built in limited numbers until 2007 and it offers no apologies. GM Performance turned to Sachs for brutal shock absorbers, and the springs were tuned after months of tuning at the ‘Ring. Since it was benchmarked against the E46 M3, the only maintenance items I have needed in the past dozen years have been a radiator and alternator. Automatic transmissions were not offered, but you will have the same triple-cone synchronizers found in the Z06 and Dodge Viper for a fraction of the price.

2018 Cadillac CTS Interior
Photo: General Motors
Once I removed the mufflers and catalytic converters, the car is no longer legal to drive in the U.S. So that’s why I ordered headers, a new camshaft, and sticky 255/45/18 rubber. Because she has been so loyal, I put her away and found a 2009 example. GM stepped up by offering 550 horsepower thanks to a supercharger. A six-speed automatic was introduced for the Gen 2 CTS, making manual transmissions command a premium price.

In addition to the sedan, CTS grew into a family with the addition of a coupe and wagon models. All three flavors could have either transmission, but you need to beware of a few issues. Find a car with the optional Recaro heated/cooled seats if weight isn’t a problem. Then you can address the sunroof drains. The panoramic glass is amazing, but the drains can overflow in Florida, shorting out the Body Control Module. All second-generation cars use magnetic ride control suspension, the same technology they pioneered on the 2002 Seville.

These early MR shocks tend to leak, but GM has corrected the design as the 4th generation system has been licensed by all the big automakers. Since they are easy to change, factor in a few grand for a set for any CTS or Vette into any negotiations. The driveline is bulletproof, but typical GM interior issues can be fixed with Superglue and an audio upgrade. Paint quality and fogging headlights became irritating, especially when the 3rd generation cars appeared in 2014.

I couldn’t pass up an offer from Claude Nolan Cadillac of Jacksonville on a 2015 sedan. Cadillac’s goal was to make the 2011 BMW M5 look like a chump, and it does this with 640 horsepower and 630 lb-ft (852 Nm). The manual transmission was not offered, but this 8-speed automatic is a genius. It is as quiet as a library and close to 700 horsepower thanks to cheap E85 fuel and a 160-degree (71 C) cooling system. A CTS-V means no worries about timing belts, water pumps, rod bearings, or transmissions; all they need is fuel, oil, and a loving home.

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