The new optional V6 is state of the art. It displaces 3.6 liters, with a 60-degree aluminum block, double overhead cams, variable valve timing, electronic throttle control, six coils and a structural oil pan. Cadillac's engineers built it with a broad torque curve, which is important for a V6, and it runs on 87 Octane with EPA-estimated City/Highway mileage of 18/28 mpg; consider that the less powerful 3.2-liter takes 91 octane and gets 18/25 mpg. It lacks a great sound despite its dual exhaust system, and it can feel a bit harsh at full throttle, but it's smooth the rest of the time. Just keep your foot off the floor and you'll think it's silky, but no Mercedes V6.
We took the CTS for a wonderful Sunday drive on a brisk fall day in the country, and seriously enjoyed stomping it. There's nothing like a rear-wheel-drive sedan with tight handling and good power, ripping away from slow corners when there are no other cars around. We'd feel and hear the tires chirp as we accelerated up to 6200 rpm redline and let the electronic five-speed automatic transmission do its thing.
The ride and handling were impeccable; smooth, steady, predictable. Solid, but not heavy. Precise, with just the right amount of resistance from the speed-sensitive power steering. The CTS suspension was developed on Germany's legendary Nurburgring circuit, because that's where the German sports sedans are developed, and Cadillac was eager to challenge them on their terms. It shows in the car. The ride is very comfortable, erasing the bumps; and still the suspension is there when you need it in the rippling twisty curves. The front suspension was sometimes noisy on our beautiful hard Sunday drive, but the overall noise level in the cabin was low.
We pushed it to the point where StabiliTrak began to make brake and throttle corrections to keep the car on the road. It was the correct point, not too early like some others, particularly some Mercedes-Benz models. We gave the ABS with brake proportioning a good test, and it passed with flying colors. We slammed to a stop from 70 miles an hour with our hands off the steering wheel, with zero drama: no squealing, no swerving.
Our biggest regret with the CTS is that the automatic transmission doesn't have a manual mode. It shifted down and up a lot, especially at a casual pace. But with Sport mode engaged, the transmission takes on a new attitude, sharp and decisive. Enthusiast drivers might want to wait for the six-speed Getrag gearbox.
As for the Corvette-powered CTS-V, we can think of worse ways to spend 50 grand. Cadillac didn't use its own great Northstar V8 with double overhead cams (as it does in the SRX sport-utility) because it couldn't quite fit under the CTS hood. Cadillac claims acceleration from 0 to 60 in a mere 4.6 seconds.