When the salesman wearing the JCPenney fedora with a fishing lure snagged in the brim tells you his Acme Premium Plan is “the Cadillac of insurance policies,” there’s a reason why. In post-war America, Cadillac was unequivocally the car to have. It was an aspirational vehicle to own and to be seen in, and it promised an ideal lifestyle. But eventually, European (and later, Japanese) competition and Detroit’s slow response to tectonic changes in the industry left Cadillac in the dust. That is, until the CTS-V came calling.
Gutsy, edgy, brash and powerful, and yet undeniably elegant, the CTS-V and its supercharged V8 aimed to outgun Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Jaguar like only an American company could. Cadillac’s 2011 commercial “Red Blooded Luxury” succinctly describes the attitude of the CTS-V: “What happened to luxury? Where did all the personality go?” It continued: “The gusto, the glamour — we believe you can have it all.” Say no more.
A brute in a suit
The original CTS-V sedan debuted for 2004. With a supercharged V8, rear-wheel drive and crisp, bold “Art & Science” design language, it set a tone for Cadillacs that continues today.
A new second-generation CTS-V arrived for 2009. Bristling with 556 hp and 551 ft-lb of torque from a Corvette ZR1-based 6.2-liter all-aluminum V8, and available with a 6-speed, third-pedal gearbox, it was a genuine weapon. The new car promptly set a sedan track record at the Nürburgring, despite weighing over two tons. Thanks go to its six-piston Brembo brakes. Cadillac was back, Jack.
Far from a bread-and-butter product for Cadillac, just 13,384 second-gen CTS-V sedans were built. A coupe variant debuted for 2011, blending the same exhilarating power into 2-door bodywork; only 8,518 were made. The CTS-V wagon arrived simultaneously, with a mere 1,764 ultimately produced. Nonetheless, for four years this three-car Cadillac performance group took the fight to the contemporary German and Japanese segment leaders.
Planting your foot into the throttle, the CTS-V is like a GTO or a Boss 429 of its day. The car simply spools up and lunges ahead with near-instant ferocity, although this performance is comfortably rheostatic. Grandma could drive the CTS-V, but so could Cadillac’s World Challenge GT champion Johnny O’Connell. And he did — to four Pirelli World Challenge GT-class championships. At V-max in a 6-speed manual sedan, Cadillac claimed you’d see the other side of 190 mph (automatics are limited to 175).
Years ago, Cadillac loaned me a press-pool CTS-V for a few days. On a quiet, overcast Tuesday, I decided to run a 200-mile loop I’d done many times in all manner of vehicles. Enraptured by power, and spellbound by the handling of the magical Magnetic Ride Control suspension, I gave the CTS-V free rein and demolished all known records for the loop. I still remember that day fondly.
Prices on the rise
Now, after 13 years of depreciation for the earliest second-gen CTS-Vs, Cadillac’s edgy edifice is picking up steam in the marketplace. Among these CTS-V models, standing tallest today is the rare 2011–14 wagon. We’ve seen average examples commonly sell in the $50k–$60k range, with collector-grade creampuffs reaching nearly six figures. Less-practical coupes generally cost less; figure $40k or so for a great one. Sedans are the most plentiful, with higher-mileage cars costing as little as $25k, but be prepared to double that amount for the best examples. Manual transmissions are especially desirable over the paddle-shift automatic.
As with any late-model car, demand a complete service history when shopping, check for open recalls, chase down accident damage and other dramas via CARFAX, and underwrite a thorough pre-purchase inspection. Integrating with owners on model-specific enthusiast websites (www.cadillacvnet.com or www.ctsvowners.com) may also help.
Three Vs, which for you?
A second-gen CTS-V is still quite modern as collectible cars go, which means plenty of good things. It can still be reliably serviced at Cadillac dealerships, factory parts are still plentiful, and these cars are fresh, safe and comfortable enough to excel in virtually any duty, from daily driver to summer road-tripper, to track-day tool. Buy the model that serves your purposes best, with an eye towards the rarer variants (manual-equipped coupes and wagons) for future collectibility.
While deciding, remember this: When Briggs Cunningham went to Le Mans in 1950, he raced a Series 61 coupe; when Chuck Berry wrote “Maybellene,” he included a Coupe de Ville in the lyrics; and when Bruce Springsteen penned “Cadillac Ranch,” he chose an Eldorado coupe. Two doors, all. So make mine a CTS-V coupe. The others are wonderful but have, as the saying goes, “too many doors.” ♦