2015 Cadillac CTS Vsport Review

Cadillac CTS Vsport Front

This is effectively an incognito BMW E39 M5, only even more well-rounded. It is the Cadillac CTS Vsport, not to be confused with the CTS-V, which is Cadillac’s full-throttle, “still hard as a rock after 4 hours” experience.

The CTS Vsport is very much its own thing, not just some “Diet CTS-V” with less calories. If the CTS-V is a big honking hamburger, then the CTS Vsport is grilled salmon filet. It is an entirely different flavor from the V, so get that comparison out of your head from the get-go.

Cadillac CTS Vsport Rear Vsport Badge

What I like

Well-Roundedness

Those who know cars know that there’s no mistaking a CTS-V for a standard CTS, with the V’s shamelessly aggressive appearance. When you drive around in such an obvious high performance car you send a certain message to society… a big middle finger to the rules and the police who are there to uphold them. As a result, a car like a CTS-V might draw some unwanted attention from the law.

The Vsport, on the other hand, doesn’t send that sort of message at all. It’s styling is handsome, if a bit soft-spoken. Unless you know to look for the little Vsport badge on the back, you wouldn’t know that this Caddy was anything remotely special. Yes, this thing is a bit of a sleeper, and that comes with many advantages.

The CTS Vsport’s unassuming nature continues in its interior. There are no massively bolstered racing seats, or even a manual gear shift to hint at the car’s potential. Really, it’s just a nice plush interior that’s big on comfort, features, and quality. The materials around the cabin are quite nice, actually.

If someone who didn’t know cars were to drive a CTS Vsport, and never attempt to push its potential, they would never have any reason to suspect it were capable of such performance.

Cadillac CTS Vsport 3.6L V6 Twin Turbo

Driving Experience and Performance

Anyone who does decide to push it in the Vsport will be thrilled with what they find. What lies beneath the understated appearance is a very mean speed machine!

It may not be the full-on V model, but it certainly has the right credentials. The Vsport has a Nurburgring tuned chassis, Brembo Performance brakes, a 420hp turbo V6, an 8 speed paddle shift automatic gearbox, and the all-important limited slip differential at the rear. It has lapped the Nurburgring in 8:14, not far off the pace of an E60 BMW M5 with its 500hp V10.

So it has the on-paper credentials for sure. Just look at the performance numbers at the bottom of the page, where I’ve conveniently listed the specs for the BMW E39 M5 as well. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Nobody is cross-shopping an E39 M5 and a CTS Vsport right now. There is a $40,000 difference in value, and I’ll admit, straight away, that the BMW is a better pure driver’s car. I wanted to show that the CTS Vsport had some real performance creds, but its purpose in life is very different to that of the M5.

Cadillac CTS Vsport Wood Trim Cadillac CTS Vsport Interior

The biggest advantage the CTS Vsport has over the cars it directly competes with is weight. In a world where its competitors all weigh in close to 4500lbs, the CTS Vsport tips the scales at around 3900lbs. Its significant weight advantage makes every aspect of its driving experience better. It is very much the sports car of the group, if you will.

420hp may not seem like a whole lot these days, but it still makes the Vsport one helluva fast car, especially in the real world. The acceleration is quite thrilling, and it comes extremely easily thanks to the 430 ft/lbs of torque that hits early in the rev range.

As a back road corner carver, the CTS Vsport will not disappoint. The 8 speed auto shifts so fast that it might as well be a dual clutch. The brakes are insanely powerful. The suspension is exceedingly well balanced. The whole car just feels lively and eager, and it gets better and better the harder you push it. That limited slip differential really helps it put power down coming out of corners too.

Despite the way it exceeds expectations of performance, I wouldn’t call the Vsport a “Jekyll and Hyde” sort of car. It maintains it’s refined character well, even as the speeds increase. The way the Vsport executes its performance actually winds up fitting nicely with its subdued first impression. After driving the car hard, you feel like you’ve just gotten to know it better, rather than having a sense that it was deceiving you.

Cadillac CTS Vsport Headlight

-Tuning Potential

For those who crave more than just a healthy 420hp in their life, the CTS Vsport may still prove a better option than the CTS-V. Because it’s 3.6L V6 engine is twin turbocharged, there is quite a bit of horsepower left to unlock with a few modifications.

In fact, a quick search around shows that the CTS Vsport can be boosted to around 500bhp (450whp) with just a simple ECU reflash. So for a few hundred dollars extra, you can take this Caddy from the level of a V8 E39 BMW M5 to the level of a V10 E60 BMW M5. But if you just relax and cruise, you can still enjoy your V6 fuel economy. That’s a win/win, if you ask me.

Value

The CTS Vsport starts at $60,335, but the price only goes up to around $64,000 when I’ve added all of the options I’d want. Take away the badass 19” rims I added for $2,500, and the price barely rises at all. That’s because the CTS Vsport comes standard with all of the features you’d really miss. Don’t even look twice at the “Premium Package” because it’s just an extra $10 grand for a bunch of gimmicky BS.

There are quite a few other tasty cars that start in the neighborhood of $60,000. The BMW M3, BMW 550i, Mercedes E400, Cadillac’s own ATS-V, and even the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat all come to mind. But consider the options you’d want to have on all of them, and you’ll realize that you won’t be walking out the door for under $65,000 like you would would with this Caddy. The CTS Vsport is a tremendous value for money.

Cadillac CTS Vsport Side View

What I don’t like

Touch Controls

I know Cadillac has been getting a bad rap for their center console touch controls for a long time now, but I must continue it here because they still have yet to change it.

Look, I get it. It sounded like a great idea in some meeting at the RenCen. But whoever came up with that clearly did not understand that people operate things by feel when they drive so they can keep their eyes on the road. Buttons are, and will continue to be the most effective way to utilize the center console. GM seriously needs to drop this idiotic idea already because, functionally, it detracts a lot from an otherwise incredible car.

Cadillac CTS Vsport Seats Cadillac CTS Vsport Rear Seat

Lack of AWD

Yes, I am aware that the XTS Vsport exists, and has the AWD. But the XTS is a car that Cadillac should really never have made in the first place. The CTS is the platform that should be competing with all of the German luxury brands, and that includes the AWD models.

Cadillac’s lingering stigma holds sales back

I love how the CTS looks. But when I pointed one out to my friends the other day, they said it looked like an “old man’s car.” And that is the problem that Cadillac is facing at this juncture. Their brand image is still suffering from decades of mismanagement. Cadillac was once the standard of the world, on par with Rolls Royce. But that was the 1920s, and since World War II things took a steady decline for the brand until around 2008.

The main reason I badmouthed the XTS above is because it is an “Old GM” sort of Cadillac. If they want to really re-establish themselves as a world-class luxury brand, then Cadillac needs to get rid of their old ways. The CTS and ATS are truly world-class level cars, and the CTS Vsport is surely a big step in the right direction.


Cadillac CTS Vsport Rear
Would I buy it?

Would I take a CTS Vsport over a well-optioned BMW M3? No. But the M3 I’d want is an $80,000 car, and not really in the same price range as this Caddy. If my budget were actually capped in the mid $60k range, then it’s hard to think of a better car overall.

In my case, I might consider the Vsport’s closest competitor to be the Dodge Charger Hellcat because it comes to $66,000 with the options I’d want. Obviously, the CTS Vsport won’t get anywhere near the straight line performance of the 707hp Hellcat. But at the same time, I would honestly be surprised if the mighty Charger were too much faster around the Nurburgring than the much lighter Caddy. Having all that horsepower is great if you have a lot of room, but it makes it more difficult to exit corners quickly, especially for more average drivers. The CTS Vsport, on the other hand, makes the most of the 420hp that it has, and I’ve always been a fan of having useable power.

Performance aside, the Cadillac is definitely nicer and more refined than the Hellcat Dodge, and we could also bring up the issue of the Hellcat attracting the wrong kind of attention again, if we want. It’d be a tough choice for sure, but I’d probably go with the CTS over a Hellcat if it were going to be my daily commuter.

The Cadillac CTS Vsport is a rare mix of understated luxury and extremely legit performance. Just ten years ago, this would’ve been a super sedan. And even though it falls short of that designation today, it is still just as much fun as most of the super sedans of yesteryear. Well done, Cadillac, very well done!

-by Nick Walker

WoM Score: 2015 Cadillac CTS Vsport

Primary Function:Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Luxury(2) Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 1.5…. taking 0.5 off for the touch controls
Value for Money: 2

Final Score: 9.5/10

Motor Trend’s Test #s

2015 Cadillac CTS Vsport

2000 BMW E39 M5

Base Price

$60,930 (2015)

$69,400 (2000)

Engine

3.6L V6 Twin Turbo

4.9L V8

Transmission

8 Speed Automatic

6 Speed Manual

Horsepower

420bhp

400bhp

Torque

430ft/lbs

395ft/lbs

Curb Weight

3,959lbs

3,792lbs

Weight Distribution

52/48

52/48

0-60mph

4.4 sec

4.7 sec

1/4 Mile

12.8 sec @ 112mph

13.2 sec @ 107mph

Braking 60-0

98 feet

117 feet

Lateral Acceleration

.94g

.87g

Fuel Economy

17/25 MPG

14/21 MPG

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7 thoughts on “2015 Cadillac CTS Vsport Review”

  1. I completely agree with your assessment. Cadillac has turned over a new leaf, but the stench of poly-dent still lingers. But with more reviews like this, the brand should get the recognition it deserves.

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  2. I recently drove an ATS and found the CUE Controls infuriating to use. The buttons were hard to spot and the whole operation felt cheap and gimmicky. What did you think?

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    1. CUE and the whole touch control interface is the Achilles heel of the whole Cadillac lineup. The cars themselves are great, but that stuff really holds them back, especially for most buyers who aren’t gonna make use of the Nurburgring suspension tuning and whatnot. Ergonomics are a big thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Best interior for the price and 32.2 mpg on multiple hour drives with Adaptive Cruise Control set at 65 mph….with AWD! I can’t say enough how nice it is to drive this can I bought used used XTS Vsport Platinum with 40,000+ miles on it. Not only does it drive nice but it turns heads at every corner.

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