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2004 Cadillac CTS-V still turns our heads while turning 15

Published in blog.hemmings.com

2004 Cadillac CTS V sedan. Photography courtesy Cadillac.

Fifteen years after its introduction, the 2004 CTS-V has held up well and enjoys a strong following. (Ditto for all first-generation CTS-Vs through 2007).

The car was a big deal when it launched. A corner-carving Cadillac with a V-8 and a six-speed manual? Heady stuff but also long overdue. The Germans had used Cadillac as a punching bag for years, redefining the market and creating cars that younger people were excited about. BMW’s M machines were the Standards of the Sport Sedan World while Cadillac seemed to be circling the drain. Had it not been for the Escalade’s popularity with hip-hop artists and professional athletes at the turn of the 21st century, Cadillac would’ve been in a dead heat with Oldsmobile for the title of Most Tragic GM Division.

2004 Cadillac CTS-V

With the arrival of the CTS and CTS-V, car journalists were writing enthusiastically about Cadillacs again. Don’t take our word for it. Take the words of a young whipper snapper named Jeff Koch who enthused about the CTS-V in Hemmings Muscle Machines way back in 2005:

We have made little effort to hide our mad lust for the Cadillac CTS-V. That week we spent with one a year ago not only provided the most memorable driving experience we’ve had in a while, but it told us that, after decades of wondering what the hell was going on back at The Tubes, someone at GM actually got it. Even for the steep hit of $50,000, the CTS-V gave us hope that somehow a product that confident would trickle down into the rest of the lineup.

The V had the goods right out of the gate: 400 hp 5.7-liter LS6 engine; Tremec T-56 transmission; independent rear suspension (with a differential that was prone to fail under hard use); Brembo four-piston calipers with 14/14.4-inch rotors; beefed up suspension; and 18×8.5-inch wheels shod with P245/45WR18s.

2004 Cadillac CTS-V

The chiseled body sported special V badges, a more aggressive front end treatment with a stainless mesh grille as well as sharp rocker panel extensions. The cockpit boasted a racier instrument cluster and brushed accents. Its bucket seats were pretty good, the shifter wasn’t great but the package inside and out was tasteful — especially by GM’s standards back then.

Today NADA lists the ’04’s value at between $6,500-$12,000, which seems a little low compared to asking prices we’ve seen – but they’re definitely affordable.

2004 Cadillac CTS-V

It’s hard to believe 15 years have passed since the game changing CTS-V’s introduction. Now, the CTS name is due for retirement, to be replaced by the more numerical CT5. The smaller ATS replacement will labeled the CT4 and both cars will have V-series performance variants which GM says it will pull the wraps off on May 30.

While we wait for the next generation, here is a quick look at the evolution of the Cadillac V series…

The original V family included the 2004-2007 CTS-V sedan (rear left); the 2006-2009 STS-V (rear right); and the 2006-2009 XLR-V (front).

2004 – CTS-V (first generation)
The first CTS-V was the initial project developed by General Motors’ special vehicle performance team, established in 2002 under the direction of Ken Morris. A 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 400 horsepower (the 6.0-liter arrived in ’06) helped deliver 0-60 mph times of about 4.6 seconds, and its Nürburgring-honed handling elicited praise from the press. The CTS-V also established a performance design aesthetic that continues with today’s models, including mesh grilles and darkened exterior trim. Interestingly, there was no automatic transmission option offered on the 2004-’07 cars.

2006 – XLR-V
The V-Series version of Cadillac’s two-seater was powered by a supercharged Northstar V-8 rated at 443 hp and setup for rear-wheel drive. That kicked off a tradition of forced induction — whether by supercharging or turbocharging — employed on every V-Series model that followed. The XLR-V was produced through 2009.

2006 – STS-V
Based on stretched and widened CTS-V underpinnings, the STS-V featured 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels, Performance Algorithm Shifting and ZF Servotronic II steering — one of the brand’s first applications of electric power steering. Power came from a 469-hp version of the supercharged Northstar V-8 found in the XLR-V. The STS-V was produced through 2009.

The second generation of the CTS-V included the CTS-V coupe which was built from 2011-2015 (left); the CTS-Wagon (rear) built from 2011-2014 and the second gen CTS-V sedan, built from 2009-2014.

2009 – CTS-V (second generation)
The second-gen CTS-V upped the performance ante with an all-new supercharged 6.2-liter “LSA” V-8 engine rated at 556 hp. It was also the first to include Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control adaptive damping suspension, which has since appeared on every V-Series model. Countless test laps were run around the Nűrburgring, with one of them clicked off in less than 8 minutes on the 12-mile-long Nordschleife (North Loop) — a record at the time for a V-8-powered sedan on production street tires. A six-speed automatic was an option over the six-speed manual.

2011 – CTS-V Coupe and Wagon
The CTS-V Coupe and Wagon variants ran the same 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 and track-tuned chassis as the sedan. The CTS-V wagon’s rarity – only 1,764 produced over a four-year run – makes it particularly sought-after today.

The current CTS lineup includes the 2016-2019 CTS-V (right); the 2016-2019 ATS-V sedan (center); and the 2016-2019 ATS-V coupe.

2016 – CTS-V (third generation)
The third-gen car was a decidedly more track-focused performer and used a four-mode “Performance Traction Management” system, that allowed the driving experience to be tailored to different conditions, including a race track. Power came from a supercharged and direct-injected 6.2-liter V-8 rated at 640 hp, paired only with an eight-speed automatic.

2016 – ATS-V Coupe and Sedan
The ATS-Vs were powered by a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 that made 464hp and was offered with the buyer’s choice of an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. These pocket rockets definitely held up the V-Series tradition of performance hitting 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and running the quarter mile in a shade over 12 seconds. Incidentally these were the first of the V-Series to employ turbocharging.

2020 Cadillac CT6-V

The 550hp CT6-V kicks off the next generation of V-series cars with a twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive.

2019 – CT6-V
The CT6-V sedan arrived on the scene this year powered by an all-new Cadillac exclusive “Blackwing” 4.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 rated at 550 horsepower. The engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.