M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6
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2004-2007 Cadillac CTS-V General Discussion Discussion, M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6 in Cadillac CTS-V Series Forum - 2004 - 2007; ...
  1. #1
    Shinkaze is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    (Corvette C6 Review at bottom...since we didn't get to drive it)

    My Fiancée and I went out yesterday and test drove a 2003 SMG Convertible M3, 2003 M3 Coupe Manual and a 2005 CTS-V. Got a fairly good run in all three, especially the CTS-V. Here are our observations.

    Exterior
    Him: (Tie) I'm split equally on the M3 vs. CTS-V. The M3 looks more refined and upscale. The CTS-V looks mean and has attitude. Kind of like the difference between a Viper and a Ferrari. The Viper has Attitude, the Ferrari is "pretty".

    Her: (M3) She hates the looks of the CTS-V, hates even more the Cadillac emblem on the fenders. I think she could look at the M3 all day long.

    Interior
    Him: (M3) The CTS-V has a bigger interior, much more useful and many more features. The Value is really there. The materials though are still rather bunk, especially the plastics used on the door locks. GM did a much better job on the plastics in the C6, the V still isn't "there" yet on the materials. It is "there" in terms of options. Heck I think remote start is the only thing they left out. The M3 by is stark and small, the seats are tight and there isn't much elbow room. that said the quality of the plastics are higher, the seams are tight and there is this indescribably higher "feeling" of quality to the fit and finish. The M3 interior is more dated, yet it still feels more upscale. My impression here is quality vs. features and convenience, I'll have to give the nod to the M3 on this one.

    Her: (CTS-V) used to the interior of the e39 M5, the e46 M3 interior is stark in contrast. She really wasn't fond of the lack of features and simple straight forward lay out. No buttons, no warmth to the interior. too clinical. By contrast she agreed with me that the use of materials in the CTS-V was cheap, and she hated the vents in the V as well. that said she much preferred the roomy feel of the interior space and much preferred all the features of the V. She also commented that the seats were much more comfortable in the V. For her it was fairly easy choice of the CTS-V.

    Ride and Drive...casual
    Him: (CTS-V) Yep, it's a Cadillac. On laid back driving the CTS-V feels like a dream and just floats. Very quiet and the road doesn't bother you at all. No noises no squeaks no rattles. There is a little vibration at idle at a stand still from what I imagine is the LS6, but that doesn’t bother me at all. At cruise the motor just purrs itself to sleep. The M3 is also very tight but you hear wind noise, feel a little vibration, even coasting down the road you are still driving this car. Of note here on the M3 SMG vs. Manual, I found in soft driving the Automatic mode is PAINFUL I felt like a 15 year old was doing the shifting. In Manual mode the SMG tranny is a little smoother but still no where near the same league as the Manual. I found the inability to drop the SMG into neutral and coast to a stop annoying as it really made soft cruising difficult. The CTS-V shifter was more vague but in soft driving it really wasn't a concern. The V always had power available so you never really felt stressed out. The M3 you had to anticipate what was going on to make sure you had enough revs even in soft driving. For Soft Driving overall I'll give it to the CTS-V

    Her: (CTS-V) I think the spacious cabin was really a determining factor here, she didn't drive either one, but from the passenger seat she said the V was much more comfortable and less abrasive. The M3 was "too noisy".
    Power & Acceleration
    Him: (CTS-V) The LS6 motor is awesome, even better than the e39 M5 V8 as it has gobs of power everywhere you need it. The car felt significantly more powerful and faster than the M3. Then I shifted gears and got a little axle hop, which made the car lunge a little..ugh. Tried it again with a slower shift and the tires caught just fine and really launched it into second gear. The vague shifter make the car almost impossible to do super hard acceleration in. For instant power the V really has it. The M3 by contrast felt very weak to me. I really had to rev the pee out of the motor to get it to work. Really no torque so it didn't feel very strong at all. Now here is the interesting thing. The SMG under hard acceleration is WONDERFUL! Under "S6" it shifts so fast you get no lunge between the shifts at all and it accelerates very smoothly. The Manual M3 shifted a little better under hard acceleration than the V. Seat of the driver's pants the V feels significantly more powerful, but looking at the actual results that's probably an illusion created by the torque of the motor.

    Her (M3 convertible SMG ) This really threw me for a loop. In a straight line she felt the SMG Convertible felt the fastest. I think the reason for this was that the top was down (Giving the illusion of more speed), also she felt the acceleration was much smoother on the SMG so it was a constant pull. She hated the way the V "lunged" between the shifts and said rather than accelerating she felt like she was head banging. That was likely due to my inability to smoothly shift the V without having the axle bounce around.

    Handling
    Him (M3): Having time in an e39 M5, Vettes and the like I was heartily impressed with the CTS-V, It plows a little into the turn like an e39 M5 and feels like it's gonna wag the tail under hard acceleration out of the turn in a way the e39 M5 doesn't. Subjective seat of the pants testing says the CTS-V is the equal to a Dinan e39 M5 in raw at the limit handling with maybe a little more body roll and less confidence. Then the M3.....oh my freak'n Lord this thing feels like a dream in the corners. As much as this car is the equal of a Corvette in terms of handling it communicates so well with the driver it feels like it's superior to a Corvette (C5 with Hotchkiss suspension). In many ways it reminds me of an EVO in the corners, that is you enter a corner much faster than you think you should and leave the corner underwelmed by the total lack of drama as the M3 laughs at you for being such a Wussy, hands down and by a wide margin the M3 is the corner carver here. When it comes to SMG vs Manual, the manual was more fun in the corners, but I would say they're about equal. With experience I think the SMG would be better.

    Her: (M3?) "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!" I think between the screams she said the M3 was "less scary than the CTS-V" Whatever that means...well I'll interpret that to be the M3 handles better.

    Overall
    I learned two things yesterday
    (1) Both cars are slower than my Trans Am with Bolt ons

    (2) But that doesn't matter because my Trans Am is a Pig of a handler. The V and the M both make my car feel like a Boat.

    The M3 is probably "more fun" than the CTS-V, the CTS-V is by far more practical. Looking at the cost to modify, the CTS-V has more potential, but the weight in the corners is gonna be a hard thing to modify out.

    Corvette C6: We looked at a C6 corvette after all this (sat in...did not drive), and both of us fell in love. If I could get a good deal on one and not have to wait a month this could be a first choice for me. The C6 interior is vastly superior to the CTS-V in terms of materials and fit and finish, and (Gasp) I think it might almost be the equal to the M3 in that area too (now that I've sat in both back to back). There were some features I wasn't too fond of like the plasticy silver "accent" around the door open button. I also didn't like how the open pad on the outside creeps around the door jam. They did that "right" on the Caddy XLR, don't know why they had to do it the other way on the C6. The Body panel fit and finish was not that great on the C6 especially around the "end cap" where the rear bumper attaches to the body. It looks like it was smashed in.. (Like it was attached so tightly that it bulged the end cap in). Overall thought we both agreed that the interior and exterior of the Vette is much better than the CTS-V and M3.

    Anyhow after a lot of seat time in various C5 cars, the C6 looks exciting, but it would take a test drive in a C6 to win me away from the practicality of a back seat and a real trunk and I hardly think we'd be fortunate enough to find a dealer giving out test drives of cars they're asking $5,000 over sticker for


    So..... this weekend it's off to go look at the C32, C55 and S4.
    -Adam

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  3. #2
    urbanski is offline Cadillac Owners 10000+ Posts
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinkaze
    So..... this weekend it's off to go look at the C32, C55 and S4.
    -Adam
    don't forget the E55

  4. #3
    Shinkaze is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    Quote Originally Posted by urbanski
    don't forget the E55
    Just so long as you're sporting the extra $30K

  5. #4
    BeagleBrains is offline Cadillac Owners Enthusiast
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    I do not understand these "rumors" over premium over sticker gouging for a Corvette C6. Ankeny, Iowa (at Des Moines) will sell at sticker and allows test drives. Karl Chevrolet sells over 100 Vettes a year and is direct and reasonable to deal with. Every time I bought a new Corvette, they were able to define a delivery day; no waiting to get on Chevy"s production list.

  6. #5
    CadV is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    It a bunch of crap to get more money for the car.

  7. #6
    JST
    JST is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    I have an M3 now, and am seriously considering a CTS-V to replace it. I concur with your thinking--the M3 is a more direct, focused car, but the CTS-V is much more practical and has oodles of torque. It's only next to a big V8 that the M3's engine feels reedy. In most circumstances, the M3 is stupidly fast, and it even feels relatively torquey as long as you aren't comparing it to an 8.

    Still and all, faced with the choice of CTS-V or new M3, I think the CTS-V is the better choice. The M3 is, comparably equipped, 6-7K more than a CTS-V (and that's for the coupe). It's smaller, and the rear seat is fairly spacious but very hard to access (especially if you have older family members). Yet at the same time the M3 isn't focused *enough* to warrant the impracticalities it imposes on you vs. the slightly bigger, heavier CTS-V.

    Here is a review of the CTS-V I wrote (for a BMW board) when I drove one for the first time in March:

    Short version: A thunderingly fast, amazingly competent sports sedan with a few minor flaws. Anyone who buys an E60 530i for the same money is a ****ing idiot.

    Somewhat longer version:

    The interior of the CTS-V is pretty well executed. The gauges are large and very legible, and the controls for the radio/climate control are very intuitive and easy to use. Kudos, for example, for including a large volume knob and large tuning knob for the radio.

    Little details are also well done. There are two stalks, like in European and Japanese cars, and they feel solid and precise--a far cry from the ancillary controls that GM use to employ, which felt brittle and cheap. There is a wealth of electronic information available, including the individual tire pressures of all four tires (like the E55), an electronic g-meter, and an electronic digital speedometer (in addition to the analog display).

    There are some missteps. The parking brake, in the grand American tradition, is foot pedal operated, for some reason. The steering wheel doesn't telescope. It's hard to describe, but the ignition key/lock retains ghosts of the old GM interior feel, which isn't a good thing. And the interior plastic is not as nice as that found in the E39 or E46, though it is just as good (if not better) than the crap BMW is putting in the E60/65/63.

    The seats are acceptable. Side bolstering is not as aggressive as I might like, though they are probably about as good as the non-adjustable seats I have in my E46. The Alcantara center section looks nice, and provides a sticky surface that holds you better than the slick Nappa in the M3.

    What's the drive like?

    Pulling away, the first thing you notice is the steering, which is quite light at low speeds. The steering wheel rim is thinner than the fat boy in the M3, but is actually probably about the right thickness. The engine is quiet and docile at idle, and the clutch takeup is surprisingly smooth and light for a driveline this powerful. There is some driveline snatch, of a kind that will be familiar to M3 and M5 drivers, but if you concentrate a bit you can smooth your inputs and make it go away.

    As the traffic opens, and you can give the engine its head, you realize that the LS6 is the dominating feature of this car. It has torque in a bottomless, inexhaustible stream, and as the engine gains revs it issues an unmistakable, hammering V8 cacophony. I've gotta say that I love the way that high performance American V8s sound, because no matter how much power they produce, they all retain a little bit of that industrial backbeat that calls to mind Woodward in its glory days.

    And this car is very, very fast. It adds speed effortlessly, the way a buggy pulled by a Clydesdale on a cocaine binge might. But that's missing the point a bit, because it feels much more relaxed than the M3 does--the M3 is wound tight, whereas the CTS-V is rangy and loping. I can't speak to the axle tramp question, because I didn't push it hard from a standing start, but in everyday driving it handles the power with aplomb.

    Throw it into a curve, and you can feel the weight. This car is clearly bigger than the E46, and it's agility suffers a bit for it. The steering firms up at speed, and while it remains lighter than the M3, it's no less communicative. Hitting a mid-corner bump reveals the stiffness of the damping, brought about in part by the F1 Supercar EMT tires; while the ride is generally very good and very smooth, sharp impacts can be transmitted through the chassis quite directly.

    The shifter is workmanlike, but no one is ever going to write sonnets about it. It's a bit vague, and the dreaded Skip Shift feature rears its head when you are puttering about. It's fairly easy to override, but disconnecting it would be the first thing I would do when I got the car home. The shift throws are about average, and the gate is reasonably well laid out, though 6th is way over to the right. Oddly, reverse is up and to the right.

    In terms of the overall driving gestalt, it's a bit unfair to compare this car to an E46. It's a bigger car, and its extra space and avoirdupois dictate that it will never have quite the same directness as the M3. It's much better to compare it to an M5, and here the CTS-V acquits itself very well. The things that the M5 does better than the CTS-V are...well, I suspect that there may be some, but I can't think of any at the moment. Wait, here's one: It impresses badge snobs better. Other than that, the CTS-V has the measure of the E39 M5.

    And this is the really good bit: It does all of that for right about $50K. And that includes all manner of doo-dads that are either optional or not available on the E39 (or E60), such as nav, the electronic info center (transmission oil temp/g force gauge/tire pressure), XM radio, auto wipers, heated seats, OnStar, etc. etc. Like the Acura TL, the Cadillac comes loaded, and GM doesn't try and nickel and dime you to death with stupid option prices. I suppose that if you are looking for a stripped down club racer this is a bad thing, but if you are looking for a stripped down club racer and you are thinking either M5 or CTS-V you should have your head examined. For the type of driving this car is going to do, the options are nice to have.

    Comparing the CTS-V to a 400 hp M5 makes sense. Comparing it to the BMW you can actually buy for the same money (a moderately well equipped 530) is just stupid. The Cadillac has 175 more hp, a performance advantage that makes the BMW look laughably slow and overpriced, and comes with a vast range of additional equipment. It also (to me) looks better, though the very worst you can say about the styling of the Cadillac is that even if you dislike it, it's honestly no more polarizing than Bangle's bullshit.

    In the end, the only relevant question is whether, having driven a CTS-V, I would buy one. The answer is unequivocally yes. The minor flaws are meaningless compared to the impressive package that Cadillac has put together. Because the M3 is smaller and lighter, I'm not impressed *enough* with the Cadillac to end the lease on my M early. But when it's time for the M3 to go back, the CTS-V is going to be the first car on my shopping list.

  8. #7
    gothicaleigh's Avatar
    gothicaleigh is offline Cadillac Owners Master
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    Excellent review and well wrote.

  9. #8
    greer is offline Cadillac Owners Member
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    Great review, I'm thinking of getting an 2006 CTS-V and your report is what I have been thinking.

  10. #9
    Shinkaze is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    JST, you must write for a living, that was a very poetic review.

    BTW guys I test drove a C6 (A4/Z51) tonight..... OMFG I loved it. My Fiancee loved it (because it was an Automatic and at last she could drive one of these cars). Talked it over dinner, and in the heat of the moment went back to the dealership to lay down an offer and ......."ring"......"ring"...... Phone goes off right as I'm entering Maxie Price Chevrolet. Ivan has changed course and is hitting my home town of Pensacola where my Family lives.

    Decided to put the car search on hold until I see what damage Ivan does, both of my parents have homes on Santa Rosa Island (Barrier Island off Pensacola 10 ft of elevation......probably underwater as I write this).

    -Adam

  11. #10
    urbanski is offline Cadillac Owners 10000+ Posts
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinkaze
    Decided to put the car search on hold until I see what damage Ivan does, both of my parents have homes on Santa Rosa Island (Barrier Island off Pensacola 10 ft of elevation......probably underwater as I write this).

    -Adam
    dude, best wishes to you and your family


    JST....yeah, you need to work for an auto magazine for a living
    BUY THE V!

  12. #11
    StealthV's Avatar
    StealthV is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    If you're going to buy a C6, at least get a 6-speed. If your girlfriend can't drive a stick, teach her or get a new girlfriend.

  13. #12
    trekster's Avatar
    trekster is offline Cadillac Owners Connoisseur
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    Quote Originally Posted by StealthV
    If you're going to by a C6, at least get a 6-speed. If your girlfriend can't drive a stick, teach her or get a new girlfriend.
    Forget teaching her just get a new girlfriend.

  14. #13
    Shinkaze is offline Cadillac Owners Fanatic
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    Re: M3 v. CTS-V on a back to back Test Drive...Plus C6

    Actually we're engaged

    Heading' down to Pensacola Saturday to help clean up..

    Pic of my Father at a friend's store.

    As you can see I have my work cut out for me. So anyhow, when I get back, this crap may put me in the mood to buy a Ford F150 or Hummer....ugh...

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