Home » You Can Buy A Cadillac CTS-V With The Heart Of A Corvette For Less Than A New Kia Soul

You Can Buy A Cadillac CTS-V With The Heart Of A Corvette For Less Than A New Kia Soul

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There’s something daydreamy about a Corvette road trip with the person you love — just you and your partner hitting the open highway in America’s sports car. However, add in a child, a dog, luggage, and baby gear, and suddenly, that Corvette’s looking less and less sensible. However, there is a reasonably priced car that melds Corvette power with a four-door body. It’s called the first-generation Cadillac CTS-V, and it’s awesome.

Okay, so there are other cars out there with LS power and row-your-own transmissions, but most of them have compromises when it comes to doing family car stuff. Model-specific parts for the Holden-built Pontiac GTO are getting hard to come by, the Chevrolet SS is great but expensive, and Camaros don’t have rear doors. The original Cadillac CTS-V is your realistic entry point in North America, and they’re way better than you’d expect.

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Plus, they’re also cheaper than you’d expect. You can still pick one up for less than the price of a new Kia Soul, which makes them astounding value propositions. Intrigued? Let’s dive in.

What Are We Looking At?

Cadillac CTS-V

Back in the early 2000s, Cadillac was trying to turn a new leaf after years of atrophy and starting its big push to try and punch the German luxury marques in the face. From Escalades in just about every episode of MTV Cribs to the CTS sports sedan landing supporting roles in Bad Boys 2 and The Matrix: Reloaded, Cadillac seemed to be on the right path but needed to draw a line in the sand.

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Cadillac CTS-V

To do this, it rummaged around the GM parts bin and found the LS6 5.7-liter V8 from the Corvette Z06, along with a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission more commonly used in various Holdens and late Camaros and Trans Ams. Perfect for the CTS. Thus, the 2004 CTS-V was born, a 400-horsepower all-American sports sedan. The media seemed to enjoy it a lot, with Car And Driver writing:

Watch out, children, fusty old GM is raising hell. The power is loud, violent, and addictive. The steering is sharp, the suspension is in control, and the brakes are a strain on tendons. You touch bliss in a drift out of an apex, the grille pointing where your right foot aims it. Holy Saint Herman of Alaska—the traction-control-disable button is right there on the steering wheel! You can boot GM’s lawyers out of the car with one thumb flick. No need to, though, since the computer allows lots of sideways horseplay before it intervenes. Straight-line acceleration is crimped by spasmodic axle hop, and the chintzy interior (pre-Lutz) should be shoveled. But GM’s being bad is really quite good.

We’re talking about a manufacturer-claimed zero-to-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.1 seconds at 109 mph. That’s still quick today, and ballistic for 2004. In 2006, the CTS-V was upgraded with a stronger differential and the six-liter LS2 V8 from the early C6 Corvette. It still pumped out the same 400 horsepower and 395 lb.-ft. of torque as its LS6 predecessor, but it featured a torque peak some 400 rpm lower in the power band. With extra bandwidth, a stronger drivetrain, and more standard features including a sunroof, the 2006 to 2007 cars are arguably the best of the breed.

How Expensive Are We Talking?

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With stout LS power and a proper manual gearbox, you might expect these CTS-Vs to have seriously crept up in price. Well, believe it or not, you can still buy one for less than a new base model Kia Soul. Yep, a 2024 Kia Soul LX stickers for $21,565, but you won’t have to pay that much for a hot rod Cadillac. This one-owner 2005 CTS-V with 89,000 km (55,000 miles) on the clock recently sold on Bring A Trailer for $19,750, and the best part is that it’s already in America. It’s functionally identical to a U.S.-spec car from a safety and emissions standpoint and the owner’s already done the paperwork, so it’s returned to the land of bald eagles.

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Want a later car with the six-liter LS2? They don’t come up for sale as frequently, but you can still find the occasional one for sensible money. This 2006 CTS-V sold on Cars & Bids in November with 109,000 miles on the clock, and it’s rocking some tasty goodies from stiffer differential mount bushings to a full aftermarket exhaust system. Sweet, but not as sweet as the hammer price, which came out to a mere $14,000.

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Oh, and dirt-cheap examples aren’t flukes. This 2005 CTS-V may have 153,900 miles on the clock, but it looks awesome in photos, and sold on Cars & Bids this week for $14,000. I mean come on, the carpets look great, the paint gleams, and the radio buttons aren’t even peeling. This car’s a great reminder to buy on condition rather than mileage, because a well-kept high-mileage car will bring you more joy than a low-mileage basketcase.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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Remember the wheel hop that Car And Driver complained about? Yeah, it turns out that if you like to launch a 2004 to 2005 Cadillac CTS-V hard, it might lunch the differential. Now, there are a few ways to reduce the chances of this happening, and they vary in efficacy and expense. If you want a guaranteed fix, Creative Steel sells a Ford 8.8-inch differential and pumpkin conversion kit, but it retails for $5,216. That’s not cheap. Another option is a stronger set of axles and stiffer bushings. A set of Driveshaft Shop upgraded axles retails for $3,170.31, while Revshift sells a stiffer set of bushings for $167. If you’re merely looking to mitigate wheel hop on a budget, BMR Suspension sells an anti-wheel hop kit for $319.95 and a pinion support brace for $79.95. While this isn’t a bulletproof solution, especially at higher power levels, it definitely helps.

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A less expensive potential issue is harmonic balancer failure. Over time, these crankshaft-mounted vibration dampers can wear out, and a replacement part runs between $150 and $500 depending on whether you want to keep it budget-friendly or go with an upgraded part. Numerous owners of both LS6-powered and LS2-powered CTS-Vs have reported harmonic balancer issues, so keep this one in mind.

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The other potential issue is finding aftermarket wheels that fit. See, the original CTS-V uses a 6×115 mm bolt pattern, which is extremely uncommon on passenger cars. If you’re looking to pick up a second set of wheels for winter or track use, options that feature this bolt pattern and clear the CTS-V’s Brembo brakes are limited, so shop around before you buy.

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Should I Buy A First-Generation Cadillac CTS-V?

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Oh yeah, absolutely. Sure, the differential issues on early models are always back-of-mind, but these cars have the chops to compete as experiences with golden era BMW M cars, but don’t have nearly the same number of failure points. You’re looking at a fairly reliable V8 ripper with room for the whole family, and at a price of less than $20,000 for a decent driver-spec example, I’d call that a damn good deal.

(Photo credits: Cars & Bids, Bring A Trailer)

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CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
15 days ago

Have one since 2011… interior is meh but who cares. It pulls like a freight train. Let the LS6 sing. Loves revs. My wife/kid love it. Didn’t need it but did a cam / headers/ tune & rear end brace few years back. Truly a unique kind of modern car. Loves to be beat and always delivers.

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
28 days ago

The second generation looks so much better than the first, especially on the interior. That’s just awful mail-it-in. I think I’ll wait a few years and look at the CTS then.

Myk El
Myk El
1 month ago

I thought about one of these last year, but ended up with my ’05 Pontiac GTO. Basically, though, I get “LS2 All The Things” now. I don’t think I’d have been disappointed with the Caddy, either.

Isis
Isis
1 month ago

I’ve had one of these since 2012. Dd’d it for a few years and now it sits with mid-50k miles on it as my hotrod. That LS6 with B&B headers, 3″ x-pipe exhaust is so glorious I don’t think I’ll ever sell it. The rest is stock, and the interiors aren’t that bad. No squeaks or rattles and I love the seats.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 month ago

The main complaint with these, typical of GM, was a subpar interior. I had an ’03 with a 5 speed (V6), and I gotta say the interior wasn’t that bad. Touchpoints were soft, it was screwed together well and it didn’t rattle even at 100k miles. I also love the way they look. They were different without being an asshole about it. Lexus wanted to be different and they put a giant, hideous predator mouth on their entire lineup. Acura wanted to be different and slapped a weird silver beak on all their cars. I really think early Art & Science has held up incredibly well. Cadillac did it right. As mine was an ’03 with nav, I could also pull codes from every onboard computer by pressing a few buttons on the radio. It was super cool and promptly removed from ’04’s and later.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago

Everything you said about the car is correct. I just never loved the way they look. They’re, fine. Nothing as atrocious as early 2000s Bangle BMWs. I view the Chevy SS as this cars descendant and I really like the way they look. Apparently everyone else does too, because they’re still trading hands for new sticker money.

Lori Hille
Lori Hille
1 month ago

I owned one of these, my first brand new car (as opposed to a used car.) I loved how it only came in a stick. I loved treating every stoplight like a drag race start. Loved the sound of that big V8 Corvette engine. Well, at 5000 miles, my rear tires were nearly bald. They went to the front so that I could nurse a few more miles out of the set. I ended up ditching the run-flat tires. I had Tire Rack bookmarked on my computer.

This car ate motor mounts for lunch and I had trouble with the differential. The drive train was not ready to handle all of that power and torque. I loved driving that car, and it made the driver feel special. I’m sure my local Cadillac dealer loved seeing me drop my car off for yet another repair. Ultimately, my car got hit twice on the passenger side, not hard but several body panels were dented and scratched. After it was repaired, that car was no longer a “keeper.”

I could get pretty excited about the next generation CTS-V coupe with a stick.

Most of these cars have probably been thrashed! They’re fun to drive hard.

Caveat emptor.

Lori Hille
Lori Hille
1 month ago
Reply to  Lori Hille

Interior: Yes it was kind of plasticky but I liked how it had brushed aluminum instead of thick, glossy wood trim. I liked the seats well enough (but not as much as I liked the Recaros on my e30 325i convertible.) Compared to the e30, the Caddy felt pretty plushy.

Space
Space
1 month ago

Looks great on the outside. This better sell quickly.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago

So it’s heart vs. soul?

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
1 month ago

I’d like to submit a reader review about the Jaguar XK8 being a hell of a good deal. Do I email that to the Tips email address or to one of the Autopian writers directly?

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 month ago

The wagon is on my dream list

Gee See
Gee See
1 month ago
Reply to  Sklooner

I don’t think first generation had the wagon variant.. for that it is the second generation.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Judging by used prices, it’s on a lot of people’s dream lists.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Me too, so I got as close as I could without selling organs.

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
1 month ago

This was my cousins dream car. He got married, had a kid. Wife says she wants 1 more kid- and if they do, he can get the car. Great! He finds a beauty, low miles, red, black interior. 40k on the clock. Drives like new.

Wife has twins. Bye cadillac. He had it for 10 months.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 month ago

I almost bought one but a co-worker snapped it up. Might be a good car for roadtrips vs the z28 or Crosstrek if I want to take the whole family.

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
1 month ago

I always loved this generation the best because it’s the only way to get a NA V8 Cadillac V sedan (seriously GM, where’s my LT1 CT4-V?). I didn’t realize they’d gotten this cheap though. Soooo tempting

Logan King
Logan King
1 month ago

I really thought hard about these multiple times, especially since they are basically C5 Z06s, but I hate the interiors on them so much that I am not sure whether I really would want them over just buying a C5.

Last edited 1 month ago by Logan King
Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago
Reply to  Logan King

I had a friend with one of these, and later a G8 GT. It was a night and day difference in the interior quality between them, with the G8 a huge improvement over the CTS-V. There’s a lot to like about the first-gen CTS-V, but the interior isn’t one of them.

V10omous
V10omous
1 month ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Yikes, the G8 was built to a ~$25K price point and certainly did not have a nice interior.

A Cadillac being worse than that does not say Standard of the World to me.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

I think two things really brought down the first-gen CTS. One is the typical GM hard plastic interior that rattles and squeaks when new. The other was the design of the dash, which (as you can see in the photos in the article) was just…odd. Odd angles, odd textures, and Cadillac by Fisher-Price materials.

Conversely, the G8 was built to a price point, but seemed to try to do more with less. The interior also had hard plastics, but had nice textures and soft-touch points in key areas that Caddy skipped out on. The interior also seemed way better put together, as there was no squeaks or rattles even after twice the mileage of his CTS-V.

Jacob Rippey
Jacob Rippey
1 month ago

I’ve always had a soft spot for these, though I’d probably prefer a second gen (because wagon).

Drew
Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

Yeah, if the price on the wagon comes down, I’ll be a lot more interested in that. But I suspect those prices are gonna stay higher for longer.

Isis
Isis
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

The second gen cars came with automatics, so the 6-spd manual is pretty tough to find and those are usually either garage queen, still costing $70k, or beat to hell. The auto wasn’t available for the first gen cars, so there are nice examples still out there to be had for $20-$30k with low miles.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
1 month ago

I am very much one of those “row my own boat” hardcores that others here complain they can’t understand. I have loved the CTS-V since they were new. Always just seemed cool. I would love to have a later 300C with a manual as my top option, but since that is a thing I would have to build, and these CTS-Vs are awesome regardless, I could go in for one for a new daily. I won’t, cuz I’m cheap. But its cool to pretend.

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
1 month ago

The idea of buying a manual 4 door v8 car continues to get better in my mind each passing day

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Automotiveflux

Do it before they’re all roached out

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 month ago

I need one… NOW. Had a regular 2005 CTS. What a great car to drive. Wish I never sold it.

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