We drove a $150,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo and an $86,000 Cadillac CTS-V in a battle of high-performance sedans — and the winner was clear

Matthew DeBord/Business InsiderCan Caddy do it?

The Porsche Panamera is an incredible machine – so incredible that we named it Business Insider’s 2017 Car of the Year.

The Panamera in Turbo trim is monumental: There’s a stonking twin-turbocharged, 4.0-litre V8 under the hood, cranking out 550 horsepower. But behind that motor is a cabin of unparalleled luxury.

For those who want it all, the Panamera Turbo doesn’t disappoint. But it will cost you more than $US150,000. Face it: one doesn’t get to be a Porsche owner without doing some damage to the bank account.

That’s a rich sticker, but for about half the price you can get your hands on even more power. It won’t be German power – it will be Detroit oomph. And it will have a Cadillac badge.

The CTS-V is probably my favourite high-performance four-door on Earth. If you like the Corvette Z06 and its 6.2-litre, 650-horsepower V8 widowmaker, the CTS-V has the same powerplant, just tuned down by 10 horses, to 640. You would be hard-pressed to notice the dropoff in power. In both the Caddy and Vette, you’re getting some extreme performance at a cost that’s sort of difficult to overlook.

So let’s call this comparison a showdown between perhaps the greatest sedan in existence and the extreme value proposition. Read on to see who wins.

The CTS-V in “Red Obsession.” I enjoyed the vehicle immensely. Our test car cost over $US90,000 and was very well-optioned. Base, the CTS-V is about $US86,000.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Read the review »

The “V” cars are Caddy’s answer to high-performance versions of European sports sedans: BMW’s M Sports, Mercedes-AMGs, and the Audi RS. And, of course, dedicated high-end rides such as the Panamera.

It’s tough to climb higher in the General Motors lineup than the CTS-V, however. With the Z06 and ZR1 ‘Vettes, you get mountains of power but no back seats, and the flagship CT6 Caddy doesn’t yet come in V trim.

I will at this point acknowledge that one might not be cross-shopping a CTS-V and a Panamera Turbo. But then again, a lot of folks don’t think they should cross-shop a Z06 and, say, a Ferrari 488. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

I also more recently checked out the car in a fetching “Crystal White” paint job. It got some serious stares, but I still liked the CTS-V better in red.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The heart of the Caddy is the savage, 640-horsepower, supercharged V8 LT4 motor, which the CTS-V shares with the Corvette Z06.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

This engine is sublime. For my money, it’s better than the Porsche’s 550-horsepower V8, but I tend to think that big V8s get along better with superchargers than turbochargers. (Both increase the compression of airflow headed in an engine’s cylinders for combustion, but superchargers are powered by the motor, whereas turbos are spun by engine exhaust.)

The best part of driving a CTS-V, in many ways, is starting it up and hearing the gutsy roar and rumble. Because we’re dealing with a luxury sedan, out on the road, the CTS-V isolated the driver and passengers from the exhaust note, but you can sure as heck feel those 640 horses doing their thing.

The eight-speed automatic has a manual mode, so you can use the paddles behind the steering wheel to shift your gears. The CTS-V also has various drive modes, including a ferocious “track” option. I found that skipping the paddles and going with “comfort” and “sport” modes were the best route.

“Driving the car is glorious,” I wrote in 2016. “The Z06 requires constant attention … The CTS-V, by contrast, is an insane beast when you want it to be, possessed of earth-splitting violence delivered via a 0-to-60 time of 3.6 seconds.”

Cadillac Cue has become one of the best and most user-friendly infotainment setups available.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The large touchscreen is responsive, the Bose audio system sounds wonderful, and there’s easy Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G LTE WiFi.

There’s a reason this GM system was a runner-up for our Infotainment System of the Year in 2016.

And what about the driving part?

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

“Cadillac has been working on taking it to BMW’s M cars for some time now, and with the CTS-V … well, it may have taken it past the M’s,” I wrote in my 2016 review.

“The CTS-V bears no resemblance to the Caddys of the Carter and Reagan administrations, and it has grabbed the sports-sedan concept and pushed it into new territory. You can now have your midlife crisis without embarrassing yourself.”

But now that I’ve checked back in with the car, how does it stack up against the Panamera? Let’s find out.

The Panamera Turbo, in all its glory, was our 2017 Car of the Year.

Hollis Johnson

Read what we had to say about our award-winner »

Here’s what BI’s Ben Zhang had to say in his review of the car:

“The new second-generation Porsche Panamera is an absolute gem of a car. The combination of old-school driving pleasure, state-of-the-art tech, and refined luxury make it a compelling option for anyone looking for a vehicle in this genre.

“Even with a new chassis and electronics, the new Panamera is more evolutionary than revolutionary … But with the makeover, the Panamera now has the matinee-idol looks to go with its world-class ability. And with this, Porsche has created the finest sports sedan in the world. It’s certainly not cheap, but boy is it good. If you are one of the blessed few who can afford a new Porsche Panamera, don’t think – just do it. Your life will be better for it.”

I second that opinion.

The Turbo has a 550-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8 engine under the hood.

Hollis Johnson

That’s 100 fewer ponies than the Caddy – but it doesn’t feel like it. The Panamera Turbo exudes power with every stomp of the gas pedal.

The 0-60 time has been clocked at 3.4 seconds, meaning the Panamera and the CTS-V are in a near dead heat on the drag strip. In the old days, you might have concluded that the performance comparisons would end once the cars have to go around corners and can’t just duel in a straight line.

But the Caddy produces a lighter vibe when your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are seeking curves in the road. And guess what? The CTS-V weights about 300 pounds less than the Panamera (4,150 versus 4,400).

For me, the Panamera Turbo had a solid, planted demeanour – and this bummed me out a bit. I wanted a little more Porsche sportiness.

The CTS-V, by contrast, had that wild vibe. Quite rewarding. The Panamera 4S – with its smaller, 440-horsepower turbo six-banger – gave me more of what I was looking for. But our competition here is between the CTS-V and the Panamera Turbo.

Some of the extra weight and ground-grabbing of the Porsche can be chalked up to all-wheel-drive. Both cars are running eight-speed automatic transmissions – the Porsche a dual-clutch unit with marvellous paddle shifters, the Caddy an automatic-manual option that I didn’t seem to want to use that much. Keeping it in sport mode and letting the CTS-V do its own shifting was fine.

Porsche’s infotainment system is much improved.

Hollis Johnson

“The PCM system is a major leap forward for the German sports-car maker,” we wrote in our selection of the Panamera as our 2017 Car of the Year. “It marks a major improvement in capability and usability over the previous infotainment system.”

We added: “Overall, the Panamera’s new infotainment system is a success. It’s quick, responsive, and packed with features. But the system is complicated to use. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of Porsche trying to deliver so much functionality in such a small amount of real estate.”

All the critical features you’d expect are present, however. There’s nothing Cadillac Cue can do that the PCM can’t.

So how is the Panamera Turbo to drive?

Hollis Johnson

I prefer the big Turbo’s little brother, the V6-powered 4S, but there’s no denying that the Turbo is a tough-to-match combination of boulevard cruiser and spirited sports sedan. You might think this would mean the car has a dual-personality problem: a limo masquerading as a sports car, or vice versa.

Nope. The remarkable thing about the Panamera Turbo is that it’s a car that can truly do it all.

So our winner is the Panamera Turbo. Because it’s <em>so</em> worth it.

Hollis Johnson

The question you have to ask yourself is: “Is the Panamera Turbo worth it for the many, many extra thousands?”

The answer is: “Heck yes!”

The Caddy CTS-V is a spectacular value – a four-door ‘Vette, and a four-door Z06 ‘Vette at that – and its infotainment suite is superior to the Porsche’s. (It won’t be around for that much longer, however, as Caddy is sunsetting it after the 2019 model year.)

The Panamera Turbo is almost in a class by itself. Yes, you have to pay to access this class. But that’s sort of the point. And if you don’t want to, well, the CTS-V will be waiting for you, at least for one more year.

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