We tend to look to Europe, specifically the Germans, for the best in sport sedan performance, styling, and luxury - while Detroit sets the bar for 2-door muscle cars. BMW's 3-Series coupes have a long standing reputation as a pleasant combination of the two, and has become a benchmark for automakers around the world when it comes to luxury and sport. Two new contenders are now ready to hit the streets, hoping the give the legendary M3 a run for its money: the RS5 and CTS-V Coupe.
The CTS-V Coupe is a muscle car. It looks gnarly and aggressive. Its body lines are practically sharp enough to cut bread. It's every bit a Cadillac, and unmistakably Detroit. The RS5, while aggressive, falls closer to the other end of the spectrum. Its body's curves are sculpted with finesse. It has a long, lean stance, and looks like nothing else on the road. Audi's LED lighting adds to its distinct look in a very attractive way. I'm a big fan of Cadillac's recent styling direction, but if I had to make a choice based on looks, I'd have to go with the RS5.
Building on the blistering performance of GM's big 6.2L V8, Cadillac has given the CTS 556 tire-smoking horsepower, complimented by plenty of torque, delivered to the rear wheels. The RS5 answers back with a 444hp V8, which seems somewhat modest compared to the Caddy's figures. The Audi gets the advantage where the rubber meets the road, in the form of the Quattro AWD system. For reference, the M3 offers 414hp, thanks to a 4.0L V8, and rear-wheel-drive. Despite its lack of AWD, the M3 still manages to offer world famous handling. Based strictly on specs, I like what the CTS-V has to offer here. Although the Germans have a good chance of outdoing the Caddy in the corners, the V series cars are designed to tear up the track in all aspects. The big cube, high powered American V8 has my eyes spinning, so the CTS-V wins this category for me.
Cadillac has rarely skimped on style and luxury, with a few exceptions (Cimarron?) so it's no stranger to designed comfortable cars with the latest technology features. The CTS family is no exception. Drivers and passengers alike will find the interior of a Cadillac to be a very pleasant place. Even still, Audi is very tough to beat when it comes to luxury. Nothing in its price range compares to the comfort, aesthetics, and all around feel. Simply put, it's a real pleasure to sit in an Audi. The company is rolling out some great technology features next year too, like built-in wifi hotspot and Google Earth functionality. Minimal road noise, and the perfect amount of road damping add to the unmatched experience. I give the RS5 the win in the luxury department.
Cost still matters to some shoppers, even when looking for the right luxury or performance car. Cadillac has priced the CTS-V Coupe starting at $63,465. The RS5 has been officially announced for the US, but no official pricing is available yet. When it was announced for Europe, the base price was around $104,000. Assuming the U.S. version would be similar, that's a huge jump. Again, for reference, the M3 is priced the lowest, starting at $58,400. There's no question that the RS5 will be an impressive piece of machinery, but it's not a winner in the value category to me. This one goes to the CTS-V.
Serious M3 competitors can be had, but at a price. When it comes to value, performance, and a history of success, the BMW is tough to beat. If M3 domination is what you're after, which one is right? The CTS-V and RS5 are rather different animals. With an unlimited budget, the RS5 is not likely to disappoint, and with enough cash in my pocket, I'd pull the trigger. The reality is, the CTS's price makes it a much more practical choice. For what's available from both, even if the RS5's U.S. price comes in well below $100k, I have to give the V Coupe the victory here.