by Josh Max
This article originally appeared in Guitar Aficionado, March/April 2011 Issue. Buy this issue here
When it was launched in 2004, the Cadillac CTS was General Motors’ highest expression of sedan ferocity. The American car-buying public was duly impressed, and made the vehicle such a hit that GM subsequently gave the green light to a V-Series of Caddys, including the first-generation CTS-V. Now comes the second-generation model, a faster, nastier, track-tuned luxemobile packing 556 horses and a supercharged V-8, and offered as a sedan, wagon, or coupe. Beemer and Benz owners may scoff at your American ride, but the CTS-V’s engine has been pinched from GM’s legendary Corvette ZR1 and does 0–60 in 4.3 seconds. For a sedan weighing 4,250 pounds, that’s fast—and fun: 14-miles-to-the-gallon fun, yes, but fun nonetheless.
I was given my Crystal Red CTS-V tester on a mild, cloudless day that was perfect for cruising, grooving, and beating up somebody else’s brand-new ride. I pointed her north to the new Monticello Raceway, 60 miles out of Manhattan, negotiating tree-lined parkways and roads along the journey. Cadillac recently announced that the CTS-V would be competing in a production-car race series, so it seemed de rigueur to put this particular ride through its paces on the track as well as on the street. The first thing I noticed was that the car was more nervous and on-the-edge than the base CTS models I’d tested over the past six years. My foot barely touched the accelerator, yet the car’s power and might were palpable and stark.
As miles melted away, I enjoyed the fierce but smooth ride and the cockpit’s ultra-plush flavor. My previous CTS complaints always included the cheap-looking interior amenities, but that’s history now, as coverings for the CTS-V’s instrument panel, center console, and door trim are cut, sewn, and wrapped by hand. The car looks great, too, with flared front fenders, 19-inch wheels, a bulging and intimidating hood, enormous (and visible) brake calipers, and a jumbo silver mesh grille. The seemingly steroid-enhanced front fascia features grille openings with twice the open-flow area to help keep the V-8 cool, and the openings are filled with fierce chain-link, wire-mesh grille inserts. Obsidian-black headlight bezels and pronounced rocker-panel sills add to the intimidating front end, and the CTS-V is offered in exterior colors that include Radiant Silver, Thunder Gray, Black Raven, Crystal Red, Blue Diamond, and White Diamond, in addition to Crystal Red.
Cadillac superserves drivers in a hurry with its optional Easy Key system, enabling passive vehicle and trunk entry and keyless ignition via a personalized keyless fob. With the fob in a pocket or purse, a person can approach a locked vehicle, pull the door handle and open the door or trunk. The downside of this is that it’s easy to forget where you put the key. Side panel? Center console? Ashtray? Without the key, you can’t lock the car, so a word of advice: choose a place in which to place the fob each time you enter the vehicle. And if you valet it, make sure the key isn’t in your pocket when you walk away.
On the track, it was instantly apparent in my hands and feet, and in the feel of the engine and ride, that the second-generation CTS-V’s suspension improvements and amazing Magnetic Ride Control have done much to reconcile the delicate balance of handling and ride. Using a magnetic fluid and an electromagnetic charge, the Magnetic Ride Control monitors your driving and adjusts shock stiffness in mere milliseconds. The StabiliTrak stability-control system, while a huge cheat to those of us who prefer our track cars “naked,” ensures all four wheels stay grounded if you so choose. For the more adventurous, StabiliTrak’s Competition mode will give you some oversteer and produce a nice squeal in tight turns. With the suspension in Sport mode, you’ll experience a sensitivity upgrade in your front wheels.
I clocked 132 mph on the straightway, and while that’s not NASCAR impressive, keep in mind that this ride doubles as a stately, suitable sedan for arrival at any swank dinner or business meeting. Like a tuxedoed gent with a blackjack in his vest pocket, the wallop is here when you need it.
Does the CTS-V have the razor-sharp, fine-tuned European flavor of BMW and Benz? No, but that’s not the point. You don’t listen to Todd Rundgren and bemoan that you’re not hearing Jethro Tull, nor do you look at Mount Rushmore and curse the fact that you don’t see the Eiffel Tower. Car buying is a matter of personal taste and style, and the CTS-V has washed the bad taste of Cimmarons and Cateras from our mouth. If you’re a sedan, coupe, or wagon nut looking for a high-end driving experience, the CTS-V is your ride.
Base MSRP (all models): $63,040
As tested (sunroof, suede wheel/knob, wood trim package, 19-inch wheels, Recaro seats): $70,590