As I crest Monticello Motor Club’s Turn 17, I am speaking directly to you, the TTAC reader, through the magic of a complete video, data, and audio recording system installed in my six-speed manual CTS-V Coupe.
“I have an idea,” I say, as I hold the throttle pinned to the stop way past the braking markers, over the hill, down the back of the left-hander, the speedometer swinging well into the triple digits, tach reaching to redline. “I think… this section can be taken flat.”
Flat, as in flat-out, as in without the mild braking before Turn 17 recommended by the instructors at Monticello and practiced by all reasonable individuals. And, indeed, I make it over the crest pointed in nearly the right direction… but any experienced racer knows that traction on the back of a hill is never as good as traction on the front of the hill. In under a second I’ve reached the absolute maximum slip angle of the tires. I haven’t done it. I’ve overstepped my limits, and the limits of the car. To turn more is futile and perhaps deadly, since I am pointed at the grass and traveling at over one hundred miles per hour. If I have any steering dialed-in to the car when I touch that rough surface, I can cartwheel end over end in the fashion of Antonio Pizzonia in a Jag S-Type. Have to exit the track straight. What happens now?
If I hadn’t been a fan of the CTS-V Coupe before I exited the track at double Jimmy Carter’s favorite highway speed limit — and I wasn’t quite convinced at that point, honestly — I became one the moment I hit the rough ground. With three solid “THUMPS” I bounced along the grass. A 911 would have fought me; a lesser sedan might have whipped the steering wheel to and fro, tearing my hands away and with it my only control of the situation. The CTS-V, by contrast, was rock-solid and provided honest feedback, allowing me to guide the car in just the right direction as gently as possible.
In under sixty feet I was back on the track, still using “maintenance throttle”, and snagging a heel-and-toe double-downshift into the second-gear Turn 18. It maybe cost me a second and a half, and as the big supercharged mill catapulted me down the next straight, I heard the voice of a sweet female angel, asking me if I was okay. Oops. That’s no angel. That’s OnStar. The violence of my unplanned departure had triggered the V’s inertia sensors; it had also scrambled the video recorder, much to my dismay since I had remained rather McQueenishly mellow throughout the entire incident.
Okay. You guys all expected me to stir up some trouble at this event, right? Done. Let’s talk about the car, starting with the important stuff. Not everyone with whom I spoke was in complete agreement with me, but I believe the V Coupe is far easier to push on-track than its sedan counterpart. Here’s why. Although the Coupe shares a wheelbase with the sedan, it has a wider rear track and wider rear wheels. The net effect is more traction at the rear. This reduces wheelspin on exits, which in turn prevents overheating of the rather delicate street Michelins. Before you know it, you have a car that slides at the front during one’s third lap on-track, instead of one that slides at the rear. This, ironically, was my undoing; a little bit of hot-tire oversteer would have permitted me to nip through the right-hand sweep between 17 and 18, but the more stable Coupe simply gave up steering. That’s the safer way, and it’s why I feel many drivers will be quicker in the Coupe than in the sedan.
While the CTS Coupe’s appearance is tailor-made to generate controversy, it’s also a very “honest” coupe. Nearly every panel is different. The doors open electrically, as with a Corvette. I disagree with this; I think a solid handle would impart a quality feel, which is just as important as aesthetics. The roof is lower and the windshield is “faster”. The net effect for me is negative; I can’t get comfortable in the car with a helmet on. Give me the sedan, or better yet, the wagon. Those of you who are neither 6’2″ nor in the habit of wearing a top-vent Impact! helmet won’t mind.
This automobile is available with a six-speed manual transmission. Please, do us all a favor and purchase it with that transmission. While the automatic may be faster around the ‘Ring, in the real world it’s easily confused and on a track of less epic proportions it requires constant attention from the steering-wheel-mounted control buttons. You want the stick-shift, unless you live in Los Angeles or absolutely demand the ability to left-foot-brake at all times. In a rather bold and enthusiast-oriented move, Cadillac offers a black-wheel package that comes with yellow brake calipers. The wheels won’t show the brake dust, but the calipers sure as hell will. I’d go ahead and get the option anyway. Kudos to Cadillac, by the way, for doing what BMW won’t in the M3, namely, fit a decent set of brakes to the car.
The rest of the car is standard CTS-V: controversial interior made more so by the addition of the (recommended) Recaro buckets, center stack that has been replicated everywhere from LaCross to la Cruze, not-quite-convincing stitched-leather dash. I drove a 3.6 direct-injection V6 automatic on the way home from Monticello and in many ways preferred it to the V. If you want an automatic, the six is a much better dance partner and it’s far cheaper.
Which brings us to price. The Coupe is priced heads-up with the sedan at $62,990 plus a mandatory gas-guzzler charge. It really has no competition in the marketplace, so if you want one, feel free to take the plunge. I’d buy the wagon and pay the 200-pound weight penalty, since the Coupe is tight for me.
After the nice people at Cadillac pulled the grass out of my Coupe’s lower intake, they sucked up their courage and sent me back out. Naturally, I hauled ass straight to Turn 17… but a tiny lift of the throttle put weight on the tires and let me slide down the hill just the way Bob Lutz intended. If this were a print rag, I’d finish up by saying, “Time to fly the Coupe.”
I have video and photos coming, so check back tomorrow!