The Truth About Cars » cts-v The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:00:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » cts-v The Cross-Country CTS-V Wagon Roadtrip Starts Tomorrow Thu, 08 Aug 2013 16:19:24 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 12.04.48 PM

Different cars serve different purposes. Of course, you already know this. You know, for example, that people buy compact cars for fuel economy. People buy minivans to haul other people. And people buy Acuras because they’re confused.

So why do people buy station wagons? For practicality, of course. People buy wagons so they can pack up all their belongings, load them inside the cargo area, and hand the keys to a car transporter who makes constant runs between Greenwich, Connecticut, and Palm Beach.

Of course, here I am thinking of the Mercedes E-Class wagon, a vehicle that’s owned by many esteemed wealthy people, all of whom are still mad at Bernie Madoff. But this behavior isn’t true of all wagons. Some people, after all, purchase their wagons to drive. And I happen to be one of those people.

And that’s why I’m leaving tomorrow morning to go on a cross-country, 5,500-mile roadtrip through 17 states with my station wagon. I’ve decided to devote the remainder of this post to a Q&A session that covers what I can only assume are the questions that you, dear reader, might ask. Here goes:

Q: Are you nuts?

A: Yeah.

Q: Why the hell are you doing this?

A: Because it’s fun! Remember when people used to take roadtrips? It’s a lost art, sort of like those people who churn their own butter. I’m not much of a churner, so I decided to do this instead.

There are two other big reasons. One is that I want to go to this year’s Monterey Car Week and the various Pebble Beach automotive events. And two, my East Coast-born girlfriend wants to see the West. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than by driving to Pebble Beach through the West in the single least-efficient automobile I have ever owned?

Q: Fine, but I want to see pictures. Can I see pictures?

A: I don’t know, can you? (Don’t you hate when people say this? Whenever someone says this to me, I want to condemn them to a life of churning butter.)

The real answer is: yes, you can see pictures. The easiest way will be to follow me on Twitter, where I will be posting constant updates from the road.

Q: Twitter? What am I, a nine-year-old girl?

A: Yeah, I know. Telling people to “follow me on Twitter” is the single most embarrassing thing I have ever done, so if you don’t do it, I won’t be offended in the slightest. With that said, Triple-A follows me on Twitter, though this is probably because, as a Land Rover owner, I am their biggest client.

If you don’t want to go on Twitter, I will also be photo-dumping as often as possible on my website, And I’ll try to post the occasional update here, though you might have to hold out until I get back. After all, what was supposed to be a romantic summer roadtrip has quickly turned into a large-scale automotive event. Like usual.

Q: Are you going to do burnouts in all 17 states?

A: Probably.

Q: What are you bringing with you?

A: Funny you should ask! We will be bringing luggage, more luggage, and (since my girlfriend is coming) even more luggage. We also have extra tires, largely because I don’t want to get stuck calling a tow truck in rural Nevada, where the preferred method of towing involves a lifted Chevy pickup and a fraying rope.

Q: How much is Cadillac paying you for all this free publicity?

A: I know, right? Cadillac, if you’re reading this, can you send me an unsold 2009 DTS? We all know you have them sitting around somewhere.

Q: Will you be stopping anywhere?

A: Yes.

Q: Uh, where?

A: Well, for one thing, we’ll be stopping every 45 minutes or so for fuel. After all, the car can’t even break 18 miles per gallon on the highway, and its fuel tank is roughly the size of a regulation softball. So if you live in any county along the route, be on the lookout for a Cadillac station wagon filled with tires, luggage, and two people who are thinking: Maybe we didn’t need to see the West so badly after all.

We’ll also be stopping at all the major sights. Big Sur. Yosemite. Death Valley. The Grand Canyon. The Gateway Arch. The place in Aspen where John Denver was arrested for driving under the influence after he wrecked his Porsche. The place in Aspen where John Denver was arrested again for driving under the influence, but because driving under the influence is so widely accepted in Aspen, his punishment was that he had to play a concert.

So, basically, we’re seeing all the important sights.

Q: Well, this sounds like fun.

A: Doesn’t it? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go prepare for the trip. In other words: I have to get gas.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Capsule Review: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Thu, 25 Oct 2012 10:01:07 +0000
Upon graduation from Belfast Teacher’s Training College in the late ’60s, my father found himself summoned into the headmaster’s office. A heavy oaken drawer was opened and an object placed upon the green baize of the blotting pad: “Ye’ll be needin’ this.”

“This” was the strap, thick leather symbol of martial law in the classroom. Dad left it lying where it was, left behind the tobacco-scented claustrophobia of that small office, left behind the small-minded bigotry of that blood-soaked island, and built himself a new home in the wilds of British Columbia.

From my birth, this has been my template for the masculine ideal: resolve, courage, intelligence, compassion. In the latter stages of his career, my father – long an administrator – could walk in and quell any classroom by his mere physical presence. And so, I’ve endeavoured to emulate him. To refrain from roarin’ an’ shoutin’. To be calm, yet firm of purpose. To be a man.

Of course, five minutes behind the wheel of this thing and it’s, COME AT ME BRO!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m awfully fond of the CTS-V, particularly in wagon form. It’s just not particularly subtle.

While I won’t go into an involved discussion of the design (read Sajeev Mehta’s thorough critique here instead), it’s sort of a visual caps-lock. You get the sense that they’d have built the entire thing out of grille if they’d have been able to get away with it.

When I remarked that going from a black/black FR-S to the ‘V felt like Robin-to-Batman, Jack B dubbed it the “Batbro,” and I can’t do better than that. If your utility belt is filled with hair-gel capsules and cocaine, then this is the sled for you.

Moving into the interior with some difficulty, due to the fiddly ‘Vette-style door latches, one finds a surprisingly high seating arrangement and a colour-combination clearly put together by a Boston Bruins fan. The details are fairly nice though.

Not as nice as the interior of a high-trim ATS however – the upcoming CTS update should fix things up a little, but this design has been around a while. Also, and I’m kicking myself for not snapping a quick shot of it, there’s a three-inch piece of fake carbon-fibre trim to the right of the steering wheel, and it’s stuck on at about fifteen degrees off the correct angle. Shoddy.

This centre-stack will doubtless soon be supplanted by the CUE system and all its haptic-touch trickery. I sort of prefer the buttons, myself, but the retractable navigation screen wobbles quite a bit when you go over bumps.

Two really great things to note: first, the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is excellent, and great at wicking away moisture from sweaty palms. Second, they’ve put the traction-control toggle right on the steering wheel.

Which brings us around to the question of performance.

Yes, the CTS-V is a bit of an automotive tribal tattoo – Conan the Vulgarian. On the other hand, great googly-moogly does it back up those looks with volcanic power levels.

The supercharged 6.2L LSA is nearly imbecilic in its ferocity, howling and bellowing out those twin centre-mounted exhausts. Flick off the overworked traction control so that it can go off and have a therapy session, and the blown V8 scorches the tires and rams repeatedly into the rev-limiter with a noise like a T-Rex choking on Jeff Goldblum.

I know, I know. Mr. Hyperbole’s come to tea again.

I assure you, this car both looks like Brock Lesnar and punches things in the face like Brock Lesnar. It’s not an alternative to an M3, it’s an alternative to PCP.

While a six-speed manual is also on offer, the higher take rate will surely be this, the paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. It works quite well, although there’s so much power, you could probably hook the LSA up to a two-speed Powerglide and it’d still be fine.

Cadillac/GM’s magnetic-ride suspension is here too, and the widened track and lowered height of the coupe certainly makes this ‘V much nimbler than the last one I drove (a wagon). I don’t think you’d call it a sportscar though.

Leave the traction-control sensibly on, and the CTS-V is quite a nice street car, apart from the mail-slot visibility. The Brembos scrub speed just fine for street-applications, and the zero-delay power-delivery is endlessly entertaining. And expensive.

Here’s the thing though. This car might be perfectly capable of smacking around some of the normally-aspirated German stuff, but like Mr. Lesnar, it’s gotten a bit old for the ring. It’s not in MMA competitions any more, it’s more like a member of the WWE.

Herein lieth some redemption: even with the clock-cleaning Shelby out there and ridiculous twin-turbo Teutons on the rise, the ‘V is still a character-filled car. It’s entertaining and burly and something of a self-parody.

But look out – that guy’s got a folding metal chair!

Cadillac supplied the car and insurance. I supplied the fuel, more fool me.

Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 59
Vellum Venom: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Mon, 23 Apr 2012 10:49:00 +0000 A few years after I left Detroit, doing my best to forget my heart-wrenching decision to give up on car design, a similarly disheartened automaker named Saturn made something called an Ion.  I saw it at the Houston Auto Show circa 2002.  Wounds from Detroit still fresh on my mind, I had absolutely no problem with the Saturn Ion shown behind a velvet rope.  I honestly thought it was a design study commissioned by Playskool, not a production ready vehicle from General Motors.

I mean, it was that awful. So imagine my surprise when the General’s peeps come up with something nearly as ugly…and this time it’s a Cadillac.


But this ain’t no Saturn Ion.  It’s better in many ways and even more of a shameful waste of sheet metal in others.  That said, the nose is pretty cool if you avoid the detailing.  Well, the grille is quite handsome, even if I wish the badge was about 30% smaller.


Do badges really need to dominate a design?  This part of the CTS-V Coupe does quite well by itself.  Nobody’s gonna mistake it for a Honda, so chill out already!


The cyborg headlights are cool enough to let me fixate on other horrible elements on this form, namely the dumpy afterthought headlight washers.  I expected flush mount/pop up cleaners for a car wearing the Cadillac name.  Because this brand used to represent the best of the best, not a cheaper alternative to an uber-zoot German machine. Did someone benchmark a BMW M-series outside of the Nurburgring?


I love power-dome hoods, except when I don’t.  This is a Caddy!  Make that bulge start at the grille and flare out from there!  The ghosts of a million pimp-daddy DeVilles demands it! This looks like a cheap afterthought!


The Terminator was a great movie.  So was the sequel.  But whatever the hell this is, it belongs in a movie, not on a Caddy.  Plus, the choice of black plastic makes it look like an extra in a low-budget B-movie.  Totally not Caddy worthy.


The details do blend a little better from a few feet away.  But still, Cadillac is trying too hard to shed an image that was actually quite appealing.  This is the Pontiac Grand Prix of luxury performance coupes.  Believe it or not, I meant that as a compliment.  If Pontiac still existed.


This is one of the worst fender-to-A-pillar-to-door parties ever.  While I adore the strong edge from the fender’s vent to the beginning of the A-pillar, the muscular wedge that goes to the door is too big…or the vent is too small.  Not to mention the character line from the hood to the bottom of the A-pillar feels like an afterthought.

M.C. Escher, eat your heart out.


I despised this badge when it first hit the scene. That awful color palette in jarring, rhombus-like containers isn’t befitting of a top dollar, world-beating, Grand Tourer.  I admit it has aged well, so maybe branding conquers all.


Deplorable fitment aside, the sheer number of parts making this door handle is depressing.  The almost square thing above the door release is the biggest offender. It shouldn’t exist: why not make it integral to the rest of the quarter panel’s sheet metal? Inexcusable for a Cadillac and just un-frickin-believable in general.



But at least the quarter window is mighty faaaast!  The CTS-V coupe is certainly a…coupe!


Or is it a hatchback?  I wonder if the late-70s Buick Century Aero Coupe was ever considered during the CTS coupe’s initial renderings. Nah, that Buick was never this contrived by design. Not so with the Caddy, it’s obviously suffering from ADHD.

Details aside, this is pure BUFFALO BUTT. And that’s never pretty.


This is what happens when an AMC AMX gets beaten by Pablo Picasso’s Ugly Stick.

Marinate on that.


Let’s be clear, Cubism is a wonderful thing.  But this monstrosity of a machine is not. If your tail light extends to the rear glass, you made a crime against the natural order of luxury-performance vehicles. Epic fail.


The sheer volume of non-functional red CHMSL plastic shown makes me choke on my morning coffee.  Combine it with the fact that this part will turn chalky after a few years of buffing and oxidation, and you have a shameful interpretation of Cadillac style. Don’t believe me? Find a 1999 Mustang that’s had a less-than-charmed life and tell me how that CHMSL looks.


I will admit this is a seriously cool angle.  But I only like the decklid when you crop out the majority of bulk, or every line (cough, taillights) that fights the pointy beak presented here.

Then again, is a pointy posterior a good thing? Maybe someone in Detroit has a thing for the Porsche 928 in reverse.


The central exhausts are wicked cool, the round forms play well with the strong centralized character line.  Too bad the CTS-V Coupe’s ass is too tall and massive, you must squat down to actually appreciate this.


More shameful cheapness here.  Note to Cadillac: if you want an invite to AMG and M’s house parties, don’t break the ice with a Tupperware party at your crib.  You’ll get the Corvette, muscle car and LSX-FTW loyalists instead. Which isn’t a bad thing…as those peeps do buy cars.

Their money is still green!


On to some abhorrent detailing: the character line from the quarter window needs more definition, and more depth. This gives the illusion that the CTS-V isn’t as tall as a CUV, and has the fender flares of a car worthy of such impressive underpinnings. Instead we get bulk and flab. How I miss the days of fuselage inspired Cadillac quarter panels!



Next abhorrent detail: if you have to smear a round gas cap over an obscure fender slope, your design needs a re-think.  Or maybe I need some slimy, sloppy eggs to go with the coffee I recently choked on.



I know, I know…I already complained about the door handle. But look at how the B-pillar mates with the rest of the design!  Can someone trim the door to match this absolutely crucial hard point on the body?  How much is this car again?

Long live the Ghost of the Saturn Ion. On to you, Best and Brightest.


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New or Used: Kill the Yuppies Edition? Thu, 13 Oct 2011 15:42:02 +0000  

American Badass?

Anonymous writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve,

I have the misfortune of working with a bunch of aspiring Yuppies. You know the types. The ones who believe that all American car companies make crap and the only true luxury cars come from Germany and Japan. Never mind the $1300 maintenance charge on their Audi or the fact that the Lexus ES is about as exciting as wilted corn flakes.
Long story short, I am sick and tired of hearing their crap. I want to buy the type of American car that will take these pompous, sniveling wussy boys and blow their stuck-upityness right out of their ass.
My choices are the following…
1) Corvette – preferably one with a muffler package that sounds like a roving gang of Hell’s Angels ready to roll.
2) Silverado – One with all the options. Throw in some Bigfoot tires so that I can roll over those little prissy scootmobiles.
3) Hummer H2 – Instead of a horn I would get four bullhorns and have them blare out lines from Ah-nold’s movies and Jesse Ventura’s speeches with every beep. Maybe a few fart noises too.
4) Chevette – I’m thinking if I go in dressed like this guy one day, and buy a few accessories along the way, I should be all set.
5) Adams Probe 16 – One of only three made. But built for a good purpose.
OK, I’m exaggerating with all this. But really. I want to get a luxury car that is All-American and the absolute best in it’s class. Price limit $40k. New, used, doesn’t matter. What do you recommend?
Steve Answers: Custom. Get a ride that is a true representation of all you enjoy.
As for yours truly… I would start with a 1992 Buick Roadmaster Limited. Nothing quite says ‘Imports suck!’ quite like Grandpa’s car did back in the day. Besides I happen to have one at the moment. You want it?
Modify the 350 engine to your hearts content and then throw in a nice high end Magnaflow. Spend a couple grand on upgrading the sound system and suspension. A little subtle tint in the windows. Wheels that come from a vintage Buick as well as a serious tire upgrade. Maybe also throw in some vintage aftermarket effects to accentuate your love of all things American.
My vote would be for an airbrush of a scantily clad Marilyn Monroe blowing a kiss on one side. A few images of our troops through the ages on the other side… and a collage of famous Americans (real and fictional) on the hood and rear. Oh, don’t forget a Class 3 hitch, a multi-sound horn, and a loudspeaker that will allow you to share your tunes with all of your anti-Detroit friends. Country, Western (they are two different types you know), Elvis, TV tunes… anything that is truly American through and through.
Total cost? Maybe about 10 grand and a few long-term friendships.
With the money you save, let your office mates know of all the wonderful places you plan on going for the next few years while they’re ‘paying off the note’. Think Fiji… or Belize… or maybe Greece when the next round of austerity measures are introduced.
Good luck!
Sajeev Answers: Oh yes!  I am sick and tired of hearing their crap too!  Nothing says “I hate you and everything you stand for” like a Hummer, especially one in Alpha trimmings.  Screw them! Who the hell do they think they are anyway?
Here’s my short list:Mustang GT 5.0: because of that evil live axle that the fanbois love to hate on!
Pontiac G8 GXP: cuz those jerks probably hate Outback Steakhouses too!
Corvette Z06 (C6): kicking everyone’s ass while saying “LS7-FTW!” to piss off those haters!
Last-Gen Cadillac CTS-V: see above, change to “LS6-FTW” instead.
Dodge Ram SRT-10: don’t you wish your girlfriend could oversteer like me?But honestly your best bet is a decommissioned Panther from the Bob Bondurant School, back when they ran with Ford: Cobra powertrain, big brakes, console, racing seats, roll cage and a subtle (almost-Euro like) body kit just to really burn their croissants.    You’ll scare the living shit out of them on the freeway with that Police-a-like style and really burn them because they will never catch up to you after the realize they’ve been had by an imposter!
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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Review: Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, Take Two Mon, 09 May 2011 21:18:29 +0000

If Lord Acton were alive today, I’m sure he’d say: “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great cars are almost always bad cars.” I believe it this philosophy that Cadillac hopes will rejuvenate Cadillac, a brand that only recently started taking performance seriously but is already achieving some surprising results. Already our own Michael Karesh has got his kicks with the CTS-V wagon, Niedermeyer has drooled over the sedan and Jack Baruth has killed the track at Monticello in both this coupe and the sedan… it might be safe to say Caddy has a winner on their hands. Still, why not snag the 556 HP V Coupe for a week to see how it handles some California road testing? What’s the worst that could happen?

In 1999 General Motors set the tone for Cadillac’s renaissance with the Evoq show car. Somehow finally realizing that there was frankly no way a Catera, Seville or Deville could ever compete with BMW or Mercedes on any level what-so-ever, the CTS-V, STS-V and XLR-V erupted out of some hitherto unknown Detroit volcano. The first trio of unique Cadillac products were angular and brash at a time where oval was the shape du jour. Sadly the STS-V never achieved the sales success Cadillac dreamt and while I loved the Corvette-based XLR, it had a tiny flaw: a six-figure price tag and the heart of an anemic squirrel (compared to its C6 Corvette cousin). Consequently, the XLR sold like ice to an Eskimo. Packing a (comparatively) demure 443HP Cadillac Northstar V8 into the Corvette chassis, the XLR-V started in the nosebleed section at $101,300 (2008 model year.) For the CTS-V, Cadillac perhaps rightly corrected the performance formula by jamming a thoroughly corrupt 556hp Corvette-derived engine into bespoke Cadillac coupé chassis starting at a lowly $63,465. This is not your father’s Cadillac nor is it available in Mary Kay pink.

Some observers may find Cadillac’s all-angular look distasteful, but I rather love it, especially in this, the ultimate expression of the edgy “Art & Science” ethos, with its ginormous triangular rump finished off with coffee-can sized twin center pipes. Bling-baby-bling. I think a Cadillac should be bold, and since this is the re-invention of the brand (and frankly Cadillac is unlikely to ever again play in the ultra-luxury playground with Rolls and Bentley) styling should set the American wares apart from the masses. Cadillac’s designers are apparently of my same mindset and styled the CTS coupe into something beyond bold: brash. And guess what? It works. I wouldn’t even mind if the CTS got even crazier in the next refresh. Whatever you think of the CTS-V coupe, it doesn’t look like anything else, and that’s a good thing. In every cloud there’s some moisture waiting to rain on your parade however: while the design is avant-garde, the fit and finish is merely pedestrian. Can’t have everything I’m told.

As Michael pointed out in his review of the CTS wagon, the interior of the V is nice, but it’s not as upscale as some of the competition, and since our Coupé tester rang in at over 70-large (twice the price of the base CTS sedan) it’s a bit of a stretch. This is not a problem unique to Caddy however. Any manufacturer that pimps out a base model to this extent suffers from main-stream interiors tied to a premium price tag. For V-duty, Cadillac kept the base CTS’ stitched dash and doors, but continued to eschew the cowhide in favor of pleather on the aforementioned panels which is a shame when most brands dish-up more moo in their performance models.

The slightly more comfortable $3,400 Recaro seats with Alcantara inserts, $300 Alcantara wrapped steering wheel and shifter and $600 dark stained wood accents our tester came with are all optional on the V, so base buyers will find an interior largely the same as the base CTS coupe except for the shiny black center console unique to all V models. Sadly the glossy trim scratches easily and doesn’t, in my opinion, really look quite as good as the silver in the plebian model. Speaking of Alcantara, use of the faux-suede on the wheel looks and feels fantastic but in terms of durability I have my doubts. Alcantara pills as it wears on some surfaces which is a shame because the fuzzy steering wheel almost took my mind off the fact that the Nissan Quest minivan I had the week before had better sport grips. All Vs come standard with the $1,300 gas guzzler tax, a dubious piece of standard equipment to be sure.


As Michael pointed out in his CTS-V wagon review, other flavors of CTS suffer from slightly cheap door handles, but fortunately the V coupe like all other coupe models receive some dainty round door “buttons”  instead. The electrically operated door latches are an interesting touch despite not being really any more convenient than traditional releases. On the downside since the mechanism is operated by electricity a manual bypass must still be installed and GM located this emergency handle in a fairly visible spot in the footwell. Taken as a whole it’s more of a novelty than a true feature as the exterior handles aren’t executed nearly as well as the interior.

As often happens during the “coupification” of a sedan, the CTS loses some space vs its sedan counterpart. In the CTS, however, since the wheelbase is unchanged from the sedan and the dash doesn’t move rearward, rear legroom is still quite good for even a six-foot rear passenger with a six-foot driver. Headroom is a different matter. While six-foot-five front occupants will find [barely] enough room, rear headroom is extremely limited making the rear seats suitable for a humpty-dumpty with really long legs. Still, rear seat accommodations are rarely a huge selling feature of performance coupes (I’m looking at you Jaguar XK) so this is honestly going to be more of a deal breaker for base CTS coupe buyers than CTS-V shoppers. I would be remiss in noting that while the M3 loses a bit of headroom in coupe form, it’s a far more livable backseat, if you’re into that sort of thing. The other practicality toll suffered by the CTS-V’s acute angular lines is rearward visibility. It’s a good thing a backup camera is standard since the rear window is absolutely no help when backing up.

Readers know that I’m a gadget guy at heart. This is the one area where the CTS in all forms continue to disappoint. The problem is not with audio performance which is excellent on the standard Bose 5.1 surround system with navigation, XM radio and iPod integration, it’s the interface that’s behind the times. The Cadillac infotainment system combines a pop-up touch screen, a myriad of fairly small and nearly identically shaped buttons and aging software to make a system that is illogical at best. I have driven over 50 different cars of all descriptions in the last year and only two have required me to pull out the user’s guide to divine the operation of the Bluetooth speakerphone, the CTS is one and the GMC Sierra is the other. The odd way the system’s menus function requiring the use of both on-screen touch commands and physical buttons to navigate boggled my techy mind. This system is a testament to the fact that Cadillac doesn’t build cars for my grandmother anymore, she’d never figure out how to use it. If you’re six-feet tall or have long legs, you’ll find the system even more vexing as the all-important “back” button is located a long reach away. This cloud does however have one silver lining: the iPod integration. GM’s system downloads playlist and track info from your device rather than streaming it on-the-fly making scrolling playlists, songs and artists a snappy and enjoyable process. If GM could borrow the software from the new Regal ASAP they might be onto something.

556HP. That’s probably all that needs to be said about the GM LSA engine Cadillac shoehorned under the hood of the angular coupe. The 6.2L supercharged behemoth has the unusual distinction of being the only pushrod engine in the performance luxury play-space. Based on the 6.2L Corvette LS9 engine, the LSA (shared with the recently announced Camaro ZL1) uses a slightly smaller supercharger, slightly lower compression ratio (9:1), cast pistons and a single-unit heat exchanger. These changes cause the output to drop from the 638HP and 604lb-ft of the LS9 to 556HP and 551lb-ft. This engine isn’t as refined as the BMW M3’s 4.0L V8. It’s not as pleasing to the ear as Jaguar’s 5.0L supercharged V8. Instead it has a flavor all of its own; it’s a push-rod all-American ball of whoop-ass fitted to a car that without it couldn’t dance with the competition. It makes the CTS-V the Tanya Harding of the luxury performance coupe dance team: not afraid to smack an M3 in the knees when they least expect it.

It’s therefore easy to see why the XLR-V died, 110K for admittedly smooth VVT DOHC power just doesn’t make sense when you can get 556HP from the CTS-V coupe. (Why Cadillac didn’t drop an unadulterated LS9 into the XLR-V is a question that may never get answered.) The immediacy of the LSA is quite simply breathtaking and the power; nothing short of savage. While the M3 screams its way to its stratospheric 8400RPM redline, the CTS-V lets loose only a subtle bellow from 4,000 to its 6200RPM rev-limiter. I had almost hoped the CTS-V would sound as big and bad as it looks but perhaps this is a case of “speak softly and carry a big engine?”  The only downside we noted over 845 miles was an average fuel economy of 14.3MPG proving once again that fun isn’t free.

Michael’s CTS-V Wagon was saddled with winter tires which limited grip, our coupe tester in sunny California however came equipped with wide, grippy Michelin 285-width summer tires out back. Of course with this much power (at essentially any engine speed) grip is still an issue but the rubber put up a valiant fight against wheel spin as we recorded a 4.2 second 0-60 run (no rollout) time after time (while giggling like a schoolboy.) I am certain that with the right rubber and most importantly the right driver, the CTS-V would be capable of a 0-60 run in the mid 3s. The character of the CTS-V is surprising for anyone who has driven a tuned high-power rear-wheel-drive American vehicle: this one is easy to drive.

It’s not just easy to drive in a performance setting; it’s a car you can actually drive daily on imperfect roads without needing an osteopath on retainer. The innovative Brembo two-piece hybrid rotors (combining an aluminum hub pressed onto a steel friction surface rather than bolted) ensure neck-breakingly quick stops time after time with minimal fade, zero drama and supposedly a lower replacement cost when they finally wear. The electronic nanny reigns in the fun at more-or-less the right moments allowing just a touch of tail happy before it spanks the rear brakes to get you back in line. I never thought I would have seen the day there would be a Cadillac you could “easily” steer with your right foot alone.

As our Facebook crowd pointed out during our week testing the CTS-V: by the numbers, this is one heavy porker tipping the scales at 4,209lbs. In reality however the CTS-V only feels heavy under normal driving conditions, which is a good thing in my book. The Cadillac magnetic ride control does an admirable job of soaking up road imperfections while still allowing corner carving that is almost up to M3 standards. One way auto journalists can tell about a newly arrived car’s road abilities is to look at the tires. Bald fronts: crazy torque steer. Bald rears: Chrysler SRT. The CTS-V arrived with fairly worn tires all the way around. Yes the CTS-V burns out with the best of ‘em, but the fun is really to be had throwing the V into corners. Yes, a Cadillac being thrown into a corner.

In my book, the CTS-V competes most directly with the BMW M3 and the Mercedes C63 AMG until the M6 comes back next year. Of course the CTS-V Coupe is a different matter, the C63 has two problems: rear doors. This lack of direct competition (save that M3) means a shopper with an open mind may cross shop the V coupe with a base 911, or the V’s engine donor; the Corvette. How does it stack up? Glad you asked. The CTS-V lacks the M3’s fantastic dual clutch transmission, racing pedigree and let’s face it; snob value. The CTS-V’s GM automatic transmission is a wearisome companion but the 6-speed manual is easy to live with even in heavy traffic. Is the CTS-V better than an M3? That depends on how you define “better.” The V is certainly more distinctive in many ways more fun.

Also from Germany is the Porsche 911. As Jeremy Clarkson always reminds us, the 911’s heart is in the right place but the engine is located at the wrong end. With a starting price of $77,800 it’s also decently more expensive, a fair amount slower (4.7 seconds to 60) but does enjoy significant bragging rights at the country club. Oddly enough the best matchup comes in the form of the Corvette Z06. Sure the Vette has a universally recognizable shape which counts for something, but for $77-grand the interior is dreadful, the handling is not nearly as refined, there are no back seats and higher insurance premiums come standard with the bow-tie.

At the end of the day the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe is exactly what I expected of it: It’s a deeply conflicted car with one hell of an engine. What I had not expected however, is how truly corrupting it is. Perhaps it’s true that a great car is almost always a bad car. While not what we expect from Cadillac, not quite luxury, far from fuel efficient, far from refined, far from universally gorgeous, possessing a brand name that hasn’t been lusted after in decades, it has never the less found a strangely angular place in my heart. If you are looking for the go with some style under 70K, it’s a great buy. And that’s the thing that’s surprising: Cadillac didn’t manage to build a world class luxury car again, what they did build is one hell of a performance buy. Cadillac? Go figure.

Cadillac provided the test vehicle, insurance and a tank of gas.

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad about that. For our Facebook peeps, here are your answers: Daanesh C: I think I’d rather have the wagon, but I’m a sucker for man-wagons. Kevin M: No, the seats are not more comfortable than the base CTS coupe, but the Recaro optional thrones are marginally better. Yes, it is actually fairly easy to put the power down as long as the road is dry and smooth. Compared to the XK-R? Just as much fun but far less comfortable and the crowd that gives the car a once-over is totally different. Make of that what you will. Darren W: I did feel fairly cool when smoking a Camaro SS. Richard L: Worst MPG: 9.2 for the first 120 miles. Patrick C: smokier than a 60 year old hooker. Eric R: spotter, curb feelers, a flag team and a jelly doughnut. Stephen S: I almost can’t believe I am saying this, but yes, it is completely possible to have this 556HP beast as a daily driver. Greg O: No question, CTS-V > Corvette.

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 2.0 seconds

0-60: 4.2 seconds

Average economy: 14.3MPG (observed:18.5MPG Highway)

IMG_2429 IMG_2422 IMG_2427 IMG_2437 IMG_2430 IMG_2462 IMG_2425 IMG_2467 IMG_2436 IMG_2433 IMG_2446 IMG_2413 IMG_2445 IMG_2463 IMG_2435 IMG_2449 IMG_2457 IMG_2448 IMG_2421 IMG_2419 IMG_2444 IMG_2431 IMG_2439 IMG_2432 IMG_2428 IMG_2464 IMG_2423 IMG_2434 IMG_2459 IMG_2454 IMG_2440 IMG_2413 IMG_2443 IMG_2441 Somewhere West of the Laramie... IMG_2466 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_2450 IMG_2452 IMG_2451 IMG_2456 cadillac-thumb IMG_2465 IMG_2460

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Review: 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sportwagon Black Diamond Edition Wed, 13 Apr 2011 19:31:12 +0000

I firmly believe that it’s more fun to drive a (relatively) slow compact hatch fast than to drive a big, fast car well below its potential. I remain hopeful that someone will offer a car with five doors and rear-wheel-drive that weighs under 3,000 pounds. (I’d say under 2,700 pounds, but that’s clearly a pipe dream.) Then Cadillac put a CTS-V in my driveway for a week. A wagon with a manual transmission, no less. That Cadillac even offers such a combination warrants respect. The lure of the dark side has never been stronger.

The stealth fighter-inspired design of the second-generation CTS remains polarizing, if less so than the original. Love it or hate it, the car looks appropriate for its role. This particular CTS-V wagon makes no attempt to conceal its evil intent. A “Black Diamond Edition,” it is covered in sparkly black paint and shod with “satin graphite” wheels. The all-black appearance (save the huge yellow brake calipers) makes the car look like a development mule, but I don’t doubt its appeal for some people. Given the intended look, though, why not go all the way with a matte black finish for the body as well as the wheels? Some people (certainly not including myself) don’t care for the wagon’s lines, but no one will deny that they’re distinctive and clearly communicate a sporting intent.

When the 2008 CTS was introduced, its interior was the best GM had yet offered. The “cut and sewn” upholstered leatherette on the instrument panel and upper door panels seemed especially upscale. But GM and the rest of the industry have continued to advance, and given the V’s $60,000+ price tag the cabin isn’t quite up to snuff. In the V the satin-finished trim of the regular CTS has been replaced by piano black, and the latter doesn’t work as well with the other pieces. Having shiny black plastic, black-stained wood, and matte black plastic run side-by-side the full height of the center stack is simply too much. One of the two trim elements needs to be either toned down or eliminated. I didn’t care for the flimsy, overly plasticky feel of the door pulls even back in 2007 (and pointed this out to the designer at NAIAS). Notably, the more recently designed coupe has better door pulls. Finally, the dash-to-door fits are uneven and, as in the sedan, the sections of the rear seat fit together poorly.

Under Harley Earl and then Bill Mitchell, GM continually strove to make its sedans lower and lower. They would not approve of the CTS. To provide good sight lines over the high cowl, the seating position is a few inches higher than the traditional norm. While I had the V I drove a couple of Panameras, and the contrast with the much lower, much wider Porsches is striking. In its defense, Cadillac is under no mandate to make a sedan or (in this case) a wagon feel as much like a sports car as possible. Instead, from its relatively high perch the CTS feels commanding and powerful.

The Recaro seats optional in other Vs are standard in the Black Edition. (A salesman informed me that he’s rarely seen a V without them anyway.) Unlike those in most other GM cars, these seats retain four-way lumbar adjustments. Unfortunately, these adjustments are of little value as the lumbar bulge is overly narrow and sticks into the lower back rather than supporting it. To avoid this unpleasant sensation I adjusted the lumbar to do as little as possible. Despite this shortcoming, I’d advise the Recaros for the lateral support they provide. Both the thigh and side bolsters can be adjusted to provide a tight fit. A “sueded” covering on the steering wheel and shifter is a $300 option. I enjoyed the feel of the shifter, but never quite got used to the fuzzy steering wheel.

Oddly, the high seating position up front doesn’t translate to a comfortably positioned rear seat. The cushion feels small and, like most, it’s too low. Though the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, and so forth do no better, the CTS is nearly as large as a 5-Series. The wagon’s cargo area similarly isn’t expansive, but a power tailgate provides easy access. A floor that can be employed as a cargo organizer effectively restrains groceries during aggressive maneuvers. Interior storage is grossly inadequate. My superzoom camera (styled like a dSLR, but not as large) fit in neither the glove compartment nor the center console, both of which are overly compartmentalized. Consequently it spent much of the week sliding about the passenger footwell.

Any shortcomings fall from mind once the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 is awakened with a pushbutton. With 556 horsepower at 6,100 RPM and 551 foot-pounds of torque at 3,800 RPM, it’s more than a match for the CTS-V wagon’s considerable 4,398 pounds. Acceleration is traction limited at low speeds, especially when the car is fitted with winter tires (as this one was). Luckily, it’s not hard to modulate the throttle and achieve reasonably drama-free launches. The first-generation CTS-V suffered from severe wheel hop. To solve that problem GM fitted half-shafts of differing mass to the new car. These oscillate at different frequencies when subjected to the full wrath of the V8.

At any speed the V8 responds strongly and immediately in a way that only a large engine can. And yet it doesn’t feel as astoundingly quick as the power figures suggest it should. As one passenger remarked, “it feels like only about 450 horsepower.” The car’s curb weight is one reason. Declining returns are another. The engine produces more power than the tires can transfer at lower speeds. To fully exploit the V’s extra power you’d have to drive well beyond the legal limit.

But the unexpected refinement of the engine is the primary culprit. The supercharger provides boost so smoothly that the engine doesn’t even feel boosted. In naturally-aspirated form in the Camaro GM’s 6.2-liter V8 can sound like it’s on the verge of self-destruction. These raw tones have been successfully suppressed in the CTS-V, leaving only a mild burble at low RPM, some pleasant mechanical noises in the mid-range, and a restrained roar at the high end. Cruising down the highway the exhaust is barely audible; what you do hear fits the character of the car and doesn’t begin to irritate. Some people will wish for a more expressive engine, but I fear that the result would be something like that in the Camaro. If the engine can’t scream sweetly, better that it cannot scream at all.

Under full throttle there’s a strong rush to the redline, but no surge or sense of a peak. Instead, if you’re not paying close attention it’s very easy to bang the limiter—which intervenes just 100 RPM past the horsepower peak. It’s not easy to pay attention, as it’s not possible to simultaneously watch both the modestly-sized tach and the road. The CTS-V badly needs a head-up display (HUD) like that offered in the Corvette and even some pedestrian GM vehicles like the GMC Acadia and Buick LaCrosse. Barring that, a RX-8-like beep when 500 RPM short of the redline would also work. As is, the LEDs that trace the tach needle’s movement start flashing at 5,200 RPM, but if you’re not already watching the tach you won’t notice this.

That the power peaks so close to the redline suggests that the engine could be much more powerful if only it could rev higher. In the Corvette ZR1, titanium intake valves and connecting rods do permit a 400 RPM bump. Add another pound-and-a-half of boost to the V’s nine, and the result is 638 horsepower. And even then the power peak remains 100 RPM short of the redline. Putting out under 100 horsepower per liter, the V’s engine simply isn’t working hard. Unlike more high-strung engines, it should last forever with proper care.

The shifter is not an issue. A vast improvement over that in the first-generation CTS-V, it has a satisfying level of notchiness and snicks with a moderate amount of effort and good precision from gear to gear. Given the limited traction at low speeds and low redline, it’s no surprise that the Tremec’s six gears are tall. First runs to 48, second to 72, third to 99. They’re also tightly spaced, with a ratio spread of only 4.2 between first and sixth (vs. 5.3 for the Aisin in the regular CTS and 8.0 for the seven-speed S-Tronic in the Audi S4). The big V8 is spinning a bit over 2,000 RPM at 70. At this speed, downshifting is rarely necessary.

The clutch doesn’t feel heavy unless you’re sitting at a light, where you can select neutral and relax. This said, after spending a few days in the V I nearly put my left foot through the floorboard in my Mazda Protege5. My heel-and-toeing skills aren’t what they should be. No matter-with the accelerator positioned much lower than the brake pedal it’s not a possibility in the V anyway. Those huge yellow calipers aren’t just for show—the CTS-V stops as well as it goes, and with a satisfyingly firm pedal feel.

Fuel economy? Well, even more than in other cars this depends on how you drive. During an especially hard stretch of driving the trip computer reported just a bit over seven miles-per-gallon, and quite often under ten. On the other hand, when hypermiling the V over a few suburban miles where my red light karma was good, I observed 22 (vs. 26 in a Lexus IS-F). I noted the same 22 during steady highway driving. When driving the V like a normal car around town I observed between 12 and 16 depending on the frequency of complete stops, supporting the EPA city rating of 14.

My observations on ride and handling must be qualified, for the tested car was wearing Pirelli winter tires that are likely squishier than the stock Michelin PS2s. This said, the steering, while still numb compared to that in a Panamera, has a more direct feel than that in the regular CTS. Feedback from the contact patches tickles attentive fingertips. Hit the stability control button on the steering wheel to active “Stabilitrak Competition Mode,” and the steering firms up while the electronic nannies are relaxed. But the resulting wooden feel makes the car feel heavier and less agile without doing much to enhance feedback.

It’s not necessary to rely on your fingertips for much anyway. The V prefers to be driven like a blunt instrument, but paradoxically a blunt instrument that can be driven with precision. You can throw it hard into a curve with total confidence of where it’s going to go. Guide it precisely through a curve with your fingertips? Save that for a different sort of car. As in other rear-wheel-drive GM cars, the seat of your pants will tell you pretty much all you need to know. The chassis feels so natural, and power oversteer builds so progressively, that the V can be driven from your gut. The center of rotation feels like its right under the driver’s seat.

Dive into a turn entirely off the gas, and the V understeers (though quite possibly less on its stock tires). A little gas easily evens out the chassis, and the desired degree of oversteer can be summoned up at will. The stability control seamlessly manages oversteer if you go too far. (Engage the “Competition Mode” or entirely turn the nannies off and it becomes clear how well the system works.) It manages understeer more obtrusively.

The magnetic ride control shocks, a GM innovation now also employed by Audi and Ferrari, very quickly adapt to road conditions. Since the shocks quickly move through their full range in either “Tour” or “Sport,” the difference between these two modes isn’t night and day. In “Sport” body motions and roll are a little more restrained, and the ride is a little more abrupt. In either mode the V doesn’t feel nearly as hardcore as its appearance and power figures suggest. Even in “Sport” mode there’s a modest amount of roll in turns. On the other hand, the car’s ride quality is actually better than my father’s regular CTS with the mid-level suspension, and much better than that in some other cars in the class (the Infiniti G37 especially comes to mind). The car is shockingly livable even on the awful roads around Detroit.

Can a $69,490 car be a bargain? A similarly-equipped BMW M3 lists for about $2,500 less. Adjusting for feature differences with TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool narrows the gap to under $1,000. This decision isn’t going to come down to price. Rather, power vs. precision. Around town the Cadillac has stronger, more immediate responses and so is generally more fun to drive, but the BMW has a more precise feel. To get similar power in a BMW, you must step up to the even heavier upcoming M5, which will likely cost about $100,000. If you’re looking for a wagon—well, no one else currently offers an ultra-high-performance wagon in the U.S. unless you count the Panamera. And if you have to ask the price of the Porsche…

All of these details don’t fully capture the essense of driving the V. It’s quite simply intoxicating, the immediacy and strength with which the engine reacts, the predictable competence and willingness of the chassis, all without any significant downsides save a thirst for premium unleaded and the endangerment of one’s license. On top of this, the entire experience has a seamless cohesiveness that’s rarely found in non-European cars. It’s certainly possible to drive the V casually. When not pushed the V drives just like a normal car, with no untoward noises, jitters, or heat. It’s almost too easy. Your grandmother could drive one and never have a clue about the machine’s potential. But once you’ve sampled this potential, the V’s allure can be hard to resist. All those extra pounds? Forgotten. The only thing that saved me: they insisted on having the car back at the end of the week.

Cadillac provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

CTSV rear quarter CTS-V loaded CTS-V rear quarter shiny CTS-V side shiny Front seats CTS-V brakes CTS-V rear CTS-V rear quarter dirty CTS-V rear quarter low CTS-V fueling CTS-V glove compartment CTS-V engine CTS left IP fit CTS-V front CTS-V w Taurus X CTS-V center console storage Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail How much more black could this be? CTS right IP fit CTS-V instruments CTS-V engine wo cover ]]> 127
GM’s Anti-Hatch-Tax: CTS-V Sportwagon Priced $475 Less Than Sedan Tue, 05 Oct 2010 16:43:22 +0000

We were not amused (to coin a phrase) at Ford’s decision to tax fans of the hatchback by adding $500 to the price of its five-door Fiesta and forthcoming Focus. And rather than following Ford’s example, GM has priced its CTS-V Sportwagon some $475 cheaper than its $63,465 CTS-V sedan, by starting prices for the unique muscle wagon at $62,990 (including destination). Needless to say, we love the wüchtig, 556 HP CTS-V, so the prospect of a distinctively be-hatched version for less money is like catnip here at TTAC HQ. On the other hand, our beef with Ford has to do with its refusal to offer the practicality of a hatch at the base price point, and that argument doesn’t really hold water in the tire-smoking world of supercharged V8 rocketships. Moreover, $475 doesn’t exactly make much of a difference when you’re talking about a car that costs the equivalent of four base Fiestas. Still, we like to think of this as a win for the wagons… if only in principle.

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Return With Us Now To The Days Of Silent (Track) Film Wed, 11 Aug 2010 22:21:58 +0000

Nothing but bad news from the video recorder; even when it was working, the fabulous sound of the supercharged CTS-V’s V-8 was left out.

This is a reasonably quick pit-to-pit lap of Monticello in the CTS-V Coupe. I was 3mph short of the local instructors at the end of the back straight. I’ll blame it on (the admirably fit) weight of my passenger, AutoGuide’s senior editor Colum Wood.

In the video, you can see the site of my off-track mishap and get a feel for what it’s like to push this very quick coupe around the track at cornering pressures of 1.1g or more. Don’t forget to click it to “480″ to get the full resolution from the instruments.

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Review: 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe (Video, More Photos To Come) Wed, 11 Aug 2010 00:50:17 +0000

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!

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Capsule Review: 2010 Cadillac CTS-V Sat, 19 Jun 2010 20:03:17 +0000

Wuchtig. I’m sitting, panting, trying to catch my breath on the side of a tiny two-lane road running through the vineyards of California’s Napa Valley. I’m in an American car. I haven’t spoken German regularly since I was 18. Adrenalin has chased everything resembling a coherent thought from my mind. And yet, strangely, the only thing left banging around my speed-addled skull is a single German adjective for which the English language has no translation: wuchtig.

From the safety of my desk back in Oregon, a German-English dictionary offers a parade of possible English meanings for this word, that 556 horsepower has left ringing in my ears. Weight, pressure, force, impetus, vigor, power, and kinetic energy all make the list. But what about anger? Rage? Impatience? Wuchtig is how daddy shouts when he comes home drunk and angry; it’s the roar of a sweaty millionaire celebrating his dominance in an NFL endzone.

It’s also the sound that 6.2 liters of supercharged V8 make when they get just out of earshot of their rightful owner.

This particular “V” belongs to one of Cadillac’s PR guys, who, having heard that I’d never set ass in the infamous sedan, handed me a key fob. No “be careful” preceded this unexpected gift, no waivers were signed, no next-of-kin informed. Just a friendly “why are you not driving yet?” as I collected my thoughts before approaching the large, dark presence lurking in the parking lot.

But whatever confidence I’d gained by psyching myself up, soon melted in the evil presence of this brute. Walk up, and the smell of vaporized rubber tickles the nose and jangles the nerves, like the smell of blood on the breath of a large predator. And after two days of riding and driving in Cadillac’s standard seats, the V grabs your body in the crushing embrace of something living and powerful. Only after the engine comes to life, and I begin to dawdle out of the parking lot does the V become just another Cadillac, softly woofling towards the open road. But that impression only lasts until I reach the first stop sign, wait for the briefest interruption in traffic, and leap out onto the highway.

With a gusty, hard-edged snarl, the V launches onto an unfortunately crowded two-lane highway. California’s wine country may be a favorite launch site for luxury cars, but not because it’s an easy place to find an open road. Moving at barely-legal speeds, the V feels nailed to the road; firm, flat and communicative compared to its (relatively) pedestrian brand-mates. But unsupervised press cars aren’t about barely anything. At the first unmarked turnoff, I leave the traffic behind and pull onto a narrow country road. After a few flat (but hardly flat-out) corners, the road suddenly straightens. Almost involuntarily, my right foot flattens the pedal.

When was the last time you shouted? Not to a friend across a crowded bar, or even at an athlete on television… I mean really shouted. I’m talking about opening your throat, and expelling every accumulated frustration, sorrow, anger, and joy until your vocal cords ooze wuchtig red vino. The kind of roaring bellow that leaves you shaking, giddy, drunk off a heady cocktail of emotion, adrenaline, testosterone and fear of a power you didn’t even know you had. Add some supercharger whine, and you’re starting to get an idea of what happens when you pin a CTS-V’s go-pedal to the floor. The crazy part: it isn’t even all that loud.

What happens next is almost irrelevant. It’s certainly difficult to describe without jeopardizing the unexpected goodwill shown by Cadillac’s PR team. Even as broad a term as “Autobahn speed” takes on a sinister aspect when describing activities undertaken on a shoulderless, uneven, pot-holed road used mainly by worktrucks filled with migrant laborers. Especially when you realize that pulling back on the wheel won’t send this low-flying aircraft soaring towards the clouds. The speed was simply breathless, relentless, slobbering… quite like the prose you’re reading here, in fact.

By the time I get back to the hotel, the rest of the journalists had already left. The PR team sat on the gracious terrace where I had left them, soaking up the California sun. I hand over the key fob, my brain still bouncing off its redline limiter. “Well…?” someone prompts me. “Wuchtig,” I answer. Nothing else comes to mind.

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The Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Is a Disaster! Wed, 13 Jan 2010 15:39:39 +0000


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Bob Lutz’s Traveling Old Time Niche Product Sideshow Tue, 17 Nov 2009 15:18:30 +0000 Bob in his element

Are more losses showing up on your post-bankruptcy financial statement? Are uptight Europeans and Republicans making your overseas division rescue harder than it needs to be? Is the thought of another year defined by Consumer Reports mediocrity getting you down? Good news! GM’s court jester Bob Lutz hasn’t been shipped off to chair Opel just yet, and he’s been sprinkling the autoblogosphere with his patented enthusiast-baiting niche product hints.

Did you know you’ll be able to buy a Cadillac CTS-V as either a sedan, a coupe or a wagon? When Car and Driver hear the news they “kept an external cool, but inside, we were overjoyed.” I guess I’d have been more curious how long the 550+ hp brute will be available at all, when an RWD Impala is being ruled out on fuel efficiency concerns. But there’s more wagonmania to come! Were you aware that GM is considering a wagon version of its just-announced, Opel Insignia-derived Buick Regal? How else were  they going to take on Acura’s recently-announced TSX Wagon? Plus, a GS version of the Regal (aka Insignia OPC) is being hinted at as well. A station wagon with a 335 hp-ish turbocharged V6, AWD and a manual transmission? Sounds like a forum fanboy dream come true until you realize how much it would cost once they ship them over from Germany. Sadly, Lutz reveals that the chances of a Regal wagon depends on the success of the CTS sportwagon. Never mind then. But a twin-turbo Camaro? That’s a solid “perhaps,” according to GM’s Man of Maximum. Now discuss these possible maybes ad nauseum at your forum of choice, and stop asking about financial reports, struggling overseas divisions and IPOs. Niche station wagons are what this industry is really about. Take it from Bob.

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How I Won/Lost/Failed to Understand the Cadillac CTS-V Challenge Fri, 30 Oct 2009 16:53:50 +0000 Don't Panic!

With apologies to Douglas Adams:

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not in any way be exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance.

I took my privately-owned 2009 Audi S5 to the CTS-V Challenge, intending to compete in it. This happened because every manufacturer in the industry was afraid to face the CTS-V with their own car, no matter how much we begged and pleaded.

After five practice laps, the S5’s brake pedal was sitting on the floorboards, making it impossible for me to continue in the event. To prevent me from having to sit on the sidelines watching everybody else having fun, Cadillac let me borrow the same automatic CTS-V that Bob Lutz drove. It was not a ringer, and I explain why below.

Michael Cooper is a talented driver, and I took him too lightly. Had I known how fast he was going to run, I’d have taken a few more risks on-track and turned the necessary time.

Now for our story.

The CTS-V Challenge arrived at a most inconvenient time for me, smack dab in the middle of a week in which I would learn three new tracks, drive more than three thousand miles, and fly across the country. My itinerary for the week:

Friday, Oct 23, 10PM: Drive to New Jersey Motorsports Park from Columbus, Ohio overnight to save on hotel expenses

Saturday and Sunday: Instructing for Audi Club NA on the “Lightning” course

Monday: Drive home to Ohio and trade my Boxster for my S5. Why not drive the S5 at Lightning? Simple. I only have one set of tires for the car and they need to last the rest of the year.

Tuesday: Drive to Monticello, NY

Wednesday: Drive to Rhode Island to play pinball with our august founder, Robert Farago

Thursday: CTS-V Challenge then drive home to Ohio

Friday, Oct 30: Write story for TTAC then fly to Laguna Seca

Saturday: MX-5 Cup race at Laguna Seca

Let’s get one thing straight: Robert, Eddy, and I worked very hard to try to find a car in which I could represent TTAC. We pitched everybody from Jaguar (“Show them that your car is faster”) to Honda (“We’ll run an Accord to show who’s winning the sales race in this country”) but the universal response was a cautious refusal. Robert was of the opinion that I shouldn’t participate without a chance of winning or making a serious point, and he may have been right. But I’m a racer and I will race a moped if I can get my hands on one. There was no way I was going to miss this event, period, point blank.

I arrived Thursday morning hopeful that the torrential rains of the two previous days would continue, allowing my S5 a bit of the ol’ Quattro advantage. Unhappily, it quickly became apparent that, although the track would have some standing water all day, there would be no rain in the forecast. I took my S5 out in morning practice to learn the track, hoping for the best.

Five laps later I was in the pits watching the backing plates of my brake pads smoking against the front discs. I’d narrowly missed a 125-mph slide off the end of the curving back straight, pumping a dead middle pedal and trying to catch some ABS activation on the wet track. There was no way to continue. I was done, finished, kaput.

Consider, for a moment, the relationship between TTAC and GM. From “General Motors Must Die” to the present day, there’s been no love lost. Yet the people at Cadillac offered to help me. They offered to assist with bleeding the brakes in my S5, which would not fix the issue. Then they offered to let me borrow a car. I took one of the Monticello “fleet car” CTS-Vs out and got five more practice laps before the session concluded.

During practice, I watched the other challengers. Only one of them — a 20-year-old kid who somehow had a new M3 and a flotilla of hangers-on — was matching my pace in the S5. I knew that the CTS-V was much faster than the S5, and that therefore I could take three safe laps out there in an unfamiliar car, on an unfamiliar eighteen-turn track, and get the time I needed to beat Bob and “win” this thing.

After a ninety-minute grind of television interviews, publicity shots, and other exercises seemingly designed to make sure everybody involved was nervous enough to puke, we were sent out to drive. The “run order” was the first hint of a setup. I would be driving first, on a wet track, along with two other challengers. Lutz would drive sixty minutes later, and Heinricy would drive thirty minutes after him. They would have a much drier track with plenty of rubber laid down.

I ended up being given the same CTS-V that Maximum Bob was scheduled to drive. It was loaded with Video V-Box gear — just what you’d need to coach someone to their maximum performance potential in a short period of time. But as I pulled out onto the main straight, I couldn’t help but notice that this particular V was a bit of a pig. My practice car was 2-3mph faster at the end of the back straight than the Lutzmobile. What the hell? I was expecting a ringer and got a rude surprise.

My three laps were basically 9/10ths excursions, working to extract as much time as I could without risking the car. While I was not driving in spectacular fashion, I knew that I was running consistently fast enough to beat all the non-pros out there, and I also knew that I would be handing Bob effectively a fresh car. There would be no accusations that we’d poisoned the well. With just ten laps of the track under my belt, I knew I’d never touch Heinricy, so I didn’t bother to try. I just sat back and enjoyed myself.

The enjoyment stopped when I got out of the car and looked at the timing board. Michael Cooper, the kid in the M3, had been sandbagging. His grey sedan, hunkered down with no visible gap between tire and fender, had circled the track seven-tenths of a second ahead of my best time. Fuck. I hate to lose. Should have pushed the car. Fuck.

I channeled my frustration into coaching Lawrence Ullrich from the New York Times before his run, trying to show him on the 3-D trackmap in the lobby how I would have run a 2:49. But Lawrence had an off-track incident in his first lap and never managed to put a great run together. At the end of the day, Heinricy and Link used a manual-transmission CTS-V to run three to five seconds faster than my time, on a mostly dry track. I can live with that, I suppose.

I have some regrets. I wish we’d been able to find a car. I wish I hadn’t arrogantly dismissed the other competitors out of hand and treated it like a six-figure milk run set up for my amusement. But I am grateful to Cadillac for helping me out, in the spirit of racing, when I needed a hand. I’m grateful to Monticello for letting a poverty-stricken club racer enjoy their zillion-dollar facility. And I left the event with plenty of respect for the CTS-V. Don’t get me wrong: I’d still rather have an MKS Ecoboost as a daily driver. But if you don’t think the CTS is capable of running against the fastest sedans in the world on an equal footing, you’re crazy. Whether that means anything in this economy, in this environment, in this era… that’s up to someone else to decide. I came, I saw, I conquered nearly everybody. Good enough for me.

At the end of the day...

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CTS-V Challenge Lap Times Thu, 29 Oct 2009 17:58:05 +0000

Via Cadillac’s Twitter Feed:

John Heinricy (Cadillac test driver)- Cadillac CTS-V: Top Lap: 2:46:560

Aaron Link (Cadillac development engineer)- Cadillac CTS-V: Top Lap: 2:48:902

Brian Redman- CTS-V: Top Lap: 2:49:596

Michael Cooper (Who is this guy?)- BMW M3: Top Lap: 2:50:424

Jack Baruth- Cadillac CTS-V (TTAC): Top Lap: 2:51:153

Lawrence Ulrich- CTS-V (New York Times): Top Lap: 2:53:157

Bob Lutz- Cadillac CTS-V (VP of Marketing, GM): Top Lap: 2:56:321

Michael Mainwald ( BMW M5: Top Lap: 3:05:398

Wes Siler- Mitsubishi Evo X (Jalopnik): Top Lap: 3:08:126

Chris Fairman- CTS-V: Top Lap: 3:14:292

Archan Basu- Jaguar XF: Top Lap: 3:15:670

Tom Loder- Audi RS4: Top Lap:  3:15:702

It’s official: TTAC’s top driver has beaten Bob Lutz! Check back tomorrow for Jack’s on-the-ground take on the weirdness that was.

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