The Truth About Cars » monticello The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +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 » monticello 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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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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