V doesn't stand for vanilla in this Cadillac

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by By TOM VOELK / Special to KING5.com

NWCN.com

Posted on August 13, 2009 at 10:43 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 23 at 3:06 PM

Video: Driving Northwest: The Cadillac CTS-V

Cadillac means different things to different buyers these days. Those stuck in the past consider them land yachts with all the handling prowess of a waterbed. Athletes and rappers might think Escalade bling. Those who remember the Catera and its cartoon duck mascot or the Cimarron of the 80s should just let it go. Really. They've turned some good product the last few years. The fact that they're one of the four remaining GM core brands speaks volumes. Arguably the CTS sedan is one reason for their survival. Edgy of design, fleet of foot and sumptuous in the interior department, it's everything a modern Cadillac should be.

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Enthusiasts always want more though. Hence the CTS-V. More horsepower, more technology, more luxury. It's all here. The short take on the V? It's simply brilliant. If you need a reason to make a lot of money, GM is now producing it. Fast? You betcha. Comfortable? Surprisingly so. World class handling? Practically physics defying. None of us need a car like this but thank the Automotive Gods it made the production cut.

An expensive bargain

Actually BMW and Mercedes have more to do with the CTS-V's existence than any otherworldly deity. Respect in this world is earned through power. BMW's big club is the M5, Mercedes the C or E63 AMG. Throw in Audi S6, even the Lexus IS-F and there's a lot of bravado here. Because of their size and rear-drive setups, I figure the closest competitors are the Bimmer and Merc C63. At $67,140, this well equipped CTS-V is a bargain. Think I'm kidding? It's tough to get most of the competition out the door for under 90K, making the Cadillac the frugal choice.

And here's the great part: Owners don't give up performance to save some coin. Zero-to-60 in just under 4 seconds will warp your face and trounce most of the competition. Think that's too slow? Then you're reading this from jail. To explore the limits of this car you need race track. And let me take this moment to say that while the streaming video may look exciting, editing and camera angles make it more dramatic. Always drive responsibly. The life you save might be mine. Yes, I'm that selfish.

World-class handling? Of course

You were expecting a Coupe DeVille ride? All cars in this class have excellent chassis dynamics and Cadillac has made sure they aren't mid-pack here. The CTS-V snacks on curves and devours a driver's favorite road with ease. Unlike other high performance machines, CTS-V remains docile enough to be a daily driver. Electro-magnetically controlled shocks instantly and automatically firm up when needed, soften when not. Road feel is nicely dialed in. The V feels stout and composed around town, nimble when the speed rises.

Put speed, heroic handling and modern electronics together and a little bit of magic happens. Stabilitrak stability control can be turned off on track day but leaving it on during a few hard turns reveals that its butt saving qualities feather in nicely. Perhaps one of the most respected performance yardsticks these days is a vehicle's lap time at the Nurburgring track across the pond. Proud parent GM gladly trots out the V's 7:59:32 score, tops for a production car on street tires. My tests were done on regular roads so while I can't tell you how the Caddy feels in 10/10th mode, it's clear the car isn't twitchy or high strung when pressed into commuter mode. Superhero Brembo disc brakes at all corners stop fast enough to inflict pain when straining against the seatbelts.

Absolute power corrupts. It can also run on regular fuel.

The V's velocity comes from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that wrings out 556 horsepower. There's loads of torque, 551 lbs-ft of it at 3800 RMPs, so the throttle will push you back in the seat at nearly any speed. Choose between a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode. The autobox is bolted into my tester delivers rapid fire gear changes. Its 0-60 runs are a tick faster, yes faster than the manual version.

It's a Cadillac so while it's quiet inside the deep engine note makes itself known when the go pedal is pushed hard. It's a nice sonic balance. The sound of the V8 is musical but there's a caveat - its muscle car demeanor means that there's less refinement at idle that the others in this class. Some might call it rough; others will insist that it's part of the bad boy appeal. That's why there are test drives.

The Prius crowd will shun the V's gas mileage. My average is 16 MPG with a lot of highway miles on the clock. Not bad for this kind of power and surprisingly it prefers but doesn't demand premium fuel.

A very nice place in which to watch the world rush by

Cadillac has done a great job with the CTS cockpit. A hand-stitched instrument panel offers up a rich look, on par with Audi, a brand known for their classy interiors. Exceptionally well trimmed and full of technology that's easy to use, the V gets an A here. The user interface doesn't have a joystick or fancy name but who cares. I never once had to hit the owner's manual to figure out the 40 gig music hard drive system, pair a Bluetooth phone or operate a connected iPod. Have to leave the car during a great baseball game? The CTS will record it for you for playback later. Now that's true luxury.

Optional and infinitely adjustable Recaros seats will hug you like mom used to. At $3,400 I highly recommend them. Heated and cooled, they'll hold a driver securely with deep bolstering. The suede steering wheel runs another $300. Standard equipment includes adaptive HID headlamps, OnStar, rear parking assist, Bose sound, keyless ignition and a $2,600 gas guzzler tax.

Moving to the rear

Considering its size, the back seat space is smaller than expected. Slotting in between 3and 5 Series (or C and E Class) two adults will be fine. Three should be "fast" friends. Foot room is OK and even though the center position is raised, headroom is fine for my 5-foot 9-inch frame. There's a ski pass through but the rear seatbacks are fixed to maintain chassis rigidity. Fortunately the trunk is large; 7 packs is an excellent score in the Costco Toilet Paper Test. Space saving scissor hinges help, there are no goose arms to crush cargo when closing there.

Don't need all four doors?

There's a CTS-V coupe coming. Photos look pretty good, those who seldom need the back seat might want to wait. The Sport Wagon? Hmmm, a V version seems doubtful but hey you never know. I've always admired the sharp creases of the CTS, but keep in mind I like my design like my coffee - dark and strong. Some may be put off by the extroverted aero add-ons but let's face it, this Cadillac is about making a statement. These days there's no mistaking GM's premium brand when you see one on the road.

Adding V performance parts to a standard CTS makes it an amusement park ride stocked with an endless supply of tickets. The CTS-V puts everyone on notice that Cadillac builds world class performance cars. This is the most well-rounded temptress I've driven in a long time. Never twitchy or high strung, it delivers both Cadillac luxury and V performance. If you're shopping for a premium high performance luxury sedan, do yourself a favor and hit a Cadillac store as well as the others. Why not? You're plunking down a lot of money and the research is free. And in this case a lot of fun.

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