Super sport-sedans might just be perfect cars for gearheads and speed-freaks who juggle a family, or need a bit more space for friends, work, or whatever. Generally wolves in sheep clothing, BMW's M5, Mercedes-Benz's E-Class AMG, and Audi's RS6, tell little more externally than slightly different fascia and badges. These cars provoke your inner demons while allowing you to maintain a shiny, perfect "hidey-ho, good neighbor" façade. Don't worry, your secret's safe with me.
The German sedans mentioned above were the only worthwhile games in town; that was until 2004, when GM stepped up to the plate with its first contender, the CTS-V. Utilizing the 400-horsepower V8 harnessed under the hood of the top C5-generation Z06 Corvette, the CTS-V checked all of the performance boxes. Brembo brakes, 18x8.5-inch wheels, Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, track tuned suspension, and it became the first Cadillac in almost 20 years to be equipped with a manual transmission. Despite checking all the right boxes, quality issues plagued the first generation CTS-V, and sales numbers paled in comparison to its German rivals.2010 Cadillac CTS-V" align="right" border="0" height="220" hspace="4" vspace="4" width="293">
Thankfully that wasn't the end of the CTS-V story.
In 2009, Cadillac introduced an all-new CTS-V, and not only are all the right boxes checked, the checks are as large and dark as possible. Borrowing quite a bit from the new supercar eating Corvette ZR1, the CTS-V is poised to be the king of the super sport-sedan segment. Imagine my delight then, when a Radiant Silver 2010 example rolled into our stable.
Remember my "wolf in sheep's clothing" comment? Yeah, the CTS-V is more like a wolf wearing a sheep's costume that's 2 sizes too small. The rippling hood bulge, air-gobbling front fascia, and burly 19" alloys do little to hide the beast within this CTS. So much so, that the V badges on the doors and trunk almost look redundant. No hiding this from the neighbor kids, they'll either stare in amazement or run home crying wolf when you rumble home. More like "Hidey-ho, good neighbor...now get the &%*# out of my way."
Inside, the theme turns to luxury. Chrome rings around the gauges and vents, optional "midnight sapele wood trim," ebony black plastic, "leather" stitched dash, suede seat inserts and steering wheel, all come together for a busy interior that feels like it's trying too hard. The suede steering wheel is brilliant, like holding hands with your first high school crush, but the ebony black plastic in our tester already had fine scratches all over, and with only 2,900 miles on the odo, we can only imagine what the plastic will look like after 40,000 miles.
When equipped with the optional Recaro high performance seats, adjustable thigh and back bolsters assure that a perfect cocoon of performance solitude is but a few adjustments away...an option Cadillac should make standard on the V. Front leg room is ample, and even when adjusted for my 6'4" frame, there was still plenty of room behind the front seat for back seat passengers. Trunk space was adequate, with plenty of room for Sunday Costco runs.
2010 Cadillac CTS-V" width="293" height="220" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="4" />Aside from the pimp-my-ride-slick raising and lowering nav screen, the dash was quite confusing. There are far too many buttons, all with the same shape. Even after a week with the car, we were still hunting for simple things like changing the radio station, or moving around the navigation system. The Bluetooth pairing process was even more infuriating. Generally, I can pair my phone without consulting the manual, but with the CTS, the manual was my best friend. When equipped with navigation, as all CTS-Vs are, the Bluetooth pairing process is only completed with aural prompts, which would be fine...if it worked. I was able to get my phone paired (I think), but when it came to making a call, the system somehow repeatedly misinterpreted my "Dial" command as "help." After 20 minutes of yelling "DIAL" in as many different tones and inflections I could think of, I just gave up trying to make my call. The Camaro we had last week was much simpler, and cost a third of the price.
The Bose 5.1 10-speaker audio system helped ease my frustration though, as it sounds absolutely stunning. On XM, FM, CD, or AUX, the sound system was fantastic at converting the stereo source to surround. Very few systems can complete this process accurately. Overall, there are certainly positives and negatives with the interior, but it's all merely a trace of memory as soon as you twist the ignition knob.
Like being scolded by Mom when stealing a cookie from the cookie jar, the V is no passive creature. The engine barks and settles down to a gentle burble while gauges dance, lights flash and the Cadillac logo whizzes around on the extended navigation screen. The start-up sequence is theatrical to say the least. With 556 horsepower awaiting the beck and call of my size 13 Pumas, the time to drive is now.
Heavy on the throttle, the CTS-V roars with sounds that Zeus sets as his ringtone, while a relentless monsoon of torque makes your vision blur when 60 mph passes in 3.9 seconds. I'm not sure it's an internal combustion engine under the hood, or an unstable nuclear reactor. The spec sheet reveals however, a 556-horswpower 6.2-liter V8 based off the herculean 638-horsepower, LS9 V8 found in the Corvette ZR1. Merging on the highway incites lunatic giggles as the spiky-haired guy you just passed in a similarly priced M3 picks his jaw up off the floor.
Settling in at cruising speed, the CTS-V quickly shows its colors as an excellent grand tourer. The suspension, featuring magnetic ride control, offers both normal and sport mode. Gliding in normal mode offers a ride that's firm yet supple, erasing any and all memories of grandpa's cherry '77 Eldorado with boat-o-matic suspension. The only gripe that crept up was that at 60 mph, the exhaust note emits a headache-inducing resonance throughout the whole cabin. After 30 minutes of 60 mph traffic, I really wished Zeus' phone could be switched to silent mode. It can be, though--if the state law and traffic permits, 70 mph reduces the tone to a pleasant, soft rumble.
If you thought the freeway was thrilling, exiting can get downright raunchy. Tickle the suspension button into sport mode, and the ride firms up, ready to play at ten-tenths. Gripping the perfectly-sized, seductive suede steering wheel provides you with more feedback than you've ever felt from a GM vehicle as you push through turns. With laser precision in every caress, you feel the front tires as if they were your own hands while the sticky 19" Michelin Pilot Sports effortlessly claw to heed your command. Sport mode results in very flat cornering, absorbing bumps and undulations in the pavement with ease. Never does the car feel unsettled, unsure, or ambiguous. This is truly a supercar, with ample room for 4.
While other manufacturers play with acronym-happy, dual-clutch automated manual transmissions, Cadillac chooses instead to refine the tried-and-true conventional torque converter automatic. As with the Camaro, the optional 6-speed automatic in the CTS-V can be summed in one word: excellent. Somehow, the transmission always knows what gear you want to be in. It does usually take two downshifts to hit the right gear for optimal acceleration, but those shifts are fast and purposeful. It's still not automated manual fast, but fast nonetheless.
Some buyers may find the performance of the CTS-V a bit raw and unrefined for a $68,445 (as-tested) sport-lux sedan. But, for the driving enthusiast who prefers performance over plush, it's hard to find a better alternative. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi have been building their respective sport sedans for years, every iteration a bit more luxurious than the last. The Cadillac stands out for not compromising sport for luxury, at a significant price advantage to the competition.
That said, the CTS-V might be a tough case for some. To truly love the CTS-V everyday, you need to have a hankering for a true 4-door super sports car with a dash of luxury. At the end of the day, however, the CTS-V might be the most practical, potent passenger vehicle you can buy. And starting at $60,720, it's a relative steal.
Photos by Chris Allen
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