Story and photographs by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/NewsCenter/NewsCenterDetails.aspx?mmysid=3874
The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V is a competent and classy sedan that holds water against the best of its German competitors but will stick in our heads because of its brute “wow”-inducing acceleration. The car just has power in droves, hindered only by the automatic transmission necessary gear changes and its split second indecisiveness on exactly what gear to choose under part-to-full throttle changes. It is neck-snapping head-rush-generating thrill ride with gobs of flat always-there force that just never relents until you back down from the accelerator. This engine isn’t simply a moderately powerful V-8 slipped under the Cadillac’s hood. It is a ZR1-derived 556-hp motor that provides a deep V-8 burble with a smidgen of supercharger whine at higher revs and was designed for one thing: punch its occupants in the head and lower back as it pushes them to the upper echelons of the speedometer.
Speaking of the speedometer, despite sitting front and center and having the more spacious middle of three pods all to itself, it felt small and hard to read on anything but mundane driving. It doesn’t really matter because it is best to keep your eyes on the large extremely large number that sits on the small screen perfectly located under the rpm gauge in the first pod. That number combined with the revs will give you a good idea of how fast you are going in more spirited driving. More importantly, it will allow you to pop off the necessary gear changes with the F1-style paddles located on the back of the steering wheel when in the six-speed automatic’s manual mode. Move too quick and you won’t get the most power out of your run; move too slow and you will slam into the rev-limiter because of how quickly the engine spools, even at higher rpms. That rpm gauge comes with a nice line of red glowing dots that follow the needle in its half circle rotation and help you quickly determine how far before the next gear change without analyzing the pod.
The ride in the CTS-V is tight—enhanced by the way the seats suck you in and hold you snug like a mom’s bear hug after her child’s first stint at summer camp—and solid: no shakes, shimmers, or unnecessary rattles. The car is built extremely well. It corners flat with a touch of understeer and with tons of tenacious grip that even the raw power of this motor has a hard time breaking. The small-diameter, microfiber-covered steering wheel is very low in telepathy and provides little feedback when the Magntic Ride Control Suspension system is in touring mode. In fact, it is more disconnected than it probably should be, with some yacht-like feelings where the movement of the steering wheel doesn’t always cause the reaction you think it should. The Stabilitrak system is there to provide the small nudges that boost confidence but is never intrusive and never saps the power or life out of the car or drive. Immense stopping power is provide by the car’s huge 15-inch rotors up front and 14.7-inch rotors at the rear.
The inside of the CTS-V can be summed up in one word: shiny. It gave our test car an air of cheapness that should not be in a car that starts at $61,545. The dashboard and center console are tooled towards both the driver and front passenger (unlike a lot of vehicles that give preference of the controls to the driver) and our tester had glossy, easily scratched black plastic instead of wood inlays (although some wood could be found on the door). To add even more glare in a bright day, polished aluminum trim encircles each zone of the dashboard. Like the angular exterior, the interior too has some sharp edges. Although these provide the car with its trademark stand-out-in-a-pack looks, the angles can be do right painful, literally. Hit the crease in the trunk lid or the sharp angle at the edge of the dashboard and you will damn the designer. The optional Recaro seats are absolutely phenomenal; even giving us the desire to rip them out and use them as desk chairs afterwards. They follow the angle motif, which gives them a really cool look, but are still soft and comfortable with tons of lumbar support and, with ventilation for both seats in the front, you and your co-pilot never have to worry about sweaty backs or cold butts. A large touchscreen jets up from the center of the dashboard and provides easy and somewhat intuitive access to all the car’s features. Knobs, dials, and buttons sit as backup underneath the screen for any changes that need to be made on the fly. Storage is best left for the trunk since there is not much space in the center console, in the door pockets, or the glove box. The trunk is deep (really, really deep) but not super tall. With the long shelf that extends out over the trunk because of the sloping rear glass, the opening is big but problems could arise where something would be able to fit in the trunk if you could just get it in. In fact the trunk is so deep we wondered if some of it should have been sacrificed to provide more space in the rear. The rear seats, although doable, are a bit tight for taller adults. The sill sits high so a couple high knees will get you in, which is fitting because you will probably have to sit with your knees high as well.
In all, the CTS-V is a real player in the mid-size luxury performance sedan market. It has the right power, the right build quality, the right performance, the right size, and the right amount of luxury to easily persuade someone from its German competitors. The M5 is currently on hiatus as we wait for a new version with a new engine to debut. The E63 is more powerful but more expensive. We would recommend driving all three before any purchasing decision is made. The only place the CTS-V is really lacking is some of the finishing touches feel a bit cheap for this market segment, but one quick jaunt down a curvy road with a long straight at the end should cure all that ails you.