By Grant Davis
“I didn’t know they made stealth fighter jets that were street legal.” That was my neighbor’s comment when I parked the distinctively-shaped $69,000, 556-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter, V8-powered, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe in my driveway. And if the stealth fighter is the pinnacle of America’s technological firepower in the air, I’ll take my neighbor’s observation as a worthy compliment to this luxury street screamer. Like the new Chevy Camaro, recent Ford Mustang GT and Dodge Challenger, this Cadillac makes you damn proud to be an American. Why? Because the CTS-V kicks the world’s ass with class and that’s something American cars didn’t do for a long, long time.
I’m not sure what Cadillac means by denoting this spec as the “V” model, but after a week of smirking my way around town, I think the V stand for “Vicious.” You have to be committed to loving the hard, angular and vicious lines on this baby. Or put another way, you’ve got to be a red-blooded American who relishes giving the drones in their German luxoboxes the middle finger in a big way. To help you do it, the massive dual-exhaust pipes centered under the rear end look like they’re going to spit fire once the supercharger kicks in the afterburners and you scream your way past nearly every drone on the road.
Cadillac’s CTS sedan from a few years ago reinvented the brand as a viable alternative to the German sports sedans from BMW and Audi, and GM made sure to amp up the new CTS Coupe’s style so no one confused the Caddy with anything else. With the “V” series spec, Cadillac retro-fitted the biggest V8 it could grab from Corvette, dropped it into the new Coupe body, added a burly 6-speed transmission to handle a head-snapping 551-pound feet of torque, slapped pizza-sized Bembo brakes inside the aluminum wheels to slow the beast from its reported top speed of 191 mph, and stretched 19-inch high-performance Michelin tires around said wheels to actually, you know, hold the thing on the ground. Another note that confirms that this is no classic Caddy — 10-way adjustable Recaro high-performance seats, a $3,400 option, hold the driver’s and passenger’s butts in place and do a good job enabling the driver to push the car to its limits while pushing the passenger closer to puking all over the leather and lacquered black dash.
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Speaking of puking all over the interior, Cadillac has that issue covered with an automatic cabin odor filter. Standard, of course. And the standard features keep on going with heated and cooled seats for both front passengers, one of the more useful rearview camera angles I’ve tested, HID headlights that swivel in the direction you turn the wheel. I had experienced this on other vehicles, but never was the effect this dramatically effective. While the rear seats are nothing special, the trunk is refreshingly large. It is perfectly sized to hold golf clubs and enough gear for a transcontinental road-trip – that is if you want to go slow and take more than two days to do it. Another sweet feature, the real-time traffic status on the navigation system – green dots mean no traffic; red dots mean stop-and-go – were complimented by a soothing female voice that would alert me to accidents a mile or so ahead so I could make an informed decision about pulling off the freeway or not. Imagine that: an American car that reduces frustration.
Did we mention the 556-HP V8?
Enough about the luxury side of the CTS-V Coupe. Let’s get real here. No one’s buying this thing for its suede steering wheel. People buy this for GM’s Godzilla of an engine. And what an engine. I snapped on the CTS-V in a parking garage, and I swear to God, I could feel the floor shake under the rumble of the engine. I call this the Harley-Davidson approach to engine sound, a distinctly American phenomenon, and damn if it doesn’t make gunning around the corners of a confined parking garage with the windows down fun.
What’s also fun? Gunning the CTS-V Coupe around corners as if it’s a car that’s half its size and weight. On my usual winding mountain test drive, the hefty Caddy surprised me with its tight and taut handling. I expected a good deal more squealing of the tires. Yet because this is a luxury car, I also didn’t come out of the workout with my kidneys splattered against the insides of my guts, although my neck was a little sore from the near 1-g forces the car is capable of handling. The engine is tuned to maximize thrust out of corners and take advantage of its 3.9-second, 0-60 speed. By comparison, that time’s in line with a top-of-the-line Vette, a fact that drives Vette owners nuts with envy.
Annoying little stuff AKA nothing’s perfect
This isn’t to say the CTS-V Coupe is the ideal car. My gas mileage for the week was 16 mpg, which I understand is actually higher than the average tester’s results. The rear seats are worthless for anyone taller than 5 feet and still a royal pain in the ass for even small kids to climb in and out. The two massive doors make tight parking spaces problematic; you will ding people’s cars with those things. And God help you if you’re parked on a steep incline and you have to push the door uphill to open it. It’s going to take muscle. Then there’s the fact that the doors are opened with an electronic button that unlatches the door with a pop. That’s cool, until you realize that there’s a manual override lever in the floor to open the door if and when the battery dies or you get hit by lightning and the wiring gets toasted to oblivion. To me that was a bit unnerving.
Of course, one could argue that the “ejector” lever adds to the stealth fighter sensibility. It’s Caddy’s version of an ejector seat lever. How cool is that?