Cadillac once represented the unquestioned standard of the world among automakers. High fins, big V8 power, and a level of panache desired by kings made Cadillac the hottest thing in rubber loafers. Those cars caused people to stand back, wide-mouthed, as the behemoths of glitz and power glided by. For a few decades, Cadillac was railed by Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus. One drive in the 2011 CTS-V Coupe and you know Cadillac has come to reclaim the standard.
Styling of GM’s premiere brand has a rich history. Bill Mitchell’s 1938 Sixty Special came sans runningboards, looking modern with its formal trunk. Eggcrate grilles came before WWII. Post-war designs debuted tailfins, most impressively with the 1949 Coupe DeVille and 1959 Eldorado. Frank Hershey’s translation of P38 tail booms to Cadillac fenders rendered the most iconic elements since the Rolls-Royce radiator. The 1957 Brougham showed what could happen when engineers and designers threw everything they could summon at one car. It was relatively restrained, lavishly appointed, and rode on an air suspension – a direct ancestor of the CTS-V.
Cadillac’s first volley at the Europeans was the ’75 Seville – a model of restraint designed to fend off the Mercedes “E-Class”. Next came the hunch-back Seville, which was a dismal attempt to compete with anything other than the Lincoln Versailles. STS sedans of the ’90s began the transition back to respectability. Following the German-built ’97 Catera that failed to zig (or zag), came the first-generation CTS that flaunted edgy styling and was built on a great chassis, but fell short on interior refinement. The current CTS finally put Cadillac in the realm by outshooting BMW and ‘Benz on several fronts. Enter the outrageously stunning CTS-V.
If the Z06′ V8 was adequate six years ago on the first-gen CTS-V, then the Corvette ZR-1’s 6.2-litre supercharged V8 seems like the perfect companion to this edition. In Caddy guise, it generates 556-HP and 551 lb.-ft. of torque, connected to 19″ aluminum alloy rear wheels through a six-speed manual or six-speed paddle shift automatic transmission. The auto trans. is smart enough to blip the throttle going into corners when it recognizes you are in track mode. Fuel economy, as you might expect, is rated a supercar-like 12/18-MPG city/hwy.
To get the most out of the car, you really need a track like Palm Beach International Raceway, where the car brings new meaning to eating asphalt for “shits and giggles.” Put it into a corner hard, and you may well soil your undershorts. Coming out the other side, you will laugh like Boss Tweed chewing a stogie. How this edgy coupe transforms from luxury cruiser to balls-out track star is in large part enabled by GM’s MagneRide suspension system that adjusts stiffness in real time to balance on-road comfort with uber-tenacious performance. No mortal man can upset this car at any rational pace, and even at an irrational pace, the car behaves quite rationally.
CTS-Vs summon stupid amounts of performance to a top speed of 191 MPH. Somebody is going to ask why GM cut 82 ponies from the ZR-1 powertrain. To which I reply, “Are you bloody kidding?” A CTS-V Coupe runs 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds – 0.3s slower than the highest-performance GM vehicle of all time. You need more? That’s not enough? Baby, this Caddy don’t have wings. Trust me, it’s plenty to bomb the aforementioned tighties. I drove it hard enough on the track for smoke to waft off the plate-sized Brembo discs after two laps, rocked my head to dizziness through a mid-straight chicane, and it was ready for more.
Like Cary Grant copulating with Lady Gaga, the CTS-V’s style is debonair and more than a little naughty. Stacked headlamps, wire mesh grille, sculpted fenders, and aggressive fins are both classic and spiritually nasty. Interiors benefit from stitched leather on the dash and doors, piano black finish on the center console, Bose audio, navigation, Bluetooth, and the whole toy box. Grip the available suede steering wheel. Contrasting color buckets grip your ribs on the track and are long-distance supportive. You can drive this car to the track, then to California and back. From the sidelines, it just slips by like a fireball of grace and gratification.
This is the first Cadillac to not only take on ‘Benz and BMW, but to do it at the levels of AMG and M. V may become my favorite letter, carrying with it a heritage of V8 performance, exquisite style, and a swagger that could only come from the studios of Bill Mitchell, Frank Hershey, or CTS designer Clay Dean. Time to shit. Time to giggle. Expect to pay at least $63,465 for the privilege of driving the new standard of the world.