2013 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe - Thor's Hammer Of Supercars
In 1932, Ford simply blew the minds of American consumers by offering a low cost flathead V8 with a shocking 65 horsepower. This so impressed Clyde Barrow that he sent a personal letter to Henry Ford, thanking him for the getaway prowess of the V8 Ford.
Fast forward to 2013, and consumer power expectations have grown significantly. Today, 500 SAE net horsepower ratings are commonplace, 400 horsepower is snooze-worthy, and several manufacturers are providing 650 plus. Clyde Barrow is surely tossing in his grave, wishing for a go in a Fed-dusting 662 horsepower Mustang GT500. If 65 horsepower warranted a letter to Henry Ford, the Shelby would have Barrow shoveling Bill Ford's driveway and cleaning his gutters.
At Gyrhead & Sons, we're not jaded - we usually can find something to love about just about any internal combustion machine, regardless of horsepower ratings. So, the concept of a 556 horsepower Cadillac CTS-V pretty much blows our mind. Roll that slowly around in your head a bit; A-five-hundred-and-fifty-six-horsepower Cadillac.
Looking at Caddy through a heritage lens - 556 horsepower begins to makes sense. Cadillac was and remains a premier American car, traditionally a paragon of quality, performance, innovation and technology. In 2013, it seems proper that Cadillac provide cars with power and performance well above the statistical mean.
Cadillac's CTS-V made its debut in 2004, equipped with a 400 horsepower 5.7 liter LS6 engine, 6 speed Tremec manual transmission, Brembo four-piston brakes and sport tuned suspension. It was a spectacular performer, but not without warts. Poor interior design, spotty quality and chronic wheel hop kept the first CTS-V from ascending to the RWD sports sedan elite. It did accomplish something magical - putting Cadillac prominently on the enthusiast's radar screen. We've been pining for a CTS-V ever since.
Today, we drove a 2013 CTS-V coupe, and brother it was worth the wait - every lovin' minute of it. Life changes when you buckle into the V coupe. You're Mike Tyson, Dave Grohl, and Chuck Yeager. Tougher, cooler and faster than you've ever been before. It feels pretty good, damned good actually.
There's the looks. In Black Diamond Tricoat, with optional Satin Graphite 19" rims, the CTS-V looks like a land-based F-111 Stealth fighter bomber - all dark, evil and edgy. It is not a classically beautiful car, but is it ever purposeful and imposing. It is unmistakably Cadillac and nothing on the road today looks remotely like it.
The CTS-V interior surrounds you like a cockpit - clear analog gauges up front, snug, supportive Recaro leather bucket seats, Alcantara steering wheel/shifter and high door beltline. You don't sit in the CTS-V as much as you integrate into the very machine. For a supercar with such monumental performance capabilities, you want the driving act to carry appropriate gravitas. It wouldn't be proper for this car to have a bench seat and airy cabin that encouraged the driver to slump about casually like a Checker cab driver.
Then there is the 6.2 litre Supercharged LSA engine, now shared with the Camaro ZL-1. The LSA differs slightly from the 638 BHP supercharged LS9 in the Corvette ZR-1 (smaller displacement supercharger, cast pistons, slightly lower compression and wet sump oiling.) Push the starter button, close your eyes and be transported back to Talladega, circa 1969. You're Cale Yarborough sitting on the grid, 800 horsepower of NASCAR 427 under your right foot. Snarling, roaring, raising the hairs on your arms. Only the LSA is more refined, more harmonious. Like the mufflers are filled with Opus1 and tailpipes puffing through the finest baritone sax. Just sit and blip the throttle - it is good, so very, very good.
Slip the V into gear you're impressed by the drama free way by which it steps off from the curb. Smooth and responsive with no blower noise, no bucking, no stumbling. The throttle response is so ferocious and linear off idle that you immediately realize that the CTS-V can run, and wants to run.
The ride is firm, never stiff or punishing. Credit the magnetic ride control shocks. Developed by GM Delphi and now licensed to a variety of manufacturers (including Ferrari,) these shocks react to changing road conditions in nanoseconds, providing firmness on smooth roads and compliance when the surface gets bumpy.
The steering in the V might just be among the world's best - precise, perfectly boosted and with awesome road feel.
Don't be fooled by the Cadillac moniker - the CTS-V is far from a one-dimensional musclecar. Its been around Germany's famed Nurburgring in under 8 minutes. It also turned a 3.04.0 lap around Virginia International Raceway in Car & Driver magazine's "Lightning Lap" - faster than blue chip performers like the Mercedes CLS63 AMG, Audi RS5 and BMW M3/M5/M6.
At the traffic light, a straightway looms ahead - 1/2 mile of arrow straight, smooth and perfectly empty pavement. The GM representative begins to explain the 6.2 litre engine and 556 horsepower. Forget the marketing pitch, I'm seeking first hand experience and a beg for forgiveness strategy.
Squeezing the accelerator to the floor, the LSA responds instantly. The rear end squats slightly, momentarily steps out sideways and the tires fight hard for traction. Wheelspin is barely held in check by the all speed traction control that is blinking frantically on the dash display up to 50 MPH. 80 MPH come up in seconds, the V ripping off lightning fast gear changes and pulling hard - massive center exit exhaust pipes wailing out into the cold afternoon. "Sir, these are public roads, GM doesn't condone exceeding the legal limits" says the rep. I back out, and squeeze the brake pedal - it's all good.
There are precious few automotive analogies to describe the way the CTS-V feels underfoot. The closest parallels we can draw are motorcycle related; an open class 2 stroke motocrosser, or Suzuki Hayabusa. Smooth, instantaneous, explosive, with capabilities extending far beyond your comfort zone.
I've often wondered what a carrier launch feels like in an F-18 Hornet. I'd imagine it feels a bit like the CTS-V. I've driven 11 second cars, and the V feels like an 11 second car. An 11 second Cadillac that also handles, and stops. There's only one thing to say. "Holy crap." I'm sure the GM rep hears that a lot.
Our test scores show that as a driver's car, the CTS-V is practically without peer. Cramped rear seat quarters, difficult rear egress and low fuel economy hurt the family attribute scores - but if family duties are your priority, Cadillac is happy to supply you a CTS-V sedan or wagon. And you can get all V models in your choice of automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Wow!
The CTS and ATS are proof positive that Cadillac is once again serious about staying in the game and competing for customers, not on the basis of dewey eyed nostalgia, but product excellence.
The CTS-V is every bit as good as I hoped, and I'll be dreaming of it tonight.
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