2011 Cadillac CTS-V: Release Your Inner Sheen

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Those heavy-breathing ’60s muscle cars? Not all that muscular, really. Not compared with what you can get now, anyhow.

This hit me as soon as I read the spec sheet of the Caddy CTS-V (“v” for very fast) that I test drove this week. This Cadillac – this wagon – is packing more heat than the most ferocious and fierce of 1960s muscle cars.

Here’s a number for you to chew: 556 hp.

Roll that around in your head a little bit and then consider the 1969 Yenko Super Camaro – if not the meanest then certainly one of the top two or three meanest ’60s-era muscle cars ever built. Its 427 cubic inch big-block V-8 delivered a reported 450 (gross) hp. “Gross” as in rated under the old system – with the engine not even in the car and (typically) tweaked and tuned to deliver more power than a standard production version. A ringer, in other words.

The Caddy’s supercharged 6.2 liter monster motor makes 100 hp more than the Yenko Super Camaro’s 427 – net. For-real horsepower. Engine in the car, installed accessories, full production exhaust and factory tune.

It’s also 50 more hp than the current $85k BMW M5′s V-10. And 38 more than the $87k Benz E63 AMG.

Do you begin to see? This, truly, is the Caddy that zigs!


WHAT IT IS

The CTS-V is an ultra-performance version of the mid-sized Cadillac CTS luxury-sport sedan. Instead of a powerful V-6 it comes equipped with a super-powerful (and supercharged) V-8, derived from the Corvette ZR1.

It’s available in three bodystyles – coupe, sedan and sportwagon – and canbe ordered with either a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission or six-speed automatic transmission with multiple modes, including driver-selectable manual control of gear changes. All versions are rear wheel drive.

All are also priced the same at $62,630 to start.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2011

The sportwagon body is a new addition for 2011, joining the coupe and sedan versions of the CTS-V

WHAT’S GOOD

Ferally ferocious, but doesn’t flash it.

A 12 second supercar that’s as everyday drivable as a 16 second Taurus.

Available manual gearbox , which you can’t get at all in the E63 and which is much more enjoyable than the M5′s technically sophisticated but robotic and over-teched SMG automated manual.

Take a first-class month-long world vacation with the $23-$25k you just saved by not buying a Benz E63AMG or BMW M5.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

This is a car that can get you into serious trouble seriously quickly.

Countermeasures – top-line radar detector/jammer, police scanner and a 24-hour access to a top flight traffic lawyer really ought to be included with the package.

Gas-Hoover appetite – but that’s the nature of the beast.

UNDER THE HOOD

Remember the original Pontiac GTO? John deLorean had this idea…. take a mid-sized Tempest and stuff the big 389 V-8 used in Pontiac’s full-size cars into the thing. Release upon an unsuspecting public – and enjoy the fun! Same concept here, just differently executed. The 3.6 liter V-6 that otherwise comes standard in the normal CTS is pulled in favor of a supercharged 6.2 liter V-8 borrowed from the Corvette ZR-1. Yes, it’s “detuned” some from the Corvette’s almost-unimaginable 638 hp, but 556 hp is still more than most people (who aren’t race car drivers) can imagine … and it’s also more that almost any other car on the road and that includes the BMW M5 (5 liter V-10, 500 hp) and the Mercedes-Benz E638 AMG (6.2 liter V-8, 518 hp).

And it’s enough to send the CTS-V down the quarter-mile in an asphalt-wrinkling, vertebrae-adjusting 12.6 seconds.

How quick is that? The 1973 SD-455 Trans-Am was one of the most powerful and quickest muscle cars ever built. The CTS-V is much quicker – and much, much faster.

The SD was a low 13 second car in the 1/4 mile on a good day – and it topped out around 135 MPH; the CTS will do that in fourth gear – with two more gears to go.

It also manages not-bad gas mileage – for a supercar: 14 city, 19 highway. There’s still a $1,300 Gas Guzzler tax added to the sticker price, though.

You want to play, you’ve gotta pay.

ON THE ROAD

We take a lot of things for granted, like indoor plumbing – and a 556 hp car that as docile as a four-cylinder Camry… until you give it some gas.

That old story from the ’60s about the passenger in a hot muscle car trying to grab a $20 bill off the dash but not being able to because the car accelerated so forcefully? In the CTS-V, it’s not just a story. It’s reality. This car is brutally quick. It’s so quick – and so fast – that it is practically impossible to discover just exactly how quick and exactly how fast it really is without risking a really, really big ticket. No, without risking being on the news tonight.

Owning a CTS-V must be a lot like having Charlie Sheen for your best friend. You are going to have some wild times. But there may be consequences for those wild times, too.

On the other hand, the CTS-V can be responsible. You don’t have to drive it like a ’69 Yenko Super Camaro. It idles dead calm smoothly. The hydraulically assisted clutch is light and never tiring. That monster V-8 is actually quiet – until you unleash it. Even the supercharger sitting between the cylinder banks doesn’t give off that telltale turbine whining sound … until you wind the thing up and of course then you want to hear it. (Cadillac also gives you a boost gauge to monitor the rising pressure.)

My ’76 Trans-Am has a 7.5 liter, 455 cubic inch V-8 that makes all kinds of noise. It shakes, it rattles. And it has probably 200 fewer hp than this Cadillac wagon does. The CTS-V could do to my old muscle car what that Russian did to Apollo Creed in Rocky IV.

And my old muscle car does not have climate control, a pop-up LCD display with GPS, 10-speaker Bose concert-hall audio (that you can hear over the engine, too) with music storage hard drive – or even good (let alone great) brakes and the ability to corner like a 911.

The CTS-V has (and can do) all those things.

AT THE CURB

The new wagon bodystyle gives the CTS-V another leg-up over similar high-end haulers like the BMW M5 and Benz E63 AMG. No two legs up – because while the M5 and the E63 are currently offered only in sedan form, the CTS-V can be ordered as a sedan or a coupe or a wagon. Take your pick

All are priced the same, too – an unusual strategy.

The wagon layout also gives the CTS-V owner literally four times the cargo space (58 cubic feet) he’d otherwise have had he bought a BMW M5 sedan (14 cubic feet) and more than three times the space for Stuff he’d have if he’d bought a Benz E63 AMG.

The other thing you get with the CTS-V is stealth.

“Car people” know what a CTS-V is – and can do. Normal people don’t. Both my father-in-law and wife thought the CTS-V was a nice-looking upscale wagon. They had no idea what it was capable of. This is a beautiful thing for people who actually intend to use a car such as this. The other day I was waiting at a red light. Also waiting at the light was a late-’70s era Corvette, bright red. All eyes – including the eyes of any cop who happened to be nearby – focused on the Corvette. But that Corvette didn’t have even half the power of the CTS-V I was discreetly sitting in. Except for a few telltales such as the massive Brembo – and neon yellow powder-coated – brake calipers, nothing radiated Speed Demon to the surrounding world.

And every cop in town.

I have driven many Corvettes and love (and respect) Corvettes but driving Corvettes is a nerve-racking experience because it is impossible not to be noticed and not just by the people you’d like to be noticed by. Even if you have a radar detector and other countermeasures, it’s just not pleasant to be closely watched by every cop even when you’re doing exactly the speed limit – and the plain truth is that if a cop is trying to decide which car out of a pack of cars all going the same speed he’s going to go after, the odds are very good he’ll be choosing your Corvette, not that metallic gray wagon in the other lane… .

It’s a rope-a-dope on wheels. Don’t let them know what you’ve got until you’re ready – and it’s already too late for them to do anything about it.

THE REST

So, what’s the catch? Is there any reason why the CTS-V costs $23k less than an M5 and $25k less than an E63? Honestly, not really.

I did notice a few very minor things. For example, the underside of the CTS-V’s hood was not clear-coated and as shiny as the fenders or hood and other exterior body panels – whereas in Benzes ad BMWs (and not just Ms and AMGs) pretty much every visible surface is beautifully finished, including the undersides of the hood and inner door jambs. Is it a big deal? Not to me.

Not for $23-$25k less, either.

Same same for other very small things such as the slightly Chevy-looking plastic trims bits you find here and there, if you really look for them – and look closely at them. The center console cupholders for, example. Also, the backseat riders don’t get their own separate AC/heater controls or any digital toys to play with.

Very, very minor stuff – especially given what this car’s primary mission is and what it can do to other cars like it with a similar primary mission.

The only objective gripe I could come up with was that it can be a little awkward to close the doors once you’re cinched into those snug-fitting Recaro sport buckets. My arms are long, but boy, those doors open wide. And there’s no grab handle, just the lip of the side storage compartment.

And watch it in parking lots; those doors can get away from you – and ding the car next to you.

Other than? What’s not to like?

Seriously.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This car’s a stone-cold killer – and a steal. Just remember to keep your Inner Sheen in check…. .

Throw it in the Woods?

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  3 comments for “2011 Cadillac CTS-V: Release Your Inner Sheen

  1. SojournerMoon
    May 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

    I’ve always had a deep respect for the relatively new V-Series by Cadillac. The CTS-V is still on my wish list despite TARP. However, I’ve never gone very far down the path of seriously considering one because, quite frankly, I don’t feel I’m old enough to drive one. I’m afraid I might get carded, “sorry, sir, you must be at least 50 to drive this.” Not as bad as Buick, mind you, but bad.

    This, combined with the relatively low profile, non-attention grabbing styling (excepting the coupe), means that most people I see driving V-Caddies are what you so kindly refer to as “clovers.”

    Now I don’t mean to say that no one over 50 can appreciate these sorts of cars or knows how to handle them or drive them appropriately. I know, for example, that Bob Bondurant was driving a black first gen CTS-V about 4-5 years ago. That is perhaps the perfect target for this sort of car. That man can DRIVE.

    Anyway, there’s something unholy about seeing an 80 year old blue hair doing 55mph in a 70 zone in the left lane of traffic, holding up a half-mile of cars behind her as she drives a 500+ hp supercar. It’s one thing if she’s driving a Lincoln Town Car or a Chrysler POS with cloth top. It’s another entirely to finally pass by one of these folks driving one of the fastest sedans on the road and realize the only reason they bought the V series was because it was the most expensive model and they thought that meant it was the most luxurious.

    Cadillac, for all its improvements in the past decade, has an image problem. When people think of BMW, “The Ultimate Driving Machine” comes to mind. Mercedes and Audi have a lot more cachet, too, both in performance AND luxury. Heck, even Lexus is considered superior to Cadillac by most folks I know of around my age or younger. When people look at a Cadillac, they think “hearse.” Even if the V-series can wake the dead, only the nearly so are even considering them.

    • dom
      May 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness.

      If I had the means to get this unit I would do it! Of age or not..

    • May 30, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      I really doubt the “blue hairs” – or the Clovers – will be the ones driving this car! In fact, Cadillacs across the board are no longer Old People Mobiles. They don’t look it; they don’t drive like it – and they’re not being driven by that crowd, either.

      Buick and Lexus have become the OF’s luxury/status car of choice.

      Lincoln, too.

      As far as the car itself: This thing is better than either the M5 or the E63 AMG. More power, for one. For two, a real manual transmission – and one you get to shift for yourself, too.

      The M5 is a great car but the SMG gearbox eats the Big One. The Benz is polished – and pulls like a freight train of death. But it’s $25,000 more and that’s just obnoxious, given it’s got less power and no manual transmission.

      Just my 50 cents….

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