Executive wheels: 2010 Cadillac CTS-V

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So I drove the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V for a week, and I was wowed when I first got in it, wowed even more as the week wore on, and extremely disappointed when they came to take it away. Maybe they won’t show up. Maybe they’ll forget that I had the car. Maybe pigs will fly.

No one would ever forget where they had stashed this car. The surprising thing was that they didn’t come back for it sooner.

Then I looked all over the Cadillac website, and other sources on the web, trying to discover what the “V” stood for. Cadillac has two cars in what it calls the “V” Series – this CTS-V and the XLR-V, which it had in the 2009 model year as a two-seat roadster with a 443 hp Northstar engine – and basically it says the series features automobiles with supercharged V8 engines. No mention what the “V” means. I found an obscure review somewhere on the web that said that this car is a “variant” of the CTS model of Cadillac, so perhaps “V” stands for variant. Maybe.

I have decided that it stands for “Velocity.” The second-generation CTS-V, now two models years old, is the fastest production sedan on the planet, so velocity seems appropriate. The company says it will do 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, and a GM performance engineer set an all-time lap record on the famous Nurburgring test track in German of 7 minutes, 59.32 seconds. It beat all competitors from Mercedes, BMS and Audi.

I didn’t take it on the test track, but I can attest that it is fast. It sounds fast. It goes like a bat out of hell, and it is absolutely fun to drive.

While there are many things that contribute to its performance, the heart of it is a 6.2-liter V8 engine putting out some 556 horsepower. This is an engine borrowed from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, also a GM product, however the Corvette features a larger supercharger and puts out an unbelievable 634 hp. It’s a good thing Cadillac decided to go with a smaller Eaton supercharger because if this thing had more power they’d have to change the nameplate to Lear, and it would only be legal to operate it on airport runways.

Over the years, I have driven just about every regular production car available in the U.S. market, and I have learned that there are tell-tale characteristics that define the cars as American-made, European-made, Japanese-made and Korean-made, although the Koreans (Kia and Hyundai) are very Japanese. Every Cadillac I have ever driven, while sometimes very nice, has been very American – until now. This CTS-V is the most European American car I have ever been in.

First, it’s a matter of size. Before now, even the CTS (first generation) was larger, or at least felt larger, like an American car, and drove like one too. This isn’t a bad thing per se, just a noticeable difference. My wife likes to call American sedans “Dad Cars,” and while I have liked many Dad Cars over the years – Cadillacs, Buicks, Ford Tarus – they were decidedly American cars.
This 2010 CTS-V, if you could place someone in it blindfolded then remove all the badging, I believe, would fool even the most fervent Mercedes, BMW or Audi aficionados – they would think it was European for sure, probably German, maybe even a concept car from BMW or Audi. The size is perfect – it feels European. I have always said the world of luxury cars is divided into two camps – performance freaks like the BMW, and luxury freaks like the Mercedes. This Cadillac CTS-V is more luxurious than the Mercedes and more has more performance than the BMW, and it drives as well as either. It’s the perfect blend – plus. The perfect size, the muscle of an American, the driving machine of the BMW.

Compare this: The CTS-V, available in only one trim, carries a base price of $60,720. The Mercedes E63 has a 6.2-liter V8 with 518 hp, and costs $85,750. The Jaguar XFR has a 5.o-liter V8 with 510 hp, and has a MSRP of $79,150. The BME M5 has a 5.0-liter V10 with 500 hp with a MSRP of $85,700. So essential, with Cadillac, you get a better car, more performance, more luxury – all at $16,000 to $23,000 less money. Amazing.

Some things to mention that help in performance. The CTS-V has Magnetic-Ride dampening, a very complicated hydraulic oil system in the shocks containing magnetically sensitive iron particles that are electrified to change the viscosity, which allows the ride to go instantly from soft to hard depending on the road conditions. This essentially gives the car a smooth ride at all times, something the first generation of the CTS-V lacked and for which it was roundly criticized. There’s also a 6-speed automatic transmission that is smooth as silk as perfectly tuned for the power burst in the lower gears and out on the highway.

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Inside, the CTS-V feels like a German car as well. The cabin is a great size, with an ample back seat (and a good-sized trunk). However the best part is the Recaro seats, made by a company in Italy and available as upgrades on many of the world’s makes. They are comfortable, stiff like the Europeans, keep you alert, are infinitely adjustable, and for me at least, just the right size and fit. As someone who got inside the car said, “You don’t so much get in this car; rather, you put it on.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. The upholstery is leather throughout, of course, but the center of the seats (and the steering wheel) are very soft, very plush, very comfortable suede. Wow.

The only thing I didn’t like about the car was that, again like the Europeans, the electronics are overly complicated. I had to check out the manual to figure out the radio and sound system several times. But this is something that would soon pass if you owned the car. The navigation system is great, and appears on a pop-up screen in the dash; when you’re just driving and listening to the radio, the screen recedes about halfway back down allowing for some readouts pertaining to the sound system. Nice design, not distracting. The climate controls, of one course for each area, are easy to use and both the heater and AC are wonderful.

I loved everything (except the electronics). Great brakes. Extremely quiet. Handling like a sports car (in fact, it’s the best driving sedan I have ever experienced).

As I said, the base price on the 2010 CTS-V is $60,720, and it included most all of the luxury. On this test-drive model they added on the aforementioned Recaro seat5 for $3,400 (worth it), $2,600 for the Gas Guzzlers tax, $600 for beautiful midnight sapele wood trim throughout, and $300 for the sueded steering wheel. The destination charge of $825 brought the bottom line to $68,445. I would probably opt for the $700 sun/moon roof, which wasn’t here.

Sure, it only gets 12 mpg city/18 highway, but so what? You don’t buy 556 hp to save gas. This is the first American car that is a true competitor to anything European, especially German, and with the price and extra power it is the absolute best choice. This summer you can also get a CTS-V in a sportwagon.

Personally, I loved this car but would go for the regular CTS with a 3.6-liter, 304 hp engine, because it comes with all-wheel-drive and carries a base price of $43,465. I like AWD, and the 304 hp would be enough Velocity for me.

But trust me. If you like speed, luxury and perfect handling, the Cadillac CTS-V is your car. I guarantee you’ll like it as much or more than anything European.

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