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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wave the Flag- The American version of Iron Fist with a Velvet Glove

Chismillionaire loves this rig- while I prefer the more elegant front end of the normal CTS, I suppose I need to yield to the engineers cooling needs explanation.

Usually the new American model meets the specs of outgoing models but here they have clearly met and exceeded the the current crop of competitors offerings. Styling that is unique and handsome, performance that is above or equal to six figure cars, and interior that is every bit as nice as the European offerings. 560HP, a Piano Black interior treatment with excellent Recaros and double stitched leather dash for $60,000 or so!!! It's a steal- a perfect Q Ship.

While the Turbo AMG cars are coming and Twin Turbo V10's for the new 5 and 6 series BMW M cars, for a few years this car is right there at every level including materials quality for much much less outlay. A tip of the cap to GM here.

words: Bryan Joslin

History will likely record 2009 as an exceptional year to be an American. Barring any unexpected events, we should be swearing in either the first black man or the first woman (sorry, Hillary's two terms alongside Bill don't count) into the White House in January. Changes in leadership may not be limited to just Washington, though. The all-new 2009 CTS-V campaigns hard against the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, fusing luxury and performance like no American car has ever done before.


On paper, the CTS-V certainly has the right credentials for the job — a 556-horse supercharged V-8, a six-speed manual 'box sending 551 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, six-piston Brembo brakes underneath nineteen-inch forged wheels, active dampers, and even Recaro seats. But an impressive resume doesn't necessarily guarantee a job well done. A world leader, after all, needs the ability to inspire. In the spirit of this season, let's examine the American candidate on the real issues.

Energy Policy

While some candidates are talking about wind and solar, the CTS-V is busy making colossal horsepower. Motivation comes from a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 known internally as the LSA. It is a variation on the 638-horse LS9 found in the new ZR1 Corvette, but the Caddy's 82-horsepower deficit is largely the result of its smaller supercharger, which displaces 1.9 liters instead of 2.3. Like the Vette, the CTS-V uses a brick-type intercooler mounted on top of the engine to condense the intake charge.


The blower, a Roots-type Eaton Gen 6, uses four lobes instead of the typical three and they're coated with a unique film that improves the surface contact as it wears. The result is a much quieter engine without the typical supercharger whine, delivering instead the more traditional small-block bark. We were skeptical when Cadillac's spinsters told us the new charger was so quiet that it went unnoticed at the proving grounds, but after witnessing several fly-bys at full throttle on the virgin tarmac at Monticello Motor Club, we walked away impressed with the civility of this engine.

Power delivery, as one might expect from a large-displacement, blown V-8, is decidedly unreal. Sixty miles per hour comes up as quickly as 3.9 seconds, and the quarter-mile drops in twelve seconds, by which time it's moving at 118 mph. At most drag strips, that would require a roll cage. And the CTS-V isn't just a hole-shot performer; it's got mid-range to rival the best Autobahners.

Right to Choose

The issue of choice is a very personal one, but the CTS-V has you covered either way. The standard transmission is a six-speed Tremec TR6060 manual, with a six-speed HydraMatic available as an option. The Tremec is a stout box, built to handle the LSA's torque. Shifting action is firm and very mechanical; you can practically feel the synchros slipping over the cogs through the shift lever. The clutch is firm, too, but not nearly as stiff as it could be. A dual-disc clutch setup not only lightens the pedal effort, it also reduces the rotational mass for better performance.

If you lean a bit more conservatively, you'll probably find the six-speed automatic a more fitting — and highly capable — option for a luxury sedan. In regular mode, it shifts so smoothly that you may no even notice it. In sport mode, it's almost clairvoyant, anticipating downshifts at the first twitch of the throttle. In fact, GM speedmeister John Heinricy set a blazing lap time of 7:59.32 at the Nordschleife in an automatic-equipped CTS-V, and he let the tranny do the shifting for him.

Race Relations

Race is still a serious matter, and while it's unlikely you'll ever race against a CTS-V in full livery, it is possible you might share a session with one at a local track day — and with good reason. The CTS-V wears some serious hardware for the track. Backing up its monster powertrain is a standard limited-slip differential splitting power to the two rear wheels (all-wheel-drive is not an option as it is with the base CTS). To abate wheel-hop on launches, the rear halfshafts are of different diameters. In testing, GM found that axle hop was mostly caused by a spring effect building up across the halfshafts. By differing their diameters, GM neutralized the wind-up. Caddy upgraded the driveshaft and wheel bearings as well to deal with the added torque and power.


The suspension architecture is essentially the same as a garden-variety CTS — independent short/long arm at both ends — but with larger sway bars, stiffer springs, and the addition of Magnetic Ride Control, which employs electro-magnetically controlled shocks. In Touring mode, the suspension is firm for a Cadillac, but not out of place for a Benz or BMW. With the ride control switched to Sport, the control is more aggressive. On the track, the chassis responds quickly to pitch and camber changes, but the fact that the car weighs in at 4300 pounds plays into fast transitions. The steering is quick and light, but the ultra-serious Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires fight hard to keep the big sedan on the sticky side. With 255/40ZR19s in front and 285/35ZR19s in back, the otherwise neutral chassis leans toward understeer at the limit.

Braking hardware comes straight from the track by way of Brembo. Silver, six-piston calipers grip slotted and vented 380-mm iron/aluminum co-cast rotors in front, while a pair of four-pot stompers grab the vented 373-mm cast-iron rear discs. Red calipers indicate the optional sport brakes, which replace the co-cast front rotors with actual two-piece units with improved internal cooling and no slotting on the surfaces. The standard setup is ideal for the street, if somewhat noisy at low speeds, but track junkies will definitely want the upgraded hardware, which is more effective at shedding heat lap after lap.

The one feature that's not quite race-ready is the stability control. In addition to the usual traction control defeat that lets you impress your friends with smoky burnouts, Cadillac thoughtfully planned a performance mode for the track. In theory, it allows for a capable driver to explore the limits of the chassis without intruding unless it senses eminent catastrophe. In reality, it steps in and cuts the throttle after just a few degrees — perhaps 15 degrees by seat of the pants — of oversteer is detected, reining the car back just as you start to feel like a hero. It is remarkably quick to re-apply power once the trajectory has been corrected, but by then your adrenaline has already been dumped.

Foreign and Domestic Policy

Cadillac may have aimed its missiles at Europe with the CTS-V, but when it comes to styling, it is as unabashedly American as a flag lapel pin. There is no fake Hofmeister kink, no pseudo-AMG body kit. The lines are Cadillac's alone, and the only body enhancements — a hood bulge, a larger front airdam, and a center brake light-cum-trunk-spoiler — are functional. It wears plenty of chrome, including those ubiquitous fender vents of dubious employ. The forged aluminum wheels, while light and strong, lack the emotional appeal of the rollers from Germany.


Despite its fairly restrained styling, the CTS-V is all-American; no one will ever mistake it for a European. Conversely, it has plenty of experience overseas — that sub-eight-minute time at the 'Ring is evidence of its intentions to play on the world stage.


The interior of the CTS-V sends mixed messages about the importance of a healthy driving environment. On the one hand, it is a clean overall design that works well for the entire CTS range. The problem is that the V gets no particular distinction in its standard form. The hand-stitched dashboard, which is a standout feature in the base models, is still wrapped in vinyl for the flagship instead of proper hide. The standard dash and console trim is black plastic that Cadillac passes off as Obsidian, accented by faux carbon fiber film. All of this would be tits in a Cobalt SS, but it drags the CTS-V down a bit. That said, it helps keep costs down, and you can add richer materials.

ctsv6_center.jpg But there are several highpoints as well. For instance, the positively ginormous glass sunroof adds a sophisticated ambiance to the otherwise business-like cabin, albeit at the expense of head and helmet room. A full-length mesh roller shade helps reduce the greenhouse effect on warmer days, even if the rear windows lack sunshades of their own.

The one must-have option is the sport interior package. Not only does it ditch the faux carbon trim for black-stained wood, it also replaces the standard sport seats with 14-way Recaros. Trimmed in black leather and Alcantara, the seats include thigh extensions and pneumatic side bolsters for optimum road or track settings. Alcantara trim extends to the shifter and steering wheel as well, aiding grip when the going gets fast.


At this time, no pricing has been released on the CTS-V, but it is expected to be very fiscally conservative. Rumors are it will start around $60,000. If that pans out, Cadillac will have delivered M5-beating performance at an M3 price.

The field of top contenders in the super-sedan race just gained another highly qualified candidate. Cadillac may be the unproven newcomer when compared with the business-as-usual types from the other side of the aisle, but it comes along at a time when change is all the rage. The CTS-V makes no qualms about being a proud American, and should inspire even the elitists among us to wave the flag again.