New Cadillac CTS-V finally scales the performance peak


Big self-assured Caddies never whined a few years ago.

They glided elegantly down shaded streets, carrying middle-aged guys to the golf course for a whiskey-laced afternoon of exercise and expletives.

At idle, they barely stirred dust.

Even now, solid, silent Cadillacs sometimes get pressed into official duty, required to regally transport one of the sullen senior citizens running for president to some campaign event.

(By the way, would someone please steer both of them toward Mexico or Canada?)

But snorting and growling and smoking tires from a classy Caddie? Isn't that kind of like George Bush on lead guitar for a 10-minute rendition of "Free Bird?"

Maybe not.

For 15 years now, your daddy's befinned Caddie has been working hard to transform itself into a highly stylized American BMW.

And with the ground-shaking, industry-quaking 2016 CTS-V -- a sinister, tightly wrapped sedan that looks as if it just blew through a knife fight -- Cadillac has finally arrived.

When the supercharger on the 640-horsepower V starts to whine and sing, it probably echoes all the way across the Atlantic.

Can you hear it, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and Audi?

The wine-colored CTS-V I had recently made no attempt to hide its ambitious Autobahn intentions.

As you probably know, the regular CTS looks fairly lean and sleek. The ultra-high performance V bristles with several additional layers of mean.

Lower and more focused than the grocery-getter CTS, the V wears a carbon-fiber splitter beneath its lower grille that barely clears parking curbs.

A broad curved grille contrasts starkly with thin vertical headlamps that offer the stare of an assassin.

Above them, a slightly raised hood with three carbon-fiber louvers across it hints strongly at the extreme heat beneath.

Once a luxury-style leader, Cadillac has again found its groove, I think.

Really short overhangs up front on my V made the car appear as if it was ready to pounce, and taut, lined sides stretched the car's body tightly over flared fenders.

A sleekly curved top slid down onto a short trunk, while a purposeful-looking carbon-fiber tray surrounded giant quad exhausts.

As if those weren't clues enough, the V crouched on meaty 265/35 tires up front and 295/30s in back wrapped around good-looking 19-inch alloy wheels.

I wondered if it would bite if I got too close.

Absolutely. As you may recall, Cadillac began building the high-performance CTS-V in 2004, slipping a 400-horsepower Corvette V-8 into the car and improving its suspension and steering.

Over the years, Cadillac has gotten as good as Corvette at steering and suspensions, and the new V tests them daily with a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 lifted from the mighty Z06 Corvette.

It doesn't come cheaply. My V lugged a heavy $95,890 window-sticker.

But it may well be worth it when compared with other six-figure sports sedans.

Despite its prodigious, wall-of-muscle power, the V idled with a smooth, light shudder, remaining well-behaved during my frequent brushes with Dallas' bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Unlike some supercharged engines, though, the 6.2 lacked any lag or "dead zone," coming into its boost and feeling immensely powerful by 2,000 rpm.

From that point on, the car's thunderous acceleration can be brutal, with 60 arriving in 3.6 seconds and 100 mph in 7.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Both of those numbers are within a couple of tenths of a second of the legendary Charger Hellcat (3.4 and 7.2 seconds).

Hit the accelerator hard and the CTS spins its tires violently for 10 feet or so until the electronic traction control briefly shuts down the fun.

Then, the eight-speed automatic transmission upshifts crisply and the giant spin cycle starts again.

And did I mention that the car's dark, low snarl swelled to a bellow with speed, sounding like some large, angry predator tearing through a forest?

I needed a lawyer or Mike Rawlings bouncing around in the backseat.

Fortunately, Cadillac didn't stop at eye-compressing acceleration. The V's firm, tightly controlled suspension kept the body flat even when all four tires were sliding and dancing through a corner.

At 4,100 pounds, the V was no lightweight. But it turned aggressively into corners, attacking them with the sort of balance and composure you'd expect in a Camaro.

The steering, meanwhile -- one of GM's growing strengths -- felt pretty good, tightening up in corners, but remaining quick and well-weighted in normal driving, if there is such a thing in a CTS-V.

The downside in all of this, as always, was fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon in the city, 21 on the highway.

At least, I could ponder those distinctly non-green numbers from the fine light-gray interior of my V, which featured a deep, graceful black dashboard with faux "stitching" on its edges.

Like way too many high-end vehicles these days, the Caddie's big center-mounted tachometer and other gauges for boost, water temperature, oil temperature and fuel were computer-generated graphics.

They seemed as real as some of the women on

Fortunately, Cadillac's once-dopey CUE infotainment system was relatively easy to operate, despite the ill-advised horizontal bars that you have to slide your fingers over to control the audio and climate systems.

As I can attest, the Drive-By Truckers produce one monstrous, mother of a wall of sound if you hit a bump as you're going for the volume bar and inadvertently slide it all the way up.

Did you just say something?

The dash and door panels, meanwhile, got what appeared to be carbon-fiber trim, topped off by a black-suede headliner.

Moreover, the legroom in back was good and headroom was excellent -- a surprise given the car's slinky roof-line.

At one time a few decades ago, people my age -- grumpy, get-the-blank-off-my-lawn 60-somethings -- often leaned toward Cadillacs.

My compass never worked that way. I lean toward loud, barely legal '32 Ford highboy coupes that spit flames.

But if I were in the market for a great sports sedan -- a true cardiac cruiser -- my first choice would be the ferocious CTS-V.

As unlikely as it would have seemed a decade ago, the V has scaled the peak.

2016 Cadillac CTS-V
  • Type of vehicle: Five passenger, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan
  • Price as tested: $95,890
  • Fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city, 21 highway
  • Weight: 4,129 pounds
  • Engine: Supercharged all-aluminum 6.2-liter V-8 with 640 horsepower and 630 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Performance 0 to 60: 3.6 seconds

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