THE RAZOR'S EDGE
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Mon, May 2, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Editor John Grafman tests the phenomenal 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V Coupe: For far too long, the American-based car companies had an image problem. The cars were perceived as second best in performance, value, design or execution. Cadillac has delivered on a long awaited promise of offering something better. The CTS-V Coupe is that car. It’s not just an edge-of-art car, it’s the razor’s edge—with a knife-like design to match its mission. This is perhaps the high-water mark for the internal combustion engine in personal transportation. I’m sure that in a few short years there won’t be anything like this that isn’t coupled with a hybrid system or something similar, or the IC engine will be replaced by something altogether different. All of the major OEMs are forging inroads into those avenues. But for now, while other companies are simply building cars, GM is building Cadillacs.
As most are aware, a sedan version of the CTS-V has been available for two and a half years, but the coupe is a unique design alternative. The boldness of this was seen not too long ago in concept form. We are happy to say that the production car doesn’t stray from the mark. Love it or hate it, the design leaves an impression on anyone that sees it. The strong features produce a character that’s aggressive without resorting to styling that falls between boy-racer and Speed Racer. The angular proportions are striking, yet it does create some outward vision issues, most of which are less annoying over time. The blind spot created by the A-pillar and the driver’s side mirror makes tight left turns, such as those coming off a freeway off-ramp onto a perpendicular street a pain. Additionally, the roof of the car seems to be too close for comfort as well. This is the price of vanity.
Nevertheless, one can really spend time walking around the car and soaking in the art of design. The coupe has a style that stands apart for the pack. Not too many cars can lay claim to that. The V Coupe, like its sedan brethren, has a front fascia that is all business—providing that sport is your business. The grill looks aggressive, and it manages not to use the chicken wire mesh that seems to be prevalent in many other cars. Features like the doors that are touch sensor operated, sans handles, and the boomerang center brake light are definite attention-getters, and complete the Batman-esque flavor. Cadillac does manage to do what few car companies have done before: Deliver on the promise of design. Certainly, the CTS-V looks the part of a performance coupe, and it does not disappoint when the ignition switch is turned.
The 6.2-liter, supercharged V8, 556 horsepower motor with 551 pound-feet of torque, along with the extraordinary 6-speed manual transmission is dominating—period. In concert with the massive Brembo brakes are four-wheel independent suspension with magnetic ride control, and steering feedback that is informative—a hard package to beat. This is sure to be a benchmark vehicle, much in the same way the BMW 3 series is. It isn’t just that this has all the right goodies, it’s that all the goodies work well together. The only fly in the ointment, if any, is this works too well. It’s really hard not to want to push this hard. Even at normal cruising speeds this is trouble waiting to happen. The V would be very happy cruising close to triple speeds all day long without issue, with no more drama than other cars feel at half that speed. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t see it the same way. This has power oozing out of its pores. In a blink this can jump forward from legal speeds effortlessly. And if you want to get a little more playful a downshift immediately changes the demeanor from graceful and smooth to that of a track ready car. But that’s at part throttle. When one wants to have an out of the world experience with the CTS-V Coupe a quick drop of the pedal to the floor opens open a wormhole. Oh, if Carl Sagan was only alive to travel in this.
The primary means of transferring the power to the pavement are the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 performance tires mounted on 19-inch forged aluminum wheels that would look at home on a Lamborghini. The good folks at GM had the good wisdom to provide traction control that meets our needs and is adjustable for those that are willing to let it hang out a little more if the venue accommodates. The other point that we need to mention is the fuel economy, or lack thereof. While the EPA stats claim 14 city and 19 highway, I say good luck. Maybe it’s possible, but this car sucks down fuel like a camel at a watering hole. Just idling produces conspicuous levels of consumption, or so it seems. But, truth be told, in true “drive it like you stole it” fashion, we flogged this car pretty good. If you didn’t pick up on this already, let me be clear, I was looking for any excuse to drive this. It’s that good! Sure the optional 12-way adjustable Recaro high performance seats with heating and venting (a $3,400 option) are as useful as a Swiss Army Knife, or the pop-up screen that features major functions from audio to navigation is pretty cool, and normally would take center stage, but this is all about the driving.
Shifting the standard Tremec TR6060 manual 6-speed, which is made in Mexico, is exceptional in operation. One of the trickiest parts of having a manual in a car with gobs of power is being able to come off the line from a standstill in a smooth, graceful manner. The CTS-V manages to accomplish this effortlessly all day long. The weight of the clutch is only part of the reason. Actually, it is even a tad on the light side for some, but it works like a charm. Finding the right gear is also very natural, and the stick falls right into place without forcing and fussing. Even reverse is smooth as silk. Gear to gear is easy to get into smoothly, or if the driving is done with determination you get quick pick-up, but we didn’t experience any hang-ups in getting this into gear either upwards or down. One technology that seems to work also creates another issue. The parking brake located on the center console is a simple button that operates in the same fashion as a window switch, with a tug-up to set, and press-down to release action. However, with the manual transmission, on a hillside it is preferred to have a hand released parking brake from the good old days. This keeps the car from rolling when placing the car into first gear from a stop. This must have been an oversight as Cadillac isn’t in the habit of producing anything other than an automatic transmission.
A few other sore points are the material quality on the seats and headliner. Both could stand an optional upgrade, or maybe the standard. The button for the adjustable suspension is one of the favorite systems to activate, but other similar looking buttons camouflages it. The sexy gloss black finished center console trim is far too easily scratched. The cable to connect one’s cell phone to the car could use another six inches or so. And most importantly, the tethered connection to the iPhone that we used seemed to be very intermittent. Considering that contains the music, it would be nice if that were flawless. Sure, these issues should be tweaked with by the OEM in the next model year.And this does want for some extra options like front parking sensors to augment the rear sensors, especially with such low ground clearance. I think a speed sensing cruise control would also be a nice touch, which would be inline with other big buck sport coupes. But all is forgiven once the engine turns over and the car is put into gear. And if that isn’t convincing enough, the cost of entry is just a little over 62K. Global supremacy has never been more affordable. - John Grafman
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Price: MSRP: $62,165 As Tested: $68,640 (includes gas guzzler tax, destination charge) EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway): 14/19 manual (12/18 automatic) Engine type: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, Aluminum head and block, OHV, two valves per cylinder, fuel injected Horsepower: 556 @ 6,100 rpm Torque: 551 pound-feet @ 3,800 rpm Transmission type: Tremec TR6060 6-spd. manual Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion Sport Suspension System: Front: independent SLA; 29-mm hollow stabilizer bar; elastomeric handling and ride bushings; 65-N/mm spring rate; Magnetic Ride Control with electro-magnetically controlled shocks Rear: independent SLA; 25.4-mm solid stabilizer bar; elastomeric trailing arm bushing; 90-N/mm spring rate; Magnetic Ride Control with electro-magnetically controlled shocks Brakes: four-wheel disc with four-channel ABS, hydraulic brake assist and dynamic rear brake proportioning Front - 15 x 1.26”, vented, co-cast Rear - 14.7 x 1.1”, vented Wheels and Tires: Painted aluminum wheels Front: 19 x 9-inch; forged alloy, 5-lug, P255/40R19 96Y Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 Rear: 19 x 9.5-inch, forged alloy, 5-lug, P285/35R19 99Y, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
CADILLAC CTS COUPE Contributing Editor Reed Berry tested the non-V version of the Cadillac CTS Coupe: I’m sorry. I would like to personally apologize to General Motors. Sure, I knew times were changing but, honestly, I am one of those people who continued to have an image in my mind of the type of person that would drive a Cadillac. The rotund attorney smoking a large cigar, an elderly retired man wearing plaid golf pants – I have fallen right into the stereotype trap when it comes to profiling a luxury car buyer. Now it appears that I have quail egg on my face as the new generation of Cadillac automobiles blows all stereotypes right out of the water. Don’t get me wrong – a Cadillac is still a Cadillac with all the luxury and attention to detail that you would expect from vehicles that bear the impressive crest. But the Cadillac automobiles of today, particularly the CTS Coupe, is both sporty and stylish. You can hardly go wrong with a car that is practical enough to take the family for a weekend drive, yet elegant enough to drive to the most exclusive clubs and events.
All the buzz seems to be about the CTS-V because of its more powerful engine and long list of sport features. Admittedly, the CTS-V offers plenty of bang for the buck, but I prefer to balance performance with practicality and that is why I have taken a strong liking to the CTS Coupe. A 3.6-liter 304 horsepower V6 teamed with a very efficient 6-speed automatic transmission provides ample power, yet offers impressive fuel economy estimates of 18 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. The interior is spacious and comfortable. Standard features, such as leather seating and a rockin’ Bose 5.1 Surround System, should please just about anyone. The CTS Coupe that I’m road testing, however, takes comfort to the next level thanks to the Performance Luxury & Navigation Package, a $4,000 addition that brings the price of the car to just under $50,000. Hey, isn’t it worth a few extra bucks to have such amenities as soothing LED interior ambient lighting and a heated steering wheel? There’s even an automatic cabin odor filter.
For added safety, the package includes a rear vision camera for worry-free backing. Upon shifting into reverse, a touch screen control panel in the center of the dash rises automatically and becomes a video screen designed to assist you in your backing maneuver. When you shift back into drive, the screen lowers and returns to its original position and once again functions as a very clear, easy-to-read touch screen panel. While I was a little less-than-thrilled to see that a tire sealant and inflator kit has taken the place of an actual spare tire, and despite the fact that the low roofline that gives the car its sporty appearance also makes entering and exiting the vehicle a little more work than it should be, the Cadillac CTS Coupe is an exceptional automobile that combines luxury, bold styling and impressive performance. - Reed Berry
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe / Performance Collection Price Base: $42,605 As Tested: $49,590 EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway): 18 / 27 Engine type: 3.6-liter Direct Injection V6 Horsepower: 304 @ 6,400 rpm Torque: 273 pound-feet @ 5,200 rpm Transmission type: 6-speed automatic Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Sport Suspension System Front: Independent short-long arm (SLA) Rear: Multi-link Brakes: Four-wheel disc; ABS Wheels: 18” Painted aluminum wheels Overall length: 188.5 inches Overall width: 74.1 inches Overall height: 56.0 inches
CTS-V ON THE RACE TRACK A few words with Johnny O’Connell, Factory Driver for Cadillac Racing at the 2011 Long Beach Grand Prix on the CTS-V: Maybe one of the most impressive luxury sports cars, or whatever you’d call it, because it’s really in its own category. To have a car like that with 556 horsepower, and when you think about it the Corvette Z06 comes with 505, if it were an athlete it’d be an Olympic athlete. Its behavior on a track is mind-blowing! The GM mantra right now of performance and combining that with luxury, it’s a total home run.
The gear box that I’ve driven (6-speed manual) – not a problem. With the CTS-V when it came out years ago (in the sedan), the previous version did not have a solid feel. This has a solid feel. Also, you know that car suffered from wheel hop under hard acceleration. They solved all the issues from the previous CTS-V, and on this car they got it right! It’s an athletic car. Incorrectly, people think athletic car means harsh. It doesn’t mean harsh, it mean precise. The drivability of this car is well within the capabilities of almost any driver. Yeah, it has a lot of horsepower. You want to enjoy it on a windy road or highway, and all that kind of stuff, but it’s everyday aspects it’s extremely civilized. - Johnny O’Connell