Something wicked this way comes. By Andrew Bornhop • Photos by Barry Hathaway February 2004 Lucky man, that Doug Kott. Our Executive Editor, in case you haven't seen our September issue, had the enviable pleasure of traveling to Germany and putting Cadillac's new CTS-V — yep, the one with the Corvette Z06's V-8 engine — through its paces on the twists and turns of the Nürburgring's famous 12-mile Nordschleife ("North Loop") circuit. Anybody care to guess who assigns the press trips at R&T? Not me, or I'd have been there. Truth be told, however, in a situation like that, the driver arguably spends as much time figuring out the track as he does the car. So it was with open arms that we received one of the first production Cadillac CTS-Vs at our home office in California, looking menacing in its Raven Black paint and — more important — ready to be subjected to our usual battery of tests on familiar turf. So, what did we learn? Well, let's just say the much-ballyhooed development program at the Ring is clearly more than lip service. GM's Performance Division has indeed transformed this Cadillac into an American M5 killer, a superb rear-drive sports sedan that blows us away with its power, brakes, suspension tuning and balance. Yes, you are reading about a Cadillac. And the V owes much of its prowess to its rigid chassis, a version of GM's Sigma platform. Rear drive and rigid, it serves as the basis for not only the CTS, but also the SRX and the next STS. In the V, the only modification it needs is a tubular underhood brace between the shock towers. Shut the doors on the V, or any CTS for that matter, and there's a tight, European feel. There's nothing European about the small-block V-8, though. With only minor modifications to its accessory drives and exhaust manifolds, the 90-degree aluminum LS6 small-block V-8 from the Z06 drops right into the engine bay, giving the V gobs of power where we Americans like it best — down low. No need to slip the clutch and worry about smooth takeoffs in this car; simply dump the clutch and the torque takes over, launching you smoothly and easily on an accelerative adventure that lasts all the way to the 6500-rpm redline, for gearshift after gearshift. The power feels especially sweet above 3000 rpm, and the top speed of 163 mph is reached in 5th gear. Despite the 3.73:1 final-drive gearing, which is for quick acceleration, the top cog, 6th, is a mileage maker, allowing the engine to loaf along at 1600 rpm while the V cruises at 60 mph, returning an impressive 26 mpg in the EPA highway cycle. With traction control switched off at the track, the 3890-lb. CTS-V hits 60 mph in 5.0 seconds flat, and the quarter mile in 13.4 sec. at 109.0 mph. Although that's not quite as quick as GM's claim of 4.6 sec. to 60 mph, the V is nevertheless a very fast car, keeping pace with both the Maserati Coupe, and the 50th Anniversary Corvette we tested in the August 2002 issue. What's more, its excellent trap speed in the quarter mile is a good indicator of the V's incredible horsepower — 400 bhp at 6000 rpm, complemented by a broad swath of torque whose peak of 395 lb.-ft. is reached at a somewhat surprising 4800 rpm. To properly cope with the added power, GM's Performance Division fits the V with a larger-diameter driveshaft, stronger CV joints, a more robust differential housing with extensive cooling fins and huge 4-piston Brembo brakes to keep the speed in check. The rear brakes, in fact, are so large they look like they're the fake rotors used on non-running concept cars. The V's rear brakes are for real, however, and the car stops repeatedly with excellent force from speed, without a hint of fade. The pedal is not quite Porsche-firm, but the stops from 60 and 80 mph (115 ft. and 202 ft., respectively) are on a par with a Porsche 911. Very impressive. Equally amazing is the V's performance in the slalom and skidpad. This sedan weaves through the cones with aplomb at 66.0 mph, one of the few cars to do so with a neutral feel. The V goes where it's pointed, not understeering in the least, and it wags its tail only when the driver is hopelessly late for the last few cones. On the skidpad — again with Cadillac's StabiliTrak yaw control switched off — mild understeer is the predominant attitude, accompanied by minimal body roll. Owing to the V's excellent suspension tuning and good 54/46 weight balance, the chassis tightens its cornering line with a quick lift of the throttle, and a quick reapplication of said pedal can make for some entertaining tail-out action. The secret to the CTS-V's great handling is the tuning at the Ring done under the guidance of John Heinricy, a GM engineer who regularly wins his class at the SCCA Runoffs in a Z06 Corvette. The CTS-V's aluminum control arms are unchanged, but the bushings are stiffer and the hydroformed front and rear cradles have been reinforced with welded-in steel gussets. Also, the front and rear springs are 27 percent stiffer than stock, teamed with larger-diameter front shock absorbers. Rounding out the suspension changes are a 26.6-mm hollow front anti-roll bar (up from 23) and a solid rear bar that has grown from 18 mm to 21. The resultant ride is firm but not overly so, with the run-flat Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires being slightly harsh over sharp bumps such as Botts dots. Larger dips, however, are soaked up well by the CTS-V's suspension. As expected of a modern Cadillac, traction control and StabiliTrak yaw control are standard fare, but both can be flicked on and off via a switch on the steering wheel. Moreover, traction control can be disabled while yaw control is left on, and there's also a "Competitive Driving" mode that means StabiliTrak kicks in at the last possible moment, only when the car is drastically out of shape and disaster appears imminent. On the road, the CTS-V driver will appreciate the tightness of the powertrain. There's no sense of wasted motion anywhere, and although the throws of the Tremec T56 6-speed manual transmission are a bit long, the only trouble is engaging reverse, which occasionally takes a couple of tries. And unlike the Corvette, there's not a hint of gear rattle, thanks in part to the V's dual-mass flywheel. Inside, the V distinguishes itself from lesser CTSs by having seats with suede inserts (to better hold the driver while cornering), a new gauge cluster and a three-spoke steering wheel with a thick rim. Via a switch on the steering wheel, the driver can access a Driver Information Center that, among other things, monitors tire pressures at all four corners (a must in a car with run-flat tires) and has temperature readouts for the engine oil, transmission oil and engine coolant. Most fascinating, though, is a lateral-g meter. Unique to the V, and using the StabiliTrak sensors, this system displays on the dash the peak and instantaneous lateral g-force information of the corner the CTS-V just took. It's a kick, but before you go and match (or exceed) our skidpad number of 0.87g, remember this: The g's will be much higher in corners with even the slightest hint of banking, and the Cadillac number is the measure of peak g's in one corner, not the average sustained level of grip that we measure around our 200-ft. circle. It's still a lot of fun, but don't try to look at the dash while cornering because the spokes of the steering wheel will likely be in the way. And when you look at a V, you'll know it's not an ordinary CTS because of numerous but subtle styling enhancements that let you know this is a car that prefers to let its actions do the talking. Chief among these: a stainless-steel wire mesh grille integrated into a new 1.6-in.-deeper front fascia that has a significantly larger opening to ensure proper engine cooling and breathing. Ducts below the foglights channel cooling air to the brakes, and the sculpted rocker panels extend 1.6 in. lower than stock to give the V a low-slung appearance complemented by the 6-lug wheels wearing 245/45ZR-18 Goodyears. That stated, the CTS-V shines as a sports sedan. Putting aside its potency for a moment, this car comes loaded with all the amenities you'd expect of a Cadillac (OnStar, GPS navigation, XM satellite radio) and it's roomy enough for a 6-ft.-tall person to sit behind a driver of the same height. The trunk is also spacious, even boasting a handy bit of extra storage where the spare tire used to reside. And although the high waistline and cowl might make it seem as if the driver is deep within a high-walled interior, it doesn't feel that way from within the car. If I could change one thing inside, it might be to toss the foot-operated parking brake in favor of a hand-operated one. We also think the V, given the fantastic torque of its V-8, would work well with an automatic transmission. But for now, our test car and the rest of the 3,500 Vs expected to be sold in the U.S. for 2004 will have only the 6-speed manual. The price of $49,995 (a sunroof for $1200 is the only option) may seem a bit steep, but it's only seven grand more than a loaded CTS with the new 3.6-liter V-6. Viewed another way, you're getting BMW M5 performance at a savings of about 30 grand. It once was hard to think of a Cadillac in the realm of the world's top sports sedans, but the CTS-V, with its Corvette heart and expert chassis tuning, belongs there. Along with the new Pontiac GTO, this Cadillac proves that GM is now building cars that enthusiasts truly want. Our advice: Keep developing them at the Nürburgring. Cadillac's onboard g-meter, above, tells no lies — during our photo shoot the V spiked at 1.13g to the left, and 0.91g to the right. With that level of grip and superb Corvette power, the V makes great use of its massive brakes, which can stop a Peterbilt.