I am officially putting BMW, Mercedes and Audi on notice as they are in some SERIOUS trouble. As a journalist, road tester and track instructor with NASA/HPDE I’ve had the opportunity to drive cars ranging from $14,000 Ford Fiesta’s, to $750,000 Gumpert Apollo’s, and with each new drive I always pull something different away from the experience. Over the last 10 years GM vehicles have gotten better in terms of performance, quality and style, and with every new stride they’ve made they’ve gotten closer and closer to the competition. The automotive industry is a tough arena to play in and for far too long American automakers have been dealt crushing blows from European and Asian manufacturers. Well, I can now safely say that the times are changing and nowhere can it be felt more than with this new 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe is a two door sports coupe with the heart and soul of a Corvette ZR1. Its styling is edgy, powerful and unmistakably American. What that means is that the CTS-V Coupe is an in-your-face automobile that leaves a lasting impression. I picked up the Caddy in lower Manhattan and proceeded to drive around NYC just to gauge the public’s reaction to the car. Within minutes I was greeted with stares and comments as I drove the car up Manhattan’s West Side Highway. “Is that the new CTS-V Coupe?”, “How do you like it?”, “Is it fast?” and my favorite… “Dude, that Mutha F*cker is BAD ASS!” Ladies and gents, you can’t make that up.
This particular V-Coupe was equipped with the TR6060 6-speed manual and I have to say it worked beautifully in NYC traffic. Clutch pedal engagement was just about in the middle of the peddles travel. The clutch was also very light so fatigue was never a problem. The other thing you’ll notice is that the gearing is actually quite tall in first and second gear, allowing you to simply lope along without worry in commuter traffic.
I tooled around in NYC for about an hour then proceeded to head back home to Queens. Keep in mind now that NYC and the surrounding boroughs have some of the worst roads this side of a third world country, so however you looked at it the Caddy’s suspension was going to get a workout. Before I go further let me remind you folks that the CTS-V Coupe that I was driving was a press car. That means that it’s had the proverbial shit kicked out of it for each of the 7500 miles shown on the odometer. As I drove down the battered pavement of 21st Street I noticed that this car did not have a rattle, a squeak or a shake… anywhere, and I was completely shocked. The adjustable magnetic suspension was set on touring and soaked up every bump and malformed piece of pavement that Queens could throw at it.
When I found some clear road I decided to give the CTS-V Coupe a kick in the stones, so I clicked the traction control into competition mode, dropped it into second and put it to the wood – I was probably going 30 mph at this point. Instantly the 285-Series Michelin’s broke traction and I skated forward with the back wheels on fire. Keep in mind now that every journalist has a certain criteria that they adhere to when they test drive a performance car. For me, I look at two things in particular. First off I listen to what my seat-of-the-pants ass-dyno tells me.
With the CTS-V Coupe it was telling me that it had every bit of the 556 hp and 550 lb-ft. of torque that Cadillac claimed it had. The second thing and perhaps the most important, is what I call the “Giggle Factor”. If I lay on the throttle in a car, and it makes me bust out laughing, then that is a very BIG plus. Needless to say I had the Cadillac for over a week and it cracked me up every time I drove the damn thing. This sucker was a riot!
The following day I took a few friends out in the CTS-V for a little run down my favorite twisty back roads. These are roads that I’ve been driving on for years, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pushing it. Keep in mind also that this car is no lightweight, as it tips the scales at about 4200 lbs. I must say though that when flogged, the Caddy handles superbly and you can absolutely tell that everything that was learned in the development of such cars as the Corvette Z06 and ZR1, was put to good use in the CTS-V, as this car never once complained. Oh and by the way, the massive 15-inch rotors with the 6-pot Brembo’s up front provide you with some of the best braking power I’ve experienced to date. What struck me very funny is that both buddies just kept saying, “I can’t believe that this is a Cadillac”…
If there is anyplace that CTS-V Coupe falls short compared to the competition it would have to be the interior, but it’s not by much. The Caddy’s inside is decidedly sporty and has only a few things that I would call, annoying. One is the shiny black plastic that surrounds the center stack, to me it felt a bit cheap, as did the chromed plastic nobs that housed the volume and tuner dials for the Bose stereo system.
Then there is the issue of this new parking brake system that GM uses, and granted this is more of a mechanical issue. However, as opposed to a standard foot control or pull-up parking brake, GM now uses a small switch that engages the brake electronically. I HATE THIS THING – in fact every time I used it I wanted to physically rip it out of the car and toss it in the trash. GM, please ditch this on future models, I implore you.
Aside from those minor issues, the rest of the interior is well thought out and very welcoming. The suede wrapped leather steering wheel for instance is simply wonderful, as are the 14-way power adjustable Recaro seats clad in double stitched leather and suede. In fact these are some of the best in the business as far as I’m concerned. Front seat leg, shoulder and head room were all absolutely fine for my 6’4″ 240 lb. body as well.
The back seats however were a whole different story. I would say that the rear seats are usable for adults 5’10” and under. Anyone taller than that is going to be downright cramped and will have to turn themselves into a contortionist to get access to them.
As for creature comforts, the CTS-V Coupe has them all from the ventilated and heated seats, to a hidden navigation stack (which works beautifully by the way), to the HID headlamps with adaptive forwarding. I could go on about every feature, but instead, lets just say it has everything and leave it at that.
When Cadillac developed the CTS-V’s they had their eyes dead set on the likes of BMW’s M cars and the Mercedes-Benz AMG series. So the big question is, have they achieved their goal on all fronts when comparing themselves to the competition? In my opinion, absolutely. Sure there are somethings that I don’t love about the car, but they’re very few, and the same can be said for the offerings from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The key with the CTS-V Coupe at the end of the day is how it makes you feel and for me, it made me feel like I didn’t want to give it back. It also made me feel proud that General Motors is capable of producing a car that can not only compete, but beat the competition at their own game. Way to go Cadillac, you’ve built a rock solid winner that I would recommend to anyone.
BTW – if anyone has any specific questions about the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer them the best that I can.