If Nissan’s Maxima was the world’s first four-door sports car (as the company liked to say in its ads), the Cadillac CTS-V is one of the world’s few real-deal muscle sedans.
There’s a big difference.
Sport sedans are about finesse and balance as much as they are about straight-line acceleration. Muscle cars are all about tire-frying slingshot launches and overwhelming force. They must be V-8 powered — and by a BIG V-8. There is no replacement for displacement — at least not when it comes to a muscle sled. They cannot be front-wheel-drive. Not ever. An automatic transmission is an automatic disqualifier — and that includes “clutchless” manuals and “autostick” automatics. No clutch, no glory.
On every crucial count, the CTS-V makes the cut — from its overkill 6 liter, 400 horsepower V-8 to its six-speed gearbox to its burnout-friendly rear drive layout. The piece de resistance is the car’s threatening strut — like a big-armed bouncer just looking to smash someone’s face in. The aluminum mesh grille (a CTS-V) specific and double-stack vertical headlights leer ominously as the car closes in the rearview mirror of left-lane hogs and moms in minivans. Its appearance alone telegraphs “get out of my way… now!” without even having to blip the monster six-liter V-8’s throttle.
The CTS-V is one mean mutha. It can rip down the strip to 60 mph in five seconds flat — leaving one 20-yard patch of rubber (from your initial launch) followed by another 2-5 yard patch (from the 1-2 upshift) as a permanent record of your achievement. The almost 400 pounds-feet of torque produced by the Corvette-sourced V-8 provides hand-of-God thrust at the merest depression of your right foot. Put it down all the way and you will be gone in 60 seconds. Hell, you’ll be in the next county.
I did an informal speed run on my favorite stretch of isolated country blacktop — a road near my rural redoubt that’s about 2 miles long, straight and with superb visibility. My modified 1200 cc sport bike can tickle 160 on this stretch, flat out — before I’ve got to back off and bleed speed in time for the blind hill/curve that comes up at the end of the run. My CTS-V tester, with about a 90 mph rolling start into the main straight, tapped 140-something — pretty damn good for a four wheeler — and not too far off the pace of the current “record holder” — the Z06 Corvette. (That crazy SOB actually beats the bike.)
But unlike either my sport bike or the ‘Vette, the CTS-V can take three of your bravest friends with you to the land of Triple the Double Nickel. And it does it all for just over $50k — $50,945, to be precise.
That’s better bang for your buck than any Saturday night special .38 loaded with hollow points. And with a better warranty, too.
Aside from its centerpiece drivetrain, the CTS-V also gets huge Brembo brakes (with the calipers embossed with the “CTS-V” logo), 18-inch Goodyear rubber (that won’t last long if you drive this thing as it will beg you to be driven), dual pipes that let the V-8’s exhaust pulses tear the air whenever you hit it — plus a 180 mph speedo you’ll be tempted to try to peg — and which you’ve got the equipment to do the deed with (or at least get pretty close).
The CTS-V also gets a traction/stability control system that’s dialed-in for a more aggressive driving experience — and which the driver can over-rule if he wishes. Unlike some over-nannied performance sedans whose performance is strictly rationed, the CTS-V lets you have it all — every tire-chirping, fishtailing 400 ponies’ worth. It’s a handful of car — as a car of this sort ought to be.
Several raised-pinkie critics have denounced the CTS-V for its interior materials — which are, admittedly, not the hand-stitched/hand-fitted leather you’d find in something like a BMW M5 or Benz E55 AMG. But they lose sight of the big picture point — which is, quite simply, that there isn’t another car on the market that offers anything like this package of brute power and visceral hooliganism for a mere $50k.
A BMW 550i starts out eight grand higher ($58,500) and with a 40-hp deficit (its much smaller 4.8 liter V-8 offers only 360-hp). To get a Beemer with more balls — or enough to stomp the CTS-V — you’ll need an M5 and a V-10. You’ll also need another $30k.
How about the Benz E55 AMG? How about $81,800?
And so on.
The only real pound-for-pound/dollar for dollar sedan that offers a comparable experience is the $35,320 Dodge Charger SRT-8 and its more upmarket cousin, the Chrysler 300 C SRT-8 ($39,920).
These maulers are armed with even larger (6.1 liter), even mightier (425 horsepower ) V-8 engines. But they’re also automatic-only deals. And neither are really in the Caddy’s league insofar as prestige is concerned — the Dodge especially.
When you buy the CTS-V you get the thunderstorm fury of a massive Detroit V-8 — along with the full-boat luxury of a loaded Cadillac that comes with suede insert heated power sport buckets, DVD-based GPS system, sunroof, dual zone climate control, premium 212 watt Delco-Bose stereo rig — and the status that comes with ownership of a marque brand like Cadillac that you just don’t get when you drive a Dodge or a Chrysler. (No offense intended.) You’ll also get a better warranty — four years/50,000 miles vs. three years/36,000 miles for both the Charger SRT-8 and the 300C SRT-8 — as befits a luxury branded vehicle. And hopefully, better treatment (nicer waiting rooms, maybe a free loaner car) at the dealer when it comes time to service the beast. It’s part of what you’re paying all that coin for.
But the thing that sells the CTS-V is, above all else, it’s ability to kick the teeth in of almost anything with four doors — and to do it for just $50k, signed sealed and delivered.
Throw it in the Woods?