2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe
2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2011 Cadillac CTS coupe

Manufacturer’s web site
Cadillac Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2012 Cadillac CTS-V

You won’t see too many Cadillac CTS-V Coupes on the street, but when you do, your gaze is guaranteed to linger. Some think it’s awesome, some not so much, but whatever your opinion, with this car you’ll certainly have one.

The CTS-V is Cadillac’s extreme performance version of its mid-size CTS series of vehicles. The “V” stands for velocity, the potential for which this car has in abundance. Under the hood you’ll find a 6.2L supercharged V8 engine that makes 556 hp at 6,100 rpm and 551 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm. It’s a mover and a shaker.

Although the CTS-V comes standard with a Tremec six-speed manual transmission, our test car was fitted with a six-speed automatic with steering-wheel mounted paddle (well, button…) shifters and, including its options and destination charge, stickered at $83,550 (base price is $72,230 plus $1,895 destination).

So it’s not your average grocery-getter, although it does come with a carry net in the trunk should new owners find they have more errands to run than usual.

2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe
2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe. Click image to enlarge

The CTS-V comes standard with many features that would be optional or not available on lesser Cadillacs, like a navigation system with 40-GB hard drive, heated and ventilated front seats, Bose premium audio, special 19-inch wheels, leather/suede seats, sport suspension with Magnetic Ride, Brembo high performance brakes, rear-view camera, blind spot alert, special grille and badging, and that engine, of course.

Options on our White Diamond Tricoat vehicle included graphite aluminum wheels, performance (Recaro) bucket seats, the automatic transmission, yellow Brembo calipers, sunroof, and a suede steering wheel.

So, enough about the features; what’s the point of a hot-rod Cadillac, anyway?

The point is that your German luxury competitors have made something of an art and science of this particular category of vehicles, which they pretty much own. You have Mercedes-Benz AMG models across the line-up, and likewise the BMW M Series and the Audi RS models with which to contend. These cars don’t just go fast; they do it in the most sublimely sophisticated fashion. So if Cadillac wants to play at this exalted level, it has to come up with something both legitimate and distinctive.

No less a curmudgeon than Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson thinks the CTS-V is both, and that’s saying a lot because the best this man can usually do when you combine the words “American” and “automobile” is make a face. His positive assessment was made a few years ago, and the CTS-V is arguably a better car now. So what’s it like to actually drive one of these things?

2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe
2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe. Click image to enlarge

First of all, the doors of this coupe are massive. They swing way out, and you’d think there’d be some kind of beacon on them to warn other motorists (let alone cyclists!) that something hard is ahead. But surprisingly, no.

They open via a hidden electric switch, so the car’s sleek flanks aren’t sullied by something as gauche as a handle. The Recaro seats sort of swallow you into their embrace, with large thigh and side bolsters gently holding you in position. It’s kind of like putting a racing suit on.

The car starts without a key, and the engine comes to life with a muted roar. Your major gauges illuminate in red and self-check, and the navigation/vehicle information system elevates from the top of the centre console and displays a Cadillac graphic prior to displaying your location. If you’ve set your memory recall, the steering wheel repositions itself into your hands and the seats move forward to your preferred position. It’s a bit dramatic, but it’s a prelude to something special, a “serious driving ahead” type of thing. I liked it just fine.

Moving into traffic you find outward visibility is a rare commodity in the CTS-V Coupe. You have no idea where the front or rear of the car are, let alone the sides, and thank goodness for the rearview camera because really, you can see squat back there. Here’s a vehicle in which proximity sensors would be appreciated.

Steering is heavy at slow speeds, as these big, wide tires (Michelin Pilots: 255/40ZR19 front; 285/35ZR19 rear) move over the pavement. As the car accelerates, the steering lightens and the CTS-V’s urge becomes palpable. It absolutely wants to go, and it wants you to make it happen in short order. That’s how it feels, at least initially: it’s kind of like the car is in the driver’s seat.

Connect with Autos.ca