Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cadillac CTS-V Coupe on the Race Track and Street

The CTS-V Coupe is not a favorite of mine. Driving it however definitely changed how I feel about it, but still not my conclusion. I’ve already stated a while back that GM shouldn’t have bothered making this car. I didn’t think the Coupe would sell very well with its Transformer robot styling, oversized doors, over-angled near-useless rear window, overweight, etc. On the other hand it definitely has serious performance capability.
The V-sedan on the other hand has none of the shortcomings. It’s a great car offering all the advantages of four doors with world class performance and world class pricing, what’s not to like?

The coupe offers the same 556 horsepower supercharged 6.0 liter V-8 as the sedan. Called the LS-A, it is a somewhat “detuned” version of the 638hp unit in the Corvette ZR1. My notes from both the public roads and Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca repeat the word, “smooth” more than once. Some say the pushrod V-8 doesn’t have the refinement of the overhead cam engines from Europe and Asia. It wasn’t apparent when driving it. I found it very easy to hit the rev limiter since there doesn’t seem to be a rising crescendo of noise nor vibration and it revs quickly. The 6-speed manual had good feel and action, no complaints.

It is so fast, it’s a hooligan car. Capable of low 12-second quarter mile ETs in the high teens with optimal conditions, other cars are thought of as a, “Why do you bother?” And, “Get off the road, this is where the big boys play.” On the track though, being a big boy is a definite disadvantage.

While on a winding and sometimes bumpy road, the active suspension with the magnetic ride control (shocks) and brakes were excellent, inspiring confidence and never a jittery misstep. The brake pedal travel is short is quickly gotten used to. All that speed and a listed curb weight of 4209lbs, only 13lbs less than the sedan and the same wheelbase but slightly wider track, meant repeated use on the track brought out wisps of smoke.

Steering effort is light but the wheel seems to sit at an angle with a shape that may be great for some hands yet not others. Definitely not a universal fit. The climate control is truly a dual unit in usage with separate controls angled towards the occupants on the center console as well as a central panel. Initial impression of the seats is that they are firm yet supportive. The door handle is an electric door release versus direct mechanical linkage. And yes, the door is long, very long. There is also an odd cut-out piece in the body work on the exterior next to the door.

Sometimes when you leave the driver’s window cracked open, the wind noise is readily apparent, not so with the coupe which was a pleasant change. As mentioned before, it has poor rear visibility. But not too poor where I couldn’t identify the Mercedes SLS closing the gap after the corkscrew at Laguna Seca. I tried to show it what American iron could do, but coming out of turn 11, I was freight trained. Considering that Motor Trend has had champion race car driver Bernd Schneider lap Laguna Seca over 3 seconds faster in the SLS than champion Randy Pobst’s time years earlier in the CTS-V, I didn’t feel bad at all. After all, a 3 second deficit comparing flying laps basically means getting pulled hard from the exit of turn 11 on to the front straight to the finish line. Think of it as something like a 30mph to 120mph drag race.

There is no denying it’s a good car, maybe even a great car that offers a lot of content and performance for the dollar. However the sedan offers all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of the coupe. Since the coupe is uniquely styled and definitely stands out, it can back up it's looks unlike past uniquely styled failures such as the Pontiac Aztek and Chevrolet SSR. So with over 500hp, as they say, there really is a butt for every seat.


1 comment:

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