Pushing up the highway last week outside New York, the CTS-V ravaged the road wherever I pointed it. Push the gas and it’ll bound forward, all four corners at once, and devour asphalt as if it’s storing protein for a long winter ahead. It feels big and square to drive; this is no sport coupe. The rear-wheel drive feels powerful, if a little heavy, in a way that could soon define a nouveau Detroit opulence. This would be a good thing.
In fact, those stats put the CTS-V on par with the best sedans from Europe—the $94,100 BMW M5, the $101, 700 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, the $141,300 Porsche Panamera Turbo. While it neither performs as excellently as the Panamera nor looks as elegant as the Benz, it belongs right in the thick of the group as the best sedan America can offer.
What You Can GetThe CTS-V is the high-performance version of the CTS sedan, Cadillac’s foray into the luxury sedan market that has been dominated by the Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and, to a lesser extent, Lexus and Jaguar.
There are two additional body styles besides the sedan—a coupe and a wagon—and the three constitute Cadillac’s current best hope at full brand revitalization after years of stagnation. (Its formerly-of-Audi boss and upcoming XT5 will have a lot to do with it, too.)
You’re not going to do any acrobatics with this car (symbolically speaking, that is), but it is straightforward and eager, with body roll almost nil. There is no guile under this hood.
The real question is whether you’re going to want to drive it around town. Are you under the age of 40? If you are, Cadillac is hoping—betting—the answer is yes.
The Looks and the PriceThe sticker price will be the first obstacle you’ll face: MSRP on the 2016 model is $84,000, but that number will quickly jump to $90,000-plus once you add certain essentials ($2,300 performance seats, $900 19-inch wheels, $595 red brake calipers).
Are you okay with that? It still costs less than its German competitors, but it’s by far the most expensive car Caddy sells. Its entry price beats even the Escalade and is surpassed only by the Platinum edition of that SUV.
Steel quad tailpipes at the very back hint at the beautiful sound potential within. (While the angular side mirrors complement the effect, they don’t afford enough visibility.) The look is edgy like a razor, rather than curved, as with the more feline Panamera. CTS-V looks pleasingly modern and unique. You won’t mistake this for anything but a Cadillac. I like it.
Inside the MachineInside the car is a different matter. The 8-inch touchscreen and interchangeable instrument cluster certainly look cool, but there’s nothing like repeatedly pushing the inept “touch” screen buttons on the center console—which demand increasingly more frantic bumps in order to take any action—to make you feel insane.
Trying to adjust something so simple as the volume proves distracting at best and dangerous at worst. The standard-issue heads-up display, heated mirrors, and auto-dimming mirrors provide some small solace, as do the curbside and rear-view cameras that help with parking.
You’ll find that Bluetooth, Bose surround sound, wireless charging, dual-zone climate settings, passive entry, and remote vehicle start are all standard, as they should be for a car in this price range. Cadillac also includes 20-way heated and ventilated seats in the front, though it would be better if they were totally leather, not just “trimmed.”
I am not a fan of “suede” microfiber inserts along the seats and headliner; they feel soft, as if they should be in something a little more sedate, not something with such a serious, aggressive exterior. Other interior dichotomies include the sport alloy pedals that look race-worthy and come standard and the suede microfiber-covered steering wheel and shifter that cost $300 extra and seem out of place.
Still with me? Good. Here’s a further obstacle for you, one that has more to do with convenience than with cash. The car gets 14 miles per gallon in the city. Aside from the cost to your wallet (including the $1,000 federal gas-guzzler toll) and to the environment, that means you’ll be taking frequent stops to replenish fuel. I hate having to stop for gas—just get me in the car, and let’s go—and I suspect you feel the same. This is 2016, very nearly. There is no excuse for producing such a thirsty turkey.