It sounds authentic, you see – unlike the BMW (which doesn’t always have the sonic drama you might want from a super-saloon) and the Mercedes (which often has too much) when both rely too much on imitation engine noise piped in via the stereo speakers. Both the Germans have sports exhausts with ‘noisy’ modes, but neither is allowed solo billing when its V8 is at its wildest; and when there’s a 600-horsepower V8 to listen to, how daft is that? And even though the M5’s audio system engine sounds are the more contrived of the two, the E63’s end up irritating you just as much once your brain starts successfully filtering out which kind of rumble is coming from where.
The CTS-V, on the other hand, just layers on the delicious bleeding-heart rawness with greater and greater abandon as you flex your right foot. As one colleague aptly suggested, it might as well be shouting ‘fake news!’ at its opposition from across the continental divide.
Does that make the CTS-V’s driving experience the most compelling of the three, then? Well, it’s not a bad start – but in the finish, I’d be amazed if anyone unfamiliar with the specification of these cars would nod at anything other than the AMG after being sent away to drive them and then asked which was the most powerful. And the best-handling? A different nod again.
It’s impossible to feel the full accelerative potency of any of these cars for more than a few seconds on the road, of course, but because it has such incredible torque, the AMG’s V8 certainly makes the most of those few seconds. What a monumental engine. The M5’s performance level is almost as ballistic, but it gets better with revs so you’re more inclined to use the full span of the BMW’s rev range than you are in the E63.
The CTS-V, meanwhile, doesn’t quite deliver the savage hit of force that its outputs promise or that its exhaust noise seems to be announcing. Like the BMW’s V8, the Cadillac’s is an engine that needs to be workedto really come to the fore, but it’s just a shame the car’s suspension doesn’t deliver a more composed platform to inspire you to do that more often.
Because despite the big billing and the murmurs of approval from voices on the other side of the point, the CTS-V doesn’t quite handle well enough to cut it in this company. In isolation, I dare say it’d meet most dynamic expectations of a fast four- door – but in comparison with the incisive steering, supreme balance and unbelievable body control of the BMW, and a Mercedes that isn’t far behind in all of those respects, theCadillac struggles.
It struggles for outright grip and traction (surprise, surprise), for vertical body control at times and, very occasionally, for stability too. But what strikes you most about the big American, with familiarity, is the disconnect between the pace of the car’s steering and the softness of its rear axle, the latter seeming to take its time to settle onto its loaded side after the former has wrenched the car through the turn-in phase with all of the gentle moderation of a presidential handshake.