Emotive big sports saloon with real ability, but flawed and too expensive

The Welsh lanes are getting narrower, and the rivulets of water that flow across and along the typically complex asphalt topography are getting deeper with the driving rain. Great.It’s not the best place to spend your first five minutes aboard a Cadillac CTS-V. After all, we’re talking about a prime exponent of America’s current muscle-car craze, with a 395bhp V8 derived from the previous Corvette ZO6 driving the rear wheels and the steering wheel on the wrong side. Oh, and the front looks like it was designed to eat rival cars whole; it’s not hard to imagine fragments of ‘M’ badges and alloy wheel lodged in the oversize mesh grilles like plaque on a shark’s incisors. There just so happens to be an Audi S4 ahead too, able to deploy its 340bhp through all four wheels, with the result that it’s travelling really rather fast indeed. If it were not for the fact that the hedge is pressed tightly up against the driver’s door it might be tempting to quit now before unleashing the V8.Actually, there’s no need to reach for the door handle just yet, nor the usual clichés about big V8 iron that doesn’t handle and should never have been put on the boat across the Atlantic. Simple research on the CTS-V throws up mention of GM’s new performance division, the new GM Sigma platform with multi-link rear suspension and Germany’s famed Nürburgring circuit. That’s right, the big Caddy has spent many hours at the ’Ring, and the hype says it outpaces a BMW M5, albeit the old 4.9-litre V8 model.One cliché that is legitimate is the description of the CTS’s LS6 V8. That’s because it behaves exactly as you would expect a 5.7-litre V8 with 393lb ft of torque to behave. It pulls from below tickover and then rumbles, roars and howls its way through the limited rev range as the CTS-V stampedes forward.Yet while the engine’s character seems to have a direct link with those nerves that cause your mouth to smile, it doesn’t feel quite as fast in cold terms as you might expect. No doubt the 1746kg kerbweight and the Tremec T56 gearbox – long in ratios and with a shift action akin to changing the points by hand at Clapham Junction – take the edge off the performance. The S4 has no problems in holding its own in a straight line race against the CTS-V which, considering the hammer-drill engine note and sense of conspicuous consumption in the Caddy, is something of a disappointment.But you don’t need to spend long behind the wheel of the CTS-V to realise it has a chassis with genuine poise and ability – and to appreciate that talk of the Nürburgring is more than just spin. The Caddy rides reasonably well, with a compliance missing from some German rivals, yet there’s a sophistication to its damping that keeps things under control even over roads as demanding as these mountain passes. It may look big from the outside, but it has a wieldiness and usability that belie its size, and your confidence soon grows as a result. Pushed really hard the CTS-V does move around a bit on its suspension, lacking the final dynamic polish of a BMW M-car, but it’s a fine compromise for UK roads and that has to go down as an unexpected triumph for Cadillac.The steering is accurate, but over-light in effort and feel, and with 3.5 turns from lock to lock it requires plenty of arm twirling. Still, in these conditions, your right foot tends to help out with the direction of travel. As you’d expect, the Caddy can conjure plenty of oversteer.The problem for the CTS-V is not how it goes, corners or stops, but more mundane matters. Some of the detailing on the outside – crude chicken wire mesh in the intakes and undernourished-looking exhausts – is only a taste of an interior of simple angular forms and very cheap plastic.And as if left-hand-drive only wasn’t enough of a problem in the UK, the Caddy compounds the problem with a wheel that doesn’t adjust for reach and is far too big to feel sporting. Surely those laps around the ‘Ring required something a bit more grippy and manageable? You can’t fault the generous amount of standard kit inside, but for £45,000 this isn’t good enough.Yes, we did say £45,000. That’s the Caddy’s biggest problem: it’s just too expensive. When you factor in that it’s a left-hooker – a problem when overtaking in a car as wide as this – the downmarket interior and the fact that we averaged a fuel consumption figure in the low teens, it’s hard to make a case for it. Just about anyone with petrol in their veins will love a thrash in a CTS-V, but the appeal may wane if you consider buying one.Adam Towler

Back to top

Add a comment…