If you need any evidence that Cadillac is trying as hard as it can to break away from its granddad image, look no further than its CTS-V Coupe. Cadillac sinks GM's baddest powerplant — the supercharged V-8 from the uber Corvette ZR-1 — into a coupe that's equal parts luxury touring car and rocket ship. Sorry, Granddad.
Appearance: The CTS-V is a head-turner, a sleek, high-belted profile with an aggressive, macho grille and sharp angles — especially the head- and taillights. We had lots of people ogling this car. The body is clean, save for discreet CTS-V badging. There are no door handles, just recessed touchpads. And there's a slight hood bulge to house the supercharger. The two-part mesh grille and front air dam give the coupe a race car-like look. In the rear, the center brake lights end in a sharp tip. Cool. Then there's the centered, polished-chrome dual exhaust, which look like something you might see at the drag strip.
Performance: Cadillac tested its CTS-V — there's also a sedan — on Germany's famed Nurburgring race course and set its sights on the performance versions of European luxury cars such as Mercedes and BMW. The result: A 6.2-liter, 556-horsepower supercharged V-8 that hurls the 3,909-pound car from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. (The penalty for this power is the $2,600 gas guzzler tax.) The V-8 has a low, satisfying rumble. The rear-wheel-drive CTS-V has refined handling on 19-inch performance rubber with a stance that is 2 inches wider in the rear plus bigger tires. Still, the ride is smooth, like a luxury car. Stopping is not a problem with Brembo brakes. For Peter, the only thing that didn't stand out was the six-speed automatic, which has paddle shifters. We would have liked to try the available manual gearbox.
Interior: The multi-tone cabin speaks more to a sports car than a luxury coupe in its look. It's a mix of chrome, leather and wood grain. The Recaro seats are perforated suede with black leather trim and feature saffron-colored inserts. As you would expect from high-performance seats, they are well-bolstered and stiff. What you might not expect: They are oddly comfortable. Lyra didn't like the suede-covered steering wheel. Her hands kept slipping on it. (Peter liked it.) Elsewhere, there are lots of typical luxury-car features such as auto start, a backup camera, headlamp washers and Bluetooth. The quiet cabin also features a Bose 5.1 surround system if you want to break the silence. The retractable navigation screen, which rises from the dash, partly blocked Lyra's view. In the rear, headroom is sacrificed to the sloping roof. The rear bucket seats are comfortable, but too narrow for a child booster seat. We both wish the car had a blind-spot warning system as there is a significantly obstructed view.
Our 3 favorites
Supercharged: This is GM's best motor, although not quite as powerful as its Corvette cousin.
Design: Cadillac has had trouble finding a distinctive look; not so with the CTS-V.
Exhaust: I love the centered placement.
Design: Chiseled, elegant and contemporary.
Recaro seats: Surprisingly comfortable performance seats. They hug you when you whip through turns.
Interior details: Multi-tone and texture, contrasting stitching.
The bottom line: Wow. This car will run with the German performance coupes, concede little in the styling department and do it for less than 70 grand. It's the total package.