The Fastest Bargain You'll Ever Drive
Christina DesMarais, Fri, 10 Jun 2011 11:35:52 PDT
I'm on the highway driving home, trying my best not to get a ticket. A green Dodge Durango SLT, a black Mercedes E350 and even an old Pontiac edge past me. They're also working to oust each other from first place because they know in about a mile we're going to be stuck in one lane for 25 miles.
I am thoroughly disgusted with them, and myself. With them, because they clearly have no idea what kind of a machine they are passing without a second thought. And with me, because I am doing the 2011 CTS-V coupe a monumental disservice by not chewing these little guys up, spitting them out and saying "To hell with it. I'll take the ticket."
In case you didn't know it, the CTS-V is one of the fastest cars made for 2011. Its 6.2L supercharged V8 engine puts out 556hp and will get from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds. In fact, it's the only car less than $100,000 capable of that kind of acceleration. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'm a sensible woman and decide to let the ignorant drivers get the tickets likely being doled out by the cop who hangs out in the median in his beefed-up Dodge Charger about four miles up the road. Yet I realize if I was a better driver (like some of my brothers-in-law who have done it) I could easily outrun the Charger in the CTS-V (not that anyone at Carlist would ever do such a thing, I'm just saying).
In the cockpit
Meanwhile, I spend some time assessing the CTS-V's cabin ameneties. It has all the usual features you would expect from a luxury brand: steering wheel controls that can adjust the audio system, dual-zone climate controls, 10-way adjustable heated and cooled front seats, a retractable touch screen display with rear vision camera, and stitched leather seats and dash.
The overall impression I get is that the luxury features are immediately available and it wouldn't take a driver a month to figure out how to access them, unlike some of the high-tech Audis I've driven, for example. The climate controls are intuitive. If you want to heat your side of the cabin to 80, the car isn't going to turn on an annoyingly loud fan and start blowing everything around. The Cadillac seems to know the fastest (and quietest) way to get there.
Another example of easy-to-access luxury features: If you want to change the suspension mode from "touring" to "sport" or vice versa, you don't have to navigate a complicated set of computerized menus on the car's display screen. There's simply a button to push. And in this car, that's a button you're very likely to use if you want to take tight corners at speed.
You start the CTS-V by turning a built-in key that is activated only when the key fob is in the car. If you leave it in the car, get out and walk away, the car will honk at you three times because, clearly, the CTS-V does not want to be stolen. If you leave the key fob in your purse all the time like I did, the car can sense when you're at the door, open automatically, and likewise lock by itself once the key fob is outside the vehicle.
A few things are different about the CTS-V. Its exterior appears futuristic and some of that carries through to the interior as well. For instance, every passenger who rode with me couldn't figure out how to get out. That's because there is no door handle, but a push button which opens the door from the inside.
Also, while trying out the back seat I was a bit claustrophobic, but felt better when I found buttons on the backs of the driver and passenger seats that can move them forward. Without that feature, getting out of the backseat might be a challenge if the people in the front cabin ditched back-seat riders for whatever reason.
And a word about blind spots. To say the CTS-V has them would be an understatement. Don't even try to look over your shoulder before switching lanes because it won't do you a bit of good. Align your mirrors properly, then use them.
A big dog impervious to a small dog's yapping
I decide to pull off at a convenience store and get something to drink. I'm no longer in the city and the car is getting some serious looks from people who have clearly never seen or heard anything like the CTS-V before. First, it sounds more like a muscle car than a luxury sports car, with a low and mean idle. It's appearance, though, is futuristic. As I mentioned, there are no door handles and its lines, as one stranger told me, "are beautiful."
I park, get out, and walk past a bunch of teenagers hanging around a Chevrolet Camaro, circa 1995, who seem to be wondering what a "mom" is doing in such a fast-looking car. I wish I wasn't wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a pony tail. A more upscale appearance would fit the CTS-V.
Inside, the man behind the register says to me, "Is that your silver car?" I hesitate and consider a lie, but then remember I'm not dressed for play-acting. "No. " I say. "I'm just testing it." Then we spend a little while talking about horsepower and whatnot and I leave, happy to know there isn't a car around as fast as the one I'm getting into.
As I pull out onto the highway again, the teenagers decide to pick a fight. Like a little toy poodle yapping at a Rottweiler, the morons get right up on my tail, illegally pass me on the right, then veer off to take a left-hand turn in front of me. I shake my head and wish I knew that foolish boy driver's mother's phone number. The phrase "stupid kids" doesn't begin to describe the kind of nomenclature filling my brain. I'm not a bully in the CTS-V though (although my husband told me later he would have shown them a thing or two). I see the car as more of a snob, above such childish and dangerous games.
Later that night, after my motherly duties have been fulfilled, I quietly escape in the CTS-V again, this time, to prove to myself the car's famed acceleration. The first thing I notice in the dark is the headlights turn in the direction of the wheels, lending even more to the car's sporty feel.
Before I continue with this story, let me say that I did not break any laws in the two hours I spent perfecting 0-60 in the CTS-V and I even checked with my brothers-in-law about this. Since I never pushed past the speed limit, really the only ticket I might have received was "unnecessary acceleration."
Here we had a bit of a family feud. The BILs said to receive such a ticket, "There would have to be noise or smoke coming from the tires." My husband, who has actually received an unnecessary acceleration ticket, said they were full of it and to get the ticket all a person had to do was accelerate quickly (imagine that). He said the smoking and screeching scenario they described would actually be considered "reckless driving."
Unlike all of them, I don't have much experience with law enforcement and prefer to keep it that way. With no intention of driving recklessly, I headed to a rural area near my home that has miles and miles of empty roads. From a stop, I practiced getting to the speed limit as fast as possible. Let me tell you how it feels.
A six-speed manual transmission comes standard in the CTS (automatic is optional). With my left hand on the suede-covered steering wheel and my right hand on the stick (also trimmed in suede, for a nicely-balanced tactile experience), I let out the clutch while slamming the accelerator. The front-end lifts noticeably as my body is thrown deeper into the seat, along with the weight of the vehicle which transfers to the solidly-planted back end, grabbing every inch of the road with no slipping, smoking or screwing around. The car wants to go.
Accelerating like a racecar driver means not upshifting until close (my BILs would say into) to redline. In the case of the CTS-V, that's at about 6,000 RPM. By the time you're there and shift into second, you're already at 60mph, leaving four more gears to blast even faster.
Which begs the question, just how fast will the CTS-V go? According to Cadillac, the manual's top speed is 191 mph, and the automatic is limited to 175 mph.
I did not try that.
A tremendous bargain
Think about this: The only other cars in 2011 that can accelerate as fast as the CTS-V are extremely expensive, and all foreign. The Pagani Zonda Tricolore, an Italian car which most Americans wouldn't know, accelerates only slightly faster than the CTS-V and costs about $1.7 million. On the lower-end, there's the Audi R8 GT, which again, is only slightly faster, but costs at least twice the CTS-V.
The coupe I drove gets slapped with a $1,300 gas guzzler tax (14mpg city/19mpg highway), included Recaro high performance seats for another $3,400, and boasted 19-inch satin graphite wheels with bright yellow calipers for an extra $800. The suede steering wheel and shifter that I mentioned add another $300. In all, it costs $69,440, a veritable bargain in its class.
In reality, my speed-loving, cop-avoiding BILs (if they had somewhat decent jobs) could take out loans to buy the CTS-V and spend all their days racing people off the line at stoplights (which they say they would definitely do if they owned one).
A car that can travel nearly 200 mph for less than $70,000. Call me a Cadillac fan.