My first solid look at the 2004 Cadillac CTS-V was at Media Day mid-May 2004 at Mazda Laguna Seca Racetrack in Monterey CA. For Media Day Manufacturers bring their "wares" for sixty plus journalists to compare. And there is usually a longish line waiting to drive that year' s track favorite. In past years it has been Porsches and Subaru (WRX), but this year was unusual. The line formed at the right for the CTS-V, yes a Cadillac.
It' s rare to find a car this large that can meet the same driving criteria as the Cooper S and BMW M3GTR in quickness and balance, but the CTS-V did just that. The six-speed manual version of the CTS is powered by a 400-horsepower V8. And with the awesome torque of 395 lb-ft @4,800 rpm, it was easily one of the fastest cars on the track.
Having a fast, good-looking car isn' t good enough for Cadillac' s Dave Spitzer, "We want to regain credibility by action." At first I thought Spitzer meant credibility in just market share, but he meant racing credibility and a standard of world status.
"Cadillac' s racing history dates back to 1909 when Howard Covey won the first race held in the United States National Championship series in Portland, Ore. We' ve got a performance car, we need to be able to prove it."
Taking the 2004 CTS-V to the races this time meant taking an almost production Cadillac to the race. According to Spitzer, "Cadillac is able to showcase a high performance, street-legal car that is nearly identical to buyers in the showroom."
In March 2004 the new CTS-V racing team had Max Angelelli and Andy Pilgrim taking a 1-2 podium wins in SCCA Speed World Challenge GT in Sebring, Florida. The first racing victory for the Cadillac division in 55 years. This was followed by Angelelli in third with Pilgrim in fifth at Lime Rock, And John Heinricy in third, with Angelelli in sixth and Pilgrim in seventh at Mid-Ohio.
With the results from Mid-Ohio in late June Team Cadillac was within four points of the Manufacturer' s title leading Audi. Quite a feat for a team that didn' t exist until this year, and a strong message to the other teams.
The next race was on Sunday July 18th at Infineon Sears Point in Sonoma, CA. At nine A.M. the horn blared, four minutes until race time. The matched time Corvette and Porsche blasted up Turn One followed by the fleet. It wasn' t long before crashes and agricultural expeditions took their toll with the several cars out and Andy Pilgrim dropping back from fifth to seventh to avoid the melee.
Max Angelelli was in eighth with both climbing back up the grid. On lap thirteen Angelelli was out of the race; "I thought I had more speed than him. I was in the process of passing when he moved inside me, and then he stopped and I hit him." said Angelelli. In trying to avoid impact, the Italian also made contact with a tire barrier and his hood popped back blocking his view of the track. It took him a bit to make it back to the pits and the crew scrambled to get him back into the fray but conceded re-entry on lap eighteen. A sad conclusion to a tremendous effort.
On lap sixteen Andy Pilgrim passed the Audi to take fifth position and with another deft move took fourth on lap 20. "That was an entertaining race," said Pilgrim. "This is a handling track, and it really suited us. We were good on braking and handling and we carried a lot of speed up (turn) one. Our problem was that we didn' t have enough horsepower to come out of the corners ~ right from the power-on point.
"I got a reasonable start but then a Corvette in front of me braked early and three cars got by me on the inside. Then it was just a question of being patient. Tommy Archer' s car was very fast on the straights but I could gain ground on him in the high speed corners. He would pull away on the straights, but another five laps and who knows what might have happened."
Andy secured precious points for Cadillac in the battle for the manufacturers' title. The Cadillac team is now a single point down and nipping at the heels of the very experienced Audi group. I' ve watched this racing division for many years, and believe the sanctioning bodies like SCCA always let groups that have been racing with them for many years have a little bit of an edge. It' s an incredible accomplishment for a new team to be this close to the old established leaders.
After the race the Cadillac CTS-V tent was mobbed by young fans seeking autographed posters, meeting the drivers, shooting pictures and just looking at the cars. It was interesting to hear fans saying things like "glad to see an American car in the running for the manufacturer' s title." With the all the attention they are gaining from racing the CTS-V, the first product out the pipeline, they are doing quite well.
It was not so long ago that a teenager did not want to been seen alive in a stodgy product made by Cadillac. Cadillacs were the old guys machine. The old saying, "Go from a pacifier to a Chevy and be buried in a Cadillac" is no longer valid. The average age for a Cadillac is going down. It used to be in the ' 60s, but with the hoopla of MTV, the average age is now 45-60 and they have a 6-figure income. To see more about the car, take a look at teamcadillac.com)
For me the most interesting thing to note were the teenagers chattering about the cars with terms I couldn' t even guess at, but one thing was clear the CTS-V was "cool," a Cadillac considered a "cool" car. The times, they are a-changin'
On the plus side, the CTS-V is quite satisfying to drive while outperforming virtually every four door sedan Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Volvo, Ford, Saab and Chrysler have put in front of me. It does so with a rare combination of solid comfort and superb track reflexes.
On the minus side, the interior is well done for an America car, but does not meet Audi/Mercedes levels of design and appeal. It is rated at 16/city and 25/highway which is near the top of its class for fuel economy, and the cost of ownership are not going to be astronomically high as is common with this class of vehicle.
Bottom line ? If you can live with 20 miles per gallon (which is what I averaged with the Subaru' s hot rod WRX) then this car can supply you with years of driving pleasure, and to me that makes it a winner.