PORTLAND, Ore. -- On a closed-loop asphalt track, the souped-up CTSv sport luxury coupe from Cadillac races down the front straightaway in a compelling demonstration of power with the muscle of 556 horses in a supercharged V8 engine applying massive torque to turn two rear wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires.
From a starting line at the top of the straight, this new high-performance coupe variation of Cadillac's CTS sedan rips to the speedometer's mark of 60 mph in a tick or two below four seconds.
By the time we tap the brakes before entering the first set of turns, we're hurling well into the triple-digit speed zone with a super-stiff chassis riding low against the asphalt in rock-stable pose.
Then, in swift sidestep sequence through a three-kink chicane with the Z-rated Michelins squawking, Cadillac's stunning coupe shows us how agile and athletic it can act.
We continue to steer through all 12 turns on the 1.94-mile circuit, but by now we're convinced: Cadillac has taken the CTS sport touring sedan and transformed it into a serious yet fun-to-drive sport coupe.
The 2011 CTSv edition comes from the High Performance Vehicle Operations at General Motors, sort of a tuner shop charged with pumping up racy versions of GM production models. And it begins with the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform of the mid-size CTS sport luxury coupe, which is also new for 2011 as a two-door spin-off of the four-door CTS sedan.
With its wide track and squatty stance for knife-edge sharp skin that ripples over wheelwells and amplifies a blunt in-your-face prow crowned with a boxed egg-crate grille and stacked high-intensity discharge (HID) xenon lamps, the CTSv has a wheelbase measuring to the same length as the CTSv sedan, yet the body is broader by a couple of inches, the roof is lower by several more inches and the rear track is wider to pin those huge tires to the pavement.
Key component of the CTSv coupe is a 6.2-liter V8, which is based on GM's legendary small-block V8 and hitched to an intercooled Eaton R1900 supercharger system.
Preliminary estimates of this plant's output indicate it develops 556 hp at 6200 rpm and massive torque of 551 lb-ft at 3800 rpm.
It operates with a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission or GM's Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic, which was designed to handle a huge torque load, with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
All of the go-power for CTSv the coupe is countered by its serious stopping power.
The four-wheel disc brake system by the Brembo brand from Italy uses slotted and vented rotors -- 15-inch up front and 14.7-inch in back -- with six-piston aluminum calipers in the front and four-piston aluminum calipers in the rear.
Also, there are electronic connections to anti-lock (ABS) and traction control (TCS) devices, plus dynamic rear brake proportioning (DBP) and StabiliTrak, GM's superior vehicle stability controller.
Steering, through a rack and pinion device with variable-assist power, feels dead-on precise and quick.
Suspension elements consist of lightweight aluminum for upper and lower control arms to reduce the vehicle's unsprung mass, which makes it stick better on the road and glide more uniformly over bumps.
Further, Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension magic applies.
The MRC amounts to variable shock damping to control wheel and body motion via magnetized fluid in shocks.
By governing the current to an electromagnetic coil inside the damper, shock fluid's consistency can be changed instantly for continuously variable shock damping.
The forged alloy 5-lug wheels measure 19 x 9 inches in front and 19 x 9.5 inches in back, with Michelin PS2 summer tires of 255/40ZR19 forward and 285/35ZR19 trailing.
Park the CTSv coupe beside a CTS coupe and you'll see that the V-badged version looks like a muscle-bound cousin.
But the new CTS coupe also presents aggressive styling on a slick two-door package which houses a luxurious passenger compartment with 2+2 seat plan.
Power for the CTS coupe comes from an aluminum 3.6-liter V6 rigged with dual overhead cams, direct injection technology and VVT (variable valve timing). With direct injection, the fuel goes directly into the engine's combustion chamber and fosters a thorough burn of the mix of air and fuel.
The V6 makes 304 hp at 6400 rpm, with torque peaking to 273 lb-ft at 5200 rpm.
The standard transmission is a smooth-to-shift electronically controlled six-speed automatic, GM's Hydra-Matic 6L50. Optional is a six-speed manual gearbox made by Aisin, the AY6.
Traction choices include standard RWD or on-demand all-wheel-drive (AWD).
All versions stock an independent short/long arm front suspension system with lightweight aluminum upper and lower control arms and knuckles. The multi-link arrangement in the rear mounts on a fully isolated subframe.
Two suspension-tuning kits include the Performance Package with 18-inch wheels and all-season tires and the Summer Tire Package with 19-inch wheels and summer tires.
Inside a spacious cabin, the exterior theme of chiseled forms and angular features is expressed in a monochromatic treatment with hand-cut, hand-sewn and hand-wrapped surfaces. Vivid analog instruments are housed in three tubular binnacles and the dashboard center stack of controls is trimmed in high-tech satin metallic finish or genuine Sapele Pommele wood.
Front bucket seats, optionally heated and ventilated, are contoured to fit the body with firm side bolsters to hold you in place during quick-cut pavement maneuvers. The soft leather upholstery comes with French stitching, which also shows up on top of the instrument panel, door inserts and the shifter boot.
MSRP figures for Cadillac's 2011 CTS coupe commence at $38,165 for RWD and $40,065 for AWD. The CTS Performance upgrade lists for $42,605 (RWD) and $44,505 (AWD), while the CTS Premium issue tallies to $47,010 (RWD) and $48,910 (AWD).