The Greenwich Concours d’Elegance is, perhaps, the Northeast’s finest annual gathering of automobiles. Spread across one weekend in June, the show features a carefully curated list of makes and models that defined the world’s automotive history. Last year, we attended in a Chevrolet Corvette Z51. This year, we obviously needed more. The CTS-V is an exercise in American exceptionalism and excess. There’s nothing else quite like it, which makes it all the more appealing. The numbers themselves are staggering; 640 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. Zero to sixty arrives in less than 3.7 seconds with a top speed of 200 mph. Rare air, for a sedan.
The Cadillac CTS-V is a super sedan now in its third generation. Developed to combat the threat of higher-performanc German four-doors, it was designed to be the ultimate combination of luxury sedan and track machine. Armed with a supercharged 6.2L V8, 8-speed automatic transmission, Performance Traction Management, and third-generation Magnetic Ride Control, the CTS-V is capable of rapidly traversing public roads and setting blistering lap times. With carbon fiber components, Brembo high-performance brakes, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, this Cadillac is seemingly only limited in capability by its driver’s skill – or bravery. And we were taking it to Connecticut to celebrate over 100 years of American automotive ingenuity.
Cadillac builds its V model off the solid bones of the Alpha platform, the foundation of both the ATS and CTS models. Additional reinforcements give the CTS-V an unwaveringly stiff chassis. Cadillac has widened the front and rear tracks, allowing for more grip and better control of body motion. From the front seats, the exposed carbon weave on the underside of hood is visible, offering the driver a hint of its lightweight carbon-fiber design. New for 2017, the Carbon Black Sport Package adds additional glossy carbon fiber elements to the front splitter, hood vent, rear diffuser, and taller rear spoiler. These aren’t just for show. The CTS-V needs to control its aerodynamic profile for maximum cooling and downforce. The very same package adds a black chrome grille and After Midnight lightweight, forged aluminum wheels for an even more sinister appearance.
The route to Greenwich blended rural backroads, a long stretch of the Taconic State Parkway, and several sections of major interstate. The two-hour journey is as thorough a test as any automaker’s development track. There is no doubt about the CTS-V’s rigidity. Even on the worst section of highways, there wasn’t an ounce of flex from stem to stern. That gives the suspension engineers a solid platform to work with. Stiffer springs, stabilizer bars, revised bushings, and reinforced suspension mounts help control body motion. Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control constantly adjusts the damper settings. The newest iteration of the system is now 40% faster than before. At 60 mph, the optimal cruising speed on the Taconic State Parkway, the system can make adjustments for every inch the CTS-V travels. That makes for a very comfortable ride, until the driver opts to change the settings to Sport. As much as comfort was a factor in the design, all these enhancements are really developed for performance.
On public roads, the Cadillac seems docile and relaxed, little more than a tightly-wound luxury sedan. There are only a handful of clues in the cabin that hint at its true ability. The optional Recaro performance seats with adjustable bolsters and sueded microfiber inserts retain the class and restraint of the interior design while offering real benefit on track. The optionally sueded microfiber-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, plus the standard carbon fiber interior trim, are other nice touches. Dig into the responsive CUE menu and you’ll find individual settings for steering, suspension, and exhaust settings if one of the standard drive modes doesn’t suit your style. Dip into the throttle and the CTS-V responds with V8 power instantly. Dip a little deeper and the supercharger builds boost pressure, causing the CTS-V to accelerate even more rapidly. But the typical aural cues of performance, a rumbling V8, the whine of a supercharger, and a throaty exhaust note are all too distant in the CTS-V. Even with the performance exhaust setting in the Track setting, there just isn’t enough sound in the cabin to match the level of performance. That’s a problem Cadillac has promised to address across its performance models in the coming years.
Moments of brutal acceleration are fleeting on the open road. There simply aren’t the right conditions to let the CTS-V off its leash. Even in the best conditions, one moment of indiscretion can end in tragedy. Serious cars often require serious restraint. Luckily, we had the opportunity to drive the CTS-V at Monticello Motor Club last fall. The highly-technical track is challenging for big cars, but the Cadillac belies its size in part due to its race-derived technology. Dial the drive mode into Track and Cadillac’s Performance Traction Management Software becomes available. There’s a setting for every driver and conditions, with 5 modes; Wet, Dry, Sport 1, Sport 2, Race. Each mode adjusts all systems, including the ABS, electronic limited-slip differential, stability control, and dampers, to provide lessening electronic intervention. Mode 5, Race, is designed to maximize driver involvement and minimize lap times while still having some level of traction control intervention. Straight-line acceleration is brutal and constant. It’s difficult to tell whether or not the CTS-V would ever run out of steam. A firm brake pedal and direct steering give plenty of confidence into each corner. Patience is a virtue, especially with 630 lb-ft torque waiting to oversteer on corner exit. A judicious right foot, with help from PTM, slingshots the Cadillac onto the next straight. Big street cars aren’t supposed to feel like this on track. If you didn’t get it quite right, Cadillac’s optional Performance Data Recorder will let you export your race video and telemetry data for review and analysis. Whether you’re looking to cut a few tenths out of your morning commute or beat your buddy’s lap time, you’ll have access to all the same data points the pros use to improve.
The Greenwich Concours revealed the history of Cadillac, from the early coachwork of the 1911 Model 30, to the engine development of the V16-powered 1931 “Sixteen” 452A, and even through the luxurious excess of the 1976 Bicentennial Edition, celebrating America’s 200th birthday. The 2017 Cadillac CTS-V has come a long way in every aspect, but a history of elegant design, world-class engine development, and luxury fitments are included with the Cadillac crest. Gone are the days of coachwork and carburetors, but the mindset to build big beautiful machines with massively powerful engines is alive and well at Cadillac. Technology from the bleeding edge of racing development is combined with over 100 years of motoring history. What better way to celebrate the American automobile could there possibly be? The CTS-V is the ultimate expression of that history combined with forward thinking. It is a super sedan for the ages, and definitely one that we will see on the lawn in Greenwich some years from now.
|2017 Cadillac CTS-V
|Carbon Black Package||$6,950|
|Recaro High-Performance Seats||$2,300|
|Performance Data Recorder||$1,600|
|Red Brembo Brake Calipers||$595|
|Crystal White Tricoat||$2500|
|Sueded Microfiber Steering Wheel & Shifter||$300|
|Gas Guzzler Tax||$1,000|
|As Tested MSRP||$103,360|
Photos courtesy Cadillac