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Subtle is King
The performance sedan: A mild mannered car that totes groceries, clients and kids during the day, but when called upon, can be taken to the track or provide adrenaline for its occupants on the city streets. The true challenge to any auto manufacturer is adding just enough performance and just enough luxury/comfort to enable these very different and polarizing uses. It is rare when these two elements combine in harmony to produce a true performance, luxury sedan. That was before Cadillac Created the V-series line of cars.
The first V-series car, the 2004 CTS-V, borrowed the performance drivetrain from the staple of the GM stable, the corvette. Powered by a LS6 engine and coupled to a Tremec T56 transmission the CTS-V’s performance capabilities were determined years before on the Z06 corvette. The 2004 CTS-V was just a corvette in different clothing- a 4 door Vette. Wrap that powerful drive train in a chassis redesigned from scratch as a luxury cornerstone to the very Cadillac brand and a high performance luxury sedan was the result. Sprinkle on top a bit of modern, unique styling the likes of which only exist in fighter airplanes, and the foundation of luxury performance was poured.
The CTS-V (and then all future V-series cars) was tuned at Nuerberg ring in Germany to compete with the Euro-sedans from the likes of BMW and Mercedes. Built at perhaps the most modern, well known factory that General motors owns (behind only bowling green) the new Lansing Michigan factory. The cosmos had aligned and Cadillac was steaming ahead full speed.
There is a reason that the word “Cadillac” is synonymous with “the best” stemming from the days when Cadillac was the best that the world had to offer in automobiles. The GM “bean counters” hurt the Cadillac brand in the 80s by moving to front wheel drive and moving to cheaper materials, etc. Now, however, Cadillac has re-invented itself as a forward thinking, luxurious brand set to compete with the top luxury names in the world, returning to where Cadillac was born.
If you have opened a car magazine in the past 4 years, nothing of what I am saying should be news to you. What is news today is that the CTS-V now has a bigger brother: the STS-V. New for 2006, the STS-V has taken Cadillac again to the next level. No longer borrowing drive train elements from its corvette brethren, the STS-V has some very new and very cool elements which may make it something to consider.
The STS-V follows in the line of other V series cars which build off the base Model (the larger STS in this case) and transform it into a performance sedan.
The STS-V is powered by a supercharged Northstar V8 Engine. An engine that is hand built by one person from start to finish at the same factory as the now famed LS7 engine. An engine that generates 469 horsepower and 425 lb feet of torque (@3200 rpm) due to an integrated roots type supercharger bolted on the top of the engine (not that you could see it- more on that later). The engine revs phenomenally. Low end acceleration is a bit strained but that could be due to the car’s weight- a heft 4200 lbs. This is not to say the car is slow by ANY means, cause it’s really not, but thus this is to be expected from a heavy forced induction car.
This enormous amount of power is then transferred to the new 4L60E 6 speed automatic transmission that will also appear in the corvette. A computer controlled transmission with sport and manual shift options all controlled by the floor mounted shift lever. Conspicuously missing is a steering wheel mounted shift controller (paddles or buttons, either would be nice). The transmission could use a bit more “fine tuning” as it is slow to react with downshifts (mostly when going down 2 gears) even in sport mode and occasionally short shifts 1st gear under hard acceleration. As well, when shifting manually, there is a bit of lag from driver input to actual shift. These performance elements I am sure GM will address in future versions of this transmission. Let’s remember as well, that this car is meant to be luxurious as well so when in the standard drive shifts are VERY smooth but very quick.
Cadillac tested and tuned this car at Nuemburg ring in Germany much like they did with the CTS-V and it shows. The car handles very well despite its 4300 LBS curb weight. It did have a tendency to push into turns (due to the weight) but was very controllable. Traction control and stabilitrak are constantly on unless a driver manually turns them off with the console mounted T/C button. Competition mode is also available which allows a driver to push the car a bit farther without correction, while still having the confidence of knowing that the “car” is still watching.
The V specific spoked wheels are 19” in the back and 18” in the front leaving a great view of the large brakes. Wrapped in EForce Runflat tires to reduce weight from a spare they provide great grip in turns but are listed as a summer performance tire (so if you live in colder climates watch out for winter traction).
Braking comes courtesy of 14.1 “ rotors in the front and 14.4 rotors in the back gripped by 4 piston brembo calipers. These brakes work hard and it shows stopping this 4300 lb car from 60 to 0 in XXX feet. Brake cooling ducts in the front facia help cool he brakes as well- another feature borrowed from the racetrack. In spirited driving, the pedal feels tight responsive reigning in this monster and there was no hint of fade.
Cadillac began the recent “design revolution” with the art and science design which first appeared on the CTS. The STS borrowed this design although many of the sharp edges were rounded a bit. The STS-V adds a different V specific front facia with a mesh grill (a staple of the V series) as well as a lower rear bumper with dual exhaust cutouts.
As mentioned above, the engine itself is a real piece of art. It’s a real shame that Cadillac decided to cover virtually the entire engine bay with plastic shrouding. (see picture).
Moving to the interior of the car, this is where Cadillac has made the most strides toward luxury. The interior was designed by Drexelmeir, the very same company who does Mercedes interiors. The dash and doors are covered in hand stitched leather which looks and feels great!. The seats are comfortable while as the same time provide enough lateral support while going quick through the twisties.
The interior electronics include a DVD based touchscreen navigation system with a large screen front and center. This system includes an 11 speaker DTS (digital theater sound) sound system with speakers integrated into the seats as well. Bluetooth is built in allowing calls to be placed via the navigation system using a cell phone in your pocket. While the navigation system is well integrated to the vehicle, in an effort to appeal to a worldwide market, Cadillac has removed some English text in favor of icons instead. Once you figure out what the icons mean, using this system is much easier. You will need to read the manual!
Creating the ultimate performance sedan is a balance. Luxury elements add weight and the goal to go fast is to reduce weight. I think Cadillac did a great job on the STS-V providing a great level of luxury but still providing enough horsepower to make a heavy car go fast.
At just over 77,000, it would be nice to see what the likes of BMW or Mercedes do to respond to this contender from Detroit!