I can’t remember the last time a North American car has had the impact the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe has had, not just on me, but on everyone who has spotted it.
Quite simply the CTS-V Coupe is the evolution of and proof that a North American car manufacturer can build a car that equals any car from anyplace in the world. It is stunning, following the hard edge design philosophy first introduced on the first generation CTS Sedan, how the lines become kaleidoscope intersections that slice the wind and dazzle light like a prism.
The extra letter “V” on the CTS is a very important one. It signifies a very special car equipped with a 6.3 liter Supercharged V8 with a whopping 557 horsepower and equally impressive 560 foot pounds of torque. It is mated to a six speed manual transmission and is one of the fastest, most powerful engines ever put in any American production car.
The six-speed is wonderful: the throws are short and it handles the power with great flourish. Even the shifter knob is covered with grippy, open grained suede and is integrated into the cockpit layout exactly as it should be. The interior, two toned leather and suede wrapping the steering wheel, power adjustable Recaro Sports seats, dark ebony stained wood and a pop up navigation system, reinforces the feeling that you are driving a space ship.
The first time I drove the CTS-V coupe was at a pre-introduction event with Cadillac’s marketing guys and my first impression triggered a thought that my week with this car came back. I immediately thought that this car looks like something Darth Vader would be driving. It is aggressive and striking, you will never mistake it for another car.
That stunning exterior and distinctive look results in people catching a glance as you flash by and for me resulted in people following the car into parking lots to get a better look. There is an amazing amount of anticipation people have been holding for this car. I had it before any of the production cars were shipped to the dealerships, so for many it was the first chance they have had to see it “in the flesh.”
I think there is a pent up desire to see GM succeed. It’s kind of a tie back to the days when GM was so big and so integrated into the American economy and identity that the line, “What’s good for GM is good for the country,” echoed from the halls of the Senate. It was attributed to Charles E. Wilson during his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense.
After the last couple of years teetering in humiliating bailouts and bankruptcy restructuring it can be hard to reconcile that GM with the way the General looks today. As they move towards what could be the largest IPO in history, the CTS-V is emblematic of why GM is different.
It takes a very long time, and a great deal of money, to bring a car to market and CTS-V is the result of a complete re-tasking of design and thinking at GM spearheaded under Rick Waggoner by auto guru Bob Lutz.
Lutz, a onetime fighter pilot and the only guy I can think of who has had keys to the executive suites of Ford, Chrysler GM and BMW, has over the years simply managed to do what no one else had managed to do. He got the engineers, stylists and designers to build a world-class car. Prior to his kick in the ass, there was an overriding attitude of we can’t do what Mercedes and BMW do, we can’t make cars with Lexus quality and solid feel of the Germans because we have to do things the GM way. Looking at the massive drops in market share Lutz simply said, “The GM way is broken, let’s fix it.”
It took a colossal effort to accomplish, but the end result is proof it can be done. GM now has some of the best cars in the market and the CTS-V coupe is second to no car in its performance, ride and feel.
The biggest challenge today is to get that message out to people, many of who have never been inside a GM dealership or have held a GM car as an aspiration. These are the folks who grew up buying Hondas and dreaming of Mercedes. With the CTS-V Coupe, the appeal and desire to see a North American car with this kind of build, fit and performance equal to the best in the world is palpable.
The CTS-V is exactly what the doctor ordered. There is a legitimate buzz out there about this car and that is beginning to spill over into the entire company. Driving a Supercharged, 8-cylinder, rear wheel drive, two door, manual six speed car that can not only hold its own with a Mercedes or BMW M6 and realizing it is a Cadillac is a pretty amazing change in attitude and execution.
The funny thing to say about a car that has an MSRP of $69,000.00 (as tested) and fuel economy ratings sub 20 MPG, but the CTS-V is a relative value in this high-octane segment of the market. Cross-pond rivals from BMW, Audi and Mercedes (and Jaguar) are pulling dollar signs far higher than 70k for performance numbers in the same spot and none of them has the electric buzz of a company and country looking for a champion.
As an example of the buzz of positive following this car, I came out of Walgreens this morning and where I had parked the silver coupe there were 3 groups of people who had seen the car from the road and pulled in for a closer look. Two guys driving in a BMW M3, a couple of young guys in a Toyota pickup and an older man driving a Mercedes. In the length of time it took me to pick up a couple of things at the drug store, these very different representatives of the market were already discussing the car. As I came back out they had dozens of pent up questions and all seemed to have that great desire to see something exciting from an American company.
Today the US Government owns a pretty sizable chunk of GM due to the bankruptcy restructuring. As GM pulls out in the direction of standing again as not just one of the biggest car companies but biggest companies in the world, that quote has never been so true: “What is good for GM really and truly is good for the country.”
The CTS-V is very, very good for General Motors.
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