2016 Cadillac CTS-V: How Does It Handle on the Race Track?

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Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

For the sake of disclosure, please note that this is not a week-long review of the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V and is by no means an in-depth look at this amazing piece of modern day automotive engineering. I was fortunate enough to get some track time in outside of Chicago one morning, and my key focus when driving the CTS-V was to highlight the performance aspects of the car — not get hung up so much on the interior refinements that we have all come to expect from the brand.

Having said that, I was able to draw some conclusive evidence that Cadillac is indeed still onto something here. Many of the CTS-V’s character traits continue to trickle down into less carnivorous models, like the 2016 CTS4 I got to review shortly thereafter, for which we should all be grateful. But we’ll get to that later. Right now, it’s probably best for us to go over the basics since some readers might not know that Cadillac has been churning out high-horsepower, tire-melting slabs of Detroit steel for the better part of a decade.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The days when Cadillac stood for Copious Amounts of Detroit Immensity, Like Luxurious Aircraft Carriers still rings true today, if all but a bit more faintly, with cars like the Escalade chiming in regardless of whether we want them to or not. Today’s Caddy is a far meaner, hungrier breed of luxury animal. It has mutated into the kind of creature that packs a 6.2-liter Corvette engine and prefers mating with 1.7-liter Eaton superchargers for more torque and a way wider, knuckle-whitening RPM range. This is no longer a car built for grandpas who need something to safely trundle down to the grocery store in for a gallon of 1% milk. A CTS-V is a chariot of fire, driven by men who prefer to haul ass out to the dairy farm itself because the roads leading them there are far more fun. Then, upon returning home they realize that their car handled so well that the gallon of unpasteurized whole milk in the back seat had turned to butter because hardcore cornering happens in cars like this.

You really have to give full credit to Cadillac for its clever Magnetic Ride Control suspension, which remains fully adjustable in order to improve handling via both compression and rebound, because without it, fearing for one’s life would undoubtedly be a common staple of CTS-V ownership. Those six- and four-piston Brembo calipers help a lot too, and beneath them reside rotors that have undergone a “Ferritic Nitro-Carburizing” process to extend both life and rust-free appearances. Other extreme safety additions include a five-stage Track Mode where drivers can choose traction settings for wet, dry, sport 1, sport 2, and race needs, all while forged 19-inch wheels keep those Z-rated Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires tightly drawn across the tarmac.

Looking it over from multiple angles, you realize that the freshly designed CTS-V is virtually immune to trolling in the slow lane at 15 miles below the speed limit. Even at a snail’s pace, this carbon-clad dollop of Detroit engineering looks like it’s flying. Its fully functional vented hood exposes an over-sized, race-spec radiator to cold air, and lays atop a front fascia that is just as brutish-looking as it is functional. Half of the front of this sedan seems to be mesh grille and open ducting, while the rest remains a sharp mixture of angular LED lighting and carbon fiber. Strolling around to the back and looking past the duck-billed, angular flush-mount spoiler, you will find a well-designed, carbon rear diffuser enveloping four large, polished exhaust tips that have been laid out in staggered fashion. Turn the engine over, and you will be rewarded with the burbling, sinister sound of 630 foot-pounds of torque, which hails yonder track like a slightly restrained eight-piston sonnet.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

On the track, the 2016 CTS-V is a totally different breed of machine. It comes alive almost instantaneously, as the rear wheels heed launch control inputs, and the car’s traction management keeps everything tucked neatly under its wing, making the car feel almost like an all-wheel drive model. But hit an apex at the right angle and you can definitely feel the back end break free for a moment, which is one of the many reasons why this GM setup remains so highly praised. Traction control, electronic limited-slip differential, and adaptive dampers all labor harmoniously alongside one another in order to make excessive body roll and unwanted wheel-spin virtually unnoticeable, something in which I can vouch for firsthand.

Braking is a very predictable affair in the CTS-V. While the six- and four-pot piston Brembo calipers do a great job of working double-time in the friction department, it was the lightweight front end that made slowing down a notable experience for me: Nose-dive in this sedan was virtually nonexistent. Back on the throttle, the magnesium paddle shifters provided increased control of all eight, track-tuned gears, and in automatic mode I was pleasantly surprised with Cadillac’s “Performance Algorithm Shifting” capabilities, which coherently called forth the proper gear even prior to me lapping the track a couple times.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Building upon a basic belief that performance luxury vehicles should not be solely owned by German engineering, Cadillac has crafted a car that is far more than just some well-appointed sedan with a fat V8 stuffed beneath its bonnet. This car is the culmination of decades of American muscle car trial and error, a lifetime of labor, and a fat splash of top-tier, track-oriented engineering all rolled seamlessly into a single machine, and goddamn is it good.

Inside the cabin it’s hard to ignore the fact that all of the car’s gauges are digital in nature, and are just as customizable as they are easy to read. The steering wheel is well-proportioned, and pointing the Caddy in any direction remains both effortless and effective, with just enough feedback to remind you that 65-mile-per-hour turn-in speeds on the track are indeed attainable. But power and handling aside, the interior remains one of the most influential things about the CTS-V, as even its lesser siblings are now being infected.

All of that snug seat bolstering, authentic carbon fiber trim, customizable clustering, and magnesium-filled shifting can be had in the 3.6-liter version of the CTS, and although it has about 300 fewer horses, it’s by no means a slouch. Combine that with all-wheel drive, a price point that is around a  Chevrolet Cruze less than the V, and an engine that is not nearly as thirsty, and you have a logical alternative to the extreme machine seen here. But the V still remains my top pick, and there’s a damn good reason why.

Everything about this car works wondrously, as Cadillac continues to improve upon an idea that was considered complete tomfoolery no more than a decade ago. I wholeheartedly believe that there is a place for cars like this in modern American society because there are millions of men out there who are just like me; guys who lust after a Corvette due to its low-slung sexiness and undeniable prowess, but prefer the practicality and stealth associated with a sedan. The CTS-V you see here is a culmination of these two extremes, reaching an equilibrium somewhere in the middle, and in the process, gives cause for foreign automakers to wake up sweating in their beds, strangely aroused by something completely alien to them. So if you are fine with paying $84,000 for a sports sedan, and don’t mind the insane insurance premiums, rear-wheel drive reliability, and EPA estimated fuel efficiency rating of “N/A” that goes along with it, then may I strongly suggest test driving the 2016 CTS-V. After all, there’s a reason why Cadillac has long been considered as the “Standard of the World.”

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