Cadillac CTS-V Test Drive: First Impressions

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

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It's interesting the impressions you get of a car on the road versus the track.

Tonight I picked up a Cadillac CTS-V for a week of test driving and drove it home a few short miles on city streets -- never even got above 50 mph.

The last time I drove a CTS-V was a couple of years ago at Monticello Motor Club, a car-fanatic country club in Upstate New York where members pay six figures to get exclusive access to a sweet four-mile race track. This was the venue Cadillac chose for the car's launch.

I remember being absolutely blown away by the CTS-V's superbly balanced chassis dynamics and sweet-shifting manual six speed. It was a blast to drive fast, and easy.

Tonight was a different story. At least the first impression was good: After the parking attendant pulled it up, I thought, "Man, this car sounds badass." It has a deep, rumbling exhaust that's prominent but more muted and refined than that of a Corvette or Camaro SS.

Unfortunately, the next impressions weren't so good. The driver's seat is really uncomfortable for my thin, six-foot frame. It seems to have bumps and bulges in all the wrong places. On the track, I recall, the deep side bolsters and super-firm padding helped lock you in place while thrashing the car through turns. But ambling down the street, the seat was just plain uncomfortable. I don't care how sexy or fast a car is, if I can't get comfortable behind the wheel, then I wouldn't buy it.

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

Enlarge Photo
None of the impressive chassis dynamics that make the CTS-V so fun on the track really jump out at you when driving down a city street at 35 mph.

The steering feels more disconnected, less crisp, than that of the BMW 335xi I drove a few weeks ago. However, when set in the softer "Touring" mode, the CTS-V's suspension did a much better job of absorbing bumps and potholes than the 335xi's. The stiffened "Sport" mode felt about as jarring as the BMW's.

I don't need to put more miles on the CTS-V to know that I would prefer the manual transmission of the car I drove a couple of years ago to the automatic of the model I picked up tonight. I'm sure the auto will prove itself perfectly competent in the days ahead. But the manual transmission Cadillac offers on the CTS-V is simply stellar. The clutch pedal is perfectly weighted, with an ideal amount of travel, and the gearbox throws are short and precise. At least that was the case on the car I drove back when.

The CTS-V's brakes are also amazing -- very firm and with a level of precision that makes it seem as if you can adjust the car's speed by moving your foot mere millimeters at a time, not unlike a Porsche's brakes.

In the coming week, I'll have a chance to put more miles on this silver Cadillac, unfortunately none of which will be on a race track. We'll see what further impressions it gives, once I live with it a bit.

Photo credits: Matthew de Paula

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