There might be better ways to spend a beautiful spring morning than riding around town in the first production manual 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, but we can't think of one right now. Nick Twork of Cadillac's communications office was headed through town on his way back from the Texas Auto Writer's Association's Spring Challenge where the CTS-V was named the "Car of Texas," and we met up for breakfast and a quick spin in the new V Coupe.
So what's it like? In a word, brilliant. Like its sedan counterpart, the 556-horsepower supercharged LSA V-8 under the hood is docile and smooth around town, but absolutely stonking when unleashed. The ride quality is great, despite being able to deliver over 1g of lateral grip thanks to an inch wider rear track than the V sedan and big 19x9-inch (front) and 19x9.5-inch (rear) wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires, plus Cadillac's magnetic ride control suspension. The interior is several notches above the standard CTS, on par with the Germans in most respects--better in the dash area, thanks to the cut-and-sew leather. The leather Recaro seats are some of the best in the industry, and it delivers on nav and entertainment features too.
But the real impact of the CTS-V Coupe is its street presence. The standard Coupe cuts a similar silhouette, but the widened fenders, aggressive front- and rear-end treatments and the throaty burble of the exhaust mark the car out as something beyond a pretty shape. The look alone was enough for us to name it our Best In Show when it debuted at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show in January, and it comes off even better on the street.
We weren't able to drive the car as it's literally the very first production manual--it was previously the plant manager's car, then later the lead development engineer's car before heading out on the road with Nick. We also didn't get the chance to really flog it as you need a track to access more than about 40 percent of the car's potential, but it's brutally quick, holds a turn better than 99 percent of drivers can and completely comfortable all the while.
Some interesting facts on the car gleaned during the drive: the V Coupe is only about 5 pounds lighter than the sedan due to the extra bracing needed for side impact safety because of the longer doors, and its shape creates a bit more lift at high speeds than the sedan, so it may have a slightly lower top speed--though at 191 mph for the sedan, the bar is insanely high to begin with. Under the skin, the wider rear track is accomplished with wider wheels rather than relocated suspension pickup points and a widened chassis, and according to Nick, that wider track makes for slightly crisper steering feel.
We'll have to withhold final judgment on the car until we can give it a proper go from the driver's seat, but after spending a little over an hour riding shotgun, we have high expectations.