Back in 1997, GM introduced the Cadillac Catera, a mid-sized, rear-wheel-drive offering that was essentially a rebadged Opel Omega. This being GM’s utterly clueless Ron Zarella era, the company marketed the car—whose best characteristic was its competent, European handling (it was a European car, after all)—with the tagline: “The Caddy That Zigs.” A cartoon duck also featured prominently in the advertising.
Not surprisingly, this high-concept campaign did little to boost sales of the otherwise deeply mediocre Catera, and the car stumbled along in the marketplace until 2001, when it was, mercifully, replaced by the CTS.
Now in its second generation, the CTS is really feeling its mojo. The past year has seen the Cadillac flesh out the lineup with the surprising CTS wagon (surprising by its very existence, given how much our market seems to hate wagons) and the dramatic CTS coupe. Both new body styles now also can be had in V-series trim, with a 556-hp supercharged V-8 and the attendant mechanical and appearance upgrades.
While the CTS-V wagon earns kudos for its rare and unlikely combo of searing performance and (modest) utility, the CTS-V coupe puts its muscle-car cajones in an absolutely standout shape.
Granted, the styling may not be universally loved, but you have to admire the coupe’s radical angles and uncompromised details, which hark back to the days when Design was king at General Motors. Items like the hidden door handles, the nearly horizontal backlight, and pointed CHMSL that also functions as a rear spoiler are not the products of committee-driven compromise.
It’s all the better wrapped around a mechanical package that delivers Nurburgring-worthy performance. With its tire-smoking torque, available six-speed stick, beautifully calibrated stability control, and form-fitting Recaro seats, the CTS-V should earn the respect of even the most hard-core gearhead. And yet, the car’s generally polished demeanor—excepting some supercharger whine and the manual’s less-than-perfect shift action—make it a highly livable everyday supercar.