2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Daniel Byrne

These are strange days for the American auto industry. Maybe that's why I felt like an ER doc heading to the emergency room this morning. But I wasn't speeding to a hospital. Dragged out of bed at an ungodly hour, I was off to the Monticello Motor Club, one of those new subscription-racetrack-cum-country-clubs springing up for millionaire supercar owners, this one 100 miles northwest of New York City.

Cadillac was fixing to let a passel of journalists hammer its new CTS-V-the Standard of the World's redesigned pinnacle of performance and, drumroll please, the fastest production Cadillac ever-on this freshly paved but as yet unfinished track. Just over four miles in length, the Monticello course features an amusing assortment of straightaways, dips, bends, and art-directed elevation changes, any one of which might assist your basic overachieving, undergifted investment banker as he, er, fully depreciates his Lambo. Let the games begin.

Meanwhile, call it melodramatic, but I couldn't help imagining that the procedure we were about to undertake with the CTS-V was going to teach us something meaningful about the health of ailing General Motors, a topic that has become something of a national obsession in recent months.

Nurse: scalpel, please. On a closed circuit, we automotive journalists are to real race car drivers as we are to real doctors, i.e., unrelated. We do not play one on television. But we visited the patient and conducted an extensive examination. So, let us move directly to our diagnosis.

The CTS-V is not the main thing the world needs now. It's not a mass-market item, and it's not what is going to save GM years of hardship as it scrambles to seriously rescale its product line for a much-changed domestic landscape. Although it tries its hardest, with two overdriven gears in both manual and automatic editions, this new Cadillac does not get good gas mileage. At $60,000, it is an exceptional value for what it is, yet it likely won't touch the life of the common man, unless it's running him over.

But wait. The CTS-V is, in its own inimitable and very respectable way, a stirring and timely reminder that GM knows how to build very special automobiles. Relevance may seem low because of fuel price woes, but it needn't be high for the CTS-V to be a beacon for the brand; it is easily the most compelling driver's sedan any GM division has offered in decades, one that doesn't feel cheap or take a willing back seat to overseas contenders on any score.

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