DETROIT TO PARIS
Charles de Gaulle airport is a confusing mess, but I forgive it its trespasses because it is, after all, the portal to Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world. On this particular day, having arrived on Air France's overnight flight from Detroit, I am even more keen than usual to arrive in the City of Light. That's because, rather than taking the dreary RER commuter train into the city center, I will be at the wheel of a 2011 Cadillac CTS-V coupe. Hanspeter Ryser, Cadillac's Zurich-based European PR head, meets me in baggage claim and escorts me to an underground parking structure. "I think it's in aisle 20," he says as we stroll through the low-ceilinged space. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty. One glance down the row of tightly packed Renaults and Peugeots in aisle 20 is all it takes to spy the distinctly chiseled, high rump of the big red coupe from Detroit. Ryser pops the trunk lid and points out a thick dossier under the trunk floor that will come in handy should any authorities question the Michigan license plates. He apologizes for the navigation system, which is still dialed in for America rather than Continental Europe, hands me the keys, and wishes me well. This Caddy is mine!
I slide into the Recaro driver's seat and hit the start button. The CTS-V's supercharged 6.2-liter LSA V-8 engine ignites excitedly, and the dual exhaust respond with a throaty rejoinder; the aural effect is something that must be new to this underground parking chamber, which is more accustomed to the tut-tut-tut murmur of small-displacement diesel engines. The CTS-V coupe interior is completely familiar, as it's nearly identical to that of the CTS-V sedan that debuted nearly two years ago, and the underlying design is the same as the one we've seen in the standard CTS sedan for the past three years. There are 4610 kilometers on the odometer, or 2864 miles. The speedometer markings are set to a 0-to-200 grid; it's easy to toggle through the trip computer and choose English or Metric readings. Our test car is equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission, for which I'm grateful: driving into Paris in this relatively big car is going to be stressful enough without having to feather a clutch pedal. And there are paddle shifters for the right opportunity for do-it-yourself gear selection.
Easing out of aisle 20, I carefully circle the ramp that leads up to ground level and look askance at the tight quarters of the exit booths and their very tall curbs. I'm afraid I might scrape the CTS-V's shiny chrome nineteen-inch wheels, so I make a three-point turn and glide through carefully. As I pause at the terminal curb to set my BlackBerry's Google Maps function to Gare du Nord in central Paris, an older couple takes in the car, and the man steps off the curb to get a closer look at the badge. Yep, I'm in the only Cadillac CTS-V coupe in all of continental Europe, and I'd better get used to the attention.