IN THE LAND OF CALVADOS AND MAGNETIC DAMPER FLUID
"Athleticism" is the word that comes to mind the next day, when we get a chance to wring out the CTS-V coupe on some remote two-lane roads in the picturesque, rolling Normandy countryside. Set the suspension to "sport" and select manual mode for the six-speed automatic by sliding the gear lever to the right. You can then shift manually either by shoving the gear selector up to upshift or down to downshift (logical, huh?). Compared with the base CTS coupe, the CTS-V brings Cadillac's celebrated Magnetic Ride Control to the table, and the effect this system has on maintaining the vehicle's composure when you're pushing the car hard along a good road is very noticeable. Pitch, dive, and squat are effectively tamed by the fast-reacting dampers, which use magnetic fluid rather than mechanical valves. The CTS-V effectively transforms itself from grand touring coupe to sports car. About the only thing your passengers will notice, though, is that the scenery is blurring by more quickly than before; that's how well the magnetic dampers keep everything on an even keel.
Touring the French countryside is nice and all, but what the CTS-V coupe and I are both itching for is a hard run on a section of German Autobahn with no speed restrictions. Al and I have packed off Greg to the U.K., so we've got plenty of room to stretch out in the Caddy coupe as we head northeast out of France toward Belgium. The Caddy continues to draw stares and cell-phone cameras from other motorists, like a BMW 1-series full of young French guys that circles us like a shark.
CHARLEMAGNE, CATHEDRALS, AND CONCRETE BARRIERS
Near the confluence of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany (Trois Frontières), we cross the border into Germany at Aachen, site of the grand cathedral where Charlemagne was crowned, and then head north to Alpen, which is not far from the mighty Rhine. Heading east on the 42 Autobahn, we make our way through the Dusseldorf/Dortmund metroplex, which isn't easy, because there's a long construction zone with the narrowest possible drive lane, and it's hemmed in on both sides by concrete barriers. I swear I have only three inches of wiggle room on each side of the CTS-V coupe's wide rear end, so it's a good thing the Caddy's steering is precise. But I'm still sweating. This goes on for miles and miles through an industrial zone ringed by huge steel factories. Where is my German Autobahn experience, dammit?!?