There is a corner on the fabulous 12.8-mile Nrburgring Nordschleife racetrack in northern Germany that sorts out the great from the merely good. Approached downhill at extreme speed, the Fuchsrhre ("Foxhole") is a gentle left-hander that exits steeply uphill. A car goes from full jounce to full rebound in short order here, so the suspension damping has to be outstanding. A further complication is the following left-hand bend, where one has to turn and brake at the same time. Porsche 911s and BMW M cars cope with the Fuchsrhre magnificently. Audis and Volkswagens fall down in this corner, their damping unable to cope with its extreme demands. The new Cadillac CTS-V is brilliant here, however, the first American car that can stand up to the world's best sport sedans. It's that good.
The basis of the car, the first in a line of V-series performance Cadillacs, is the CTS sedan. The most fundamental difference is under the hood, where the LS6 5.7-liter OHV V-8 has been squeezed in, replacing the standard car's 3.2- and 3.6-liter V-6s. This aluminum V-8 makes a bountiful 400 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 390 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. The powertrain is similar to that of the Corvette Z06, although there is a new induction system and a new dual exhaust, and the accessory drive had to be moved back 1.5 inches. When you open the hood, you'll also see a structural brace over the V-8, which helps steering feel and precision as well as suspension tower rigidity. A six-speed Tremec manual transmission is the only available gearbox. The engine and transmission account for about 119 pounds of the 264-pound penalty over a CTS.
The CTS's chassis also came in for plenty of attention. The front and rear suspension cradles have been strengthened, front damper diameter has gone up from 1.4 to 1.8 inches, damper valving has been modified, the front and rear anti-roll bars are larger, and the spring rates have been increased by about 27 percent. The knuckles, all but one of the bushings, and the control arms for the front and multi-link rear suspension are carried over. To cope with the extra grunt, the driveshafts and prop shaft have been beefed up, and there is a Getrag clutch-type limited-slip differential. Cadillac's StabiliTrak skid control system has been upgraded to provide four modes: traction and stability control on, traction control off and stability control on, a competition mode that allows some sideways action, and traction and stability control off.
Brembo answered the call for uprated brakes with huge ventilated 14.0-inch-diameter front and 14.4-inch rear discs and aluminum four-piston calipers. Wide 245/45ZR-18 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires sit on slinky Speedline aluminum wheels that are one of the many aesthetic improvements over the regular CTS. (Big wheels and tires always help.) The CTS-V's deep front fascia ducts air to the engine and brakes and incorporates a splitter to improve front-end stability. The grille itself is a cool stainless-steel wire mesh affair. Lowered rockers and rear fascia, a monochromatic rear license-plate surround, and a pair of suitably large-bore tailpipes further differentiate the V from its tamer siblings. Like the regular CTS, the V is a styling statement rather than a thing of beauty, but it looks suitably mean in your rear-view mirror.
Inside, the CTS gets a number of improvements. The instrument cluster has chromed gauge rings and a 180-mph speedometer. A driver information center (DIC) consists of two digital readouts for information such as tire pressures and engine functions as well as lateral g readings. There are satin-chrome accents on the door handles, the grab handles, and the shifter ring cap. The steering wheel, with an aluminum bezel, has buttons for the DIC, the cruise control, and the stability system. The seats have suede inserts to keep you in place under high-g cornering, and the center armrest has been lowered four inches to keep it out of arm's way. The basic interior architecture of the CTS remains, which means angular styling and high-quality materials that somehow conspire to look cheap.