You tend to overlook that flaw when moving down the road, though. The engine is stunning, with monstrous amounts of torque and a willingness to rev. When you put your foot in, the engine growl is utterly intoxicating, a noise that could come only from a large-capacity American V-8. At highway cruising speeds, however, the note is muted and refined, never obtrusive. The V is super-quick, with Cadillac claiming a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 171 mph in fifth gear. (The V might be speed-limited to 155 mph, as are its German and British rivals, by the time it goes on sale later this fall.) The transmission is a bit rubbery and lacks the precision of BMW and Honda manual gearboxes. Mind you, there's so much grunt that gearchanging is almost optional.
The real kicker, though, is this car's poise. On the street, the ride is firm, but it feels a touch more supple than a BMW M3 and never becomes harsh. No doubt, it could benefit from some softening up for the worst American roads, but why ruin a good car just because some isolated parts of the country can't look after their highways? The M3 would be a poorer car if BMW had dumbed it down for a small percentage of its buyers. At warp speeds of 150 mph and above, the CTS-V is as solid and well planted as an M5.
Around the Nrburgring, the V is heroic. Without trying too hard, we were able to lap in less than nine minutes, just four seconds shy of our best time in the ultimate pre-993 Porsche 911, the RS 3.8. John Heinricy, director of high-performance vehicles for GM's Performance Division, has gone around the circuit in eight minutes and nineteen seconds, which is better than the current M3 has managed to do.
The Brembos never tire of hauling the car down from speed and have a reassuring pedal feel that is compromised only when you clout curbs, which causes the pistons to knock back-hardly something that would happen on the street. You expect a big sedan to load up its outside front tire and plow, yet the CTS-V turns in neatly and is surprisingly neutral on both road and track. With the competition mode selected, you can dial in some opposite lock before the system engages to prevent you and the car from flying into the scenery. Turn all the stability controls off, and you can steer the V through the side windows. The handling is very accessible, though, because the tires relinquish grip progressively, and the body control is excellent. Who needs the overcomplication and artificiality of Mercedes-Benz's Active Body Control when conventional springs and dampers do the job this well? The only quibble is with the steering, which is accurate but lacks the final degree of communicative feel.
The CTS-V is a better driver's car than the Jaguar S-type R, the Audi RS6, or the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG. It isn't as ultimately involving as BMW's M3 or M5, but it is easier to live with and has stellar straight-line performance and handling. Plus, it's different, its character largely derived from the magnificent LS6 engine. If the interior looked as good as an Audi's or a BMW's, there would be very few reasons to buy a German sport sedan, because the CTS V offers the space of an M5 and will likely be priced close to an M3-$10,000 to $12,000 more than a well-equipped $35,000 CTS, according to Cadillac execs. That's the kind of math we like.