Directing its attention to the STS chassis, the V team kept the same basic suspension setup but ditched the MagneRide electronic damping, as they wanted a "more narrow range of control." They also specified higher spring rates, larger-diameter antiroll bars, a meaty engine-compartment brace, and Pirelli Euforia performance run-flats-255/45YR-18 front, 275/40YR-19 rear-footwear we found a bit harsh over rough pavement. The Brembo brakes that migrate from the CTS-V, with 14.0-inch front and 14.3-inch rear discs clamped by four-piston calipers, resisted fade even during repeated hot laps of GM's challenging new Milford Road Course, but we'd like a more positive-feeling brake pedal.
The STS-V storms around Milford quite happily for a 4343-pound sedan, but it doesn't feel like all of its mechanical systems are in harmony. It's missing the fluidity that eludes so many GM products but which is usually present in the best performance cars from, you guessed it, Europe. And the Caddy's steering is too quick off-center and simply doesn't light up the lines of communication between the road and the driver.
Aesthetically, the maximum Caddy sedan suffers from its genesis as the anodyne STS, a car whose exterior and interior both leave us cold. The STS-V's stainless-steel mesh grille and lower air intake, ten-spoke aluminum wheels, fatter-lipped front fascia, and rocker extensions go a long way toward giving this car some real visual appeal, though.
The V team enlisted the help of Mercedes-Benz's cabin supplier, Drxlmaier, to outfit the STS-V with French-stitched, beautifully grained leathers for the top of the dash, the center console, and the door panels, but these exquisitely realized pieces stand in stark relief to the rest of the cabin, which is decidedly lower rent. It doesn't help that the basic design of the STS instrument panel is inoffensive but utterly uninspired, nor that the STS-V's seats are essentially carried over from the STS, save their ultrasuede inserts. If only the STS-V had more richly crafted instruments, and if only its seat upholstery also had been farmed out to Drxlmaier, this cabin might begin to measure up to the Audi A8's or the Maserati Quattroporte's.
If only. If only we'd stop comparing the STS-V with the Europeans, you might be thinking, we'd realize that it's a pretty darn good car. But Cadillac itself identifies the BMW M5 and the E55 AMG as its bogeys, and it has priced the $77,090 STS-V accordingly. But the STS-V is more of a classic American hot rod, with all manner of performance goodies bolted onto a car that's only midpack in its field, than a pedigreed performance sedan. Chrysler's SRT8 version of the 300C is essentially the same concept-except the 300 is actually a standout in its own field-yet it's about half the price of the STS-V. Cadillac has made huge strides, but this car just can't compete with Europe's best. Cadillac may be ready for the STS-V, but the STS-V is not quite ready for prime time.
Engine: Supercharged 4.4L V-8, 469 hp, 439 lb-ft