Cadillac CTS-V: Caddy’s Comeback

The most powerful Cadillac in history is coming to Europe but will it herald a successful return of the marque to the UK?

Cadillac is challenging Europe with its blisteringly quick CTS-V saloon. Built with BMW M5 customers in mind, the hardcore ‘Caddy’ takes the legendary US brand in a new direction. Currently only available in left-hand drive, it hints at things to come as Cadillac prepares a return to the UK market.

In America, Cadillac was the prestige brand of choice for the rich and infamous, consistently building the biggest and softest land-yachts on US roads. Part of General Motors, the marque was never pushed with any fervour in Europe and only a handful of examples ever sold in the UK. However, under the guidance of new boss, Johan De Nysschen, the brand is re-focussing on quality and performance in an effort to take on the German brands in the European market.

When the new CTS saloon and its high-performance twin the CTS-V was unveiled in 2015, De Nysschen explained that Cadillac’s return to the European market would be inconceivable without a presence in the UK, and that right-hand drive variants of future models are a key part of that strategy. The CTS-V is our first opportunity to assess the seriousness with which we should take Cadillac’s impending return to the UK.

With a 6.2-litre V8 engine shoe-horned into the squat, angular body, Cadillac is demonstrating that the CTS-V can do what America does best. But this muscle car  has to have manners if it is going to win hearts and minds on this side of the Atlantic. The most powerful Cadillac of all time can shoot to within a hair-breadth of 200mph, yet it retains the sense of luxury on which the brand built its reputation. The driver-oriented cockpit, lined with carbon fibre and suede touches, is dominated by two screens. The first one, behind the thick-rimmed steering-wheel, can be configured to display different instrument clusters depending on the purpose of the journey. The other screen in the central console, is more than just an information display. This screen can playback a journey or race, recorded on a front view camera, and overlay it with all manner of performance data. This reminds you that the CTS-V is first and foremost a sports saloon. Honed on the race track to ensure it can stack up against the thoroughbred super-saloons Europe is accustomed to, it can accelerate to 62mph in 3.7 seconds while the 8-speed automatic gearbox should keep progress civilised and smooth.

The angular style of Cadillac’s new design language makes the CTS immediately recognisable while the added bulk of the front-end and bonnet marks out the V-spec model. The sharp styling will suit the European market, but it remains distinct enough to retain its own identity.  The ubiquitous V-shape appears in various forms everywhere, from the grille and bonnet scoops on the outside to the centre console and seat design inside. While it is undeniably striking, some of the angles and proportions may not appeal to those who are more comfortable with BMW or Mercedes aesthetics.  The influence of new company boss,  Johan De Nysschen, can’t be overstated. Having previously headed Audi USA, and more recently Nissan’s luxury Infinity brand, his experience with quality focused car makers will be invaluable when it comes to making cars that Europeans will put their trust in.

Built for speed, the CTS-V remains practical enough to use as an everyday four-door saloon. The rear legroom may be compromised if Recaro-style front seats are specified, but even these have 16-way adjustment so there is little reason not to be perfectly comfortable up front. Boot space in the CTS-V is the same as the standard saloon.

At over £75,000 the CTS-V is a full £25,000 more expensive than the highest spec CTS saloon. However, with the brutal performance and interior refinement to match the BMW M5 and Mercedes AMG rivals, the price makes more sense. It is still a little more expensive, but as an alternative to the established players the Cadillac makes a strong case.  The CTS and its V-spec sibling are the only saloons in Cadillac’s current European line up. The SRX is Cadillac’s urban crossover with the mighty Escalade SUV topping the range.

Cadillac’s CTS-V comes equipped with some race-specific additions over the standard model. High calibre Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tyres designed specifically for the Cadillac, coupled with Magnetic Ride Control, keep the car composed at the ragged edge of performance, regardless of the quality of road surface.  Adjustable traction control lets you adjust settings to cope with different conditions and your own personal requirements. A Head-Up Display can be configured to suit your preferences and let’s you choose what information is projected into your eye-line while paying attention to the road, or track, ahead. The CTS-V includes illuminated door handles which glow when the doors unlock.

The CTS-V is exactly the kind of car the government wants us to shun. Cadillac makes no effort to drop it into a reasonable tax band, with nearly 300g/km CO2 emissions, meaning those who buy a brand new CTS-V would pay £1,100 tax in the first year, and £505 ever year after. At 21.7mpg, claims that the beefed-up saloon is suitable for everyday use begin to look shaky. In what seems to be a token nod toward the environment, the CTS-V employs GM’s Active Fuel Management technology which de-activates half the cylinders when the engine’s full potential isn’t required. It is hard to imagine how much more critical the fuel consumption would be were it not for this concession to conservation.

Of course, these figures are largely academic while the CTS-V remains a left-hand drive only car. However, if you decide to buy, expect residual values to plummet in the first year and to continue sliding as the brand tries to establish a foothold in the market. For most buyers this would be a car for long term ownership and occasional use. With only one dedicated dealership in London, servicing and maintenance also needs to be taken into careful consideration.

Under new management, experienced in the introduction of high quality premium brands into new markets, Cadillac is well poised to enter the European market with a refreshing take on the Super Saloon formula. Wedging an enormous V8 into the relatively tame CTS to create the most powerful car in the marque’s history, gives the US auto-maker an effective weapon with which to wage war on established super-saloon royalty. Fine-tuning the chassis at the Nurburgring, while employing advanced suspension technology and a silky smooth 8-speed transmission has given rise to what should be a thoroughly competent all-round performer.

Until the CTS-V and other Cadillacs are available in right-hand drive and can demonstrate environmental credibility, the brand will struggle to find an audience in Britain, but at least we can  now have confidence that any future models coming to these shores will be capable of delivering on the promise of luxury performance.

The edited, published version of this article can be viewed here: The Scotsman

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