Christmas came a few days early for American car enthusiasts this year. On Monday, General Motors released the first details on the new Cadillac CTS-V, the latest part of a blatant assault on their foreign rivals. But the offensive is about far more than just “beating” the competition. What these efforts are really about is cementing a solid reputation for the new-era of General Motors.
What I’ve seen happen in the last few years is GM creating their own identity, their own unique flavor of automobile. This is especially so in the high performance sector. GM isn’t trying to build a carbon copy of the latest BMW, quite the contrary. If anything, BMW has strayed from their own ideology in recent years, and GM has chosen to pursue the path that BMW and others have left behind.
In terms of high performance cars, GM seems to have developed their own special approach. One that can be best exemplified by the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. They turned a big heavy muscle car into an unbelievable track-focused weapon. One that has even been able to out-pace the mighty Nissan GTR on various racing circuits. So what sort of wizardry did they put into the Camaro so it could beat Godzilla, and it’s advanced technology?
The answer is beautifully simple. The Camaro Z/28 has a pushrod V8, a manual gearbox, carbon-ceramic brakes, a bit of aerodynamic downforce, and 305-section tires at each corner. They say genius is in simplicity, and I think the Camaro Z/28 is a great example.
Where are all of the crazy computers, and torque vectoring, and whatnot? The Z/28 doesn’t really need all of that because it is just a basic recipe for speed. Now, that’s not to say the Z/28 doesn’t have any fancy tech, because does have magnetic ride control. But the fancy technology isn’t the centerpiece of the whole car like it is in the Nissan GTR.
GM seems to start by making a car’s basic performance foundation extremely solid by focusing on raw grip. Then they utilize their fancy technology to make the car “that” much better. Too many cars these days have to rely on their gizmos and gadgets to work properly. Many such cars become twitchy and unsettled when the systems are turned completely off… if they even can be turned completely off. There is definitely something to be said for the “build upon a solid foundation” approach. And that approach seems to be the hallmark of the new GM’s performance division.
So what does all of this mean for the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V sedan?
The new CTS-V is very much cut from the same cloth as the Camaro Z/28, as well as the new Corvette Z06. The Z06 is the fastest Corvette ever, not because of raw power, but because of its handling pace, which is aided by some serious aerodynamic downforce. Look at the CTS-V’s rear wing and protruding front lip, those aren’t there for style. Also note the thickness of the front tires. GM hasn’t said whether they’ll be 305s like the Camaro Z/28’s, but 275s or 285s are a safe bet.
Now, one thing to note on the CTS-V is the absence of carbon-ceramic brakes. GM claims they weren’t necessary because most buyers will not take their CTS-V’s to the race track. I agree that is probably true, and it will also help keep prices more reasonable. The steel Brembos are damn good brakes anyway.
Another gripe many people are having is the absence of a manual gearbox. While I would certainly prefer the CTS-V have one as an option, it isn’t as big of a deal in a performance sedan as it would be elsewhere. In the end of the day, a CTS-V is a do-everything sort of car. That means sitting in traffic jams as much as it means speeding down winding roads. ZF’s 8 speed automatic is a gem of a gearbox, so it’s hard to complain too much.
Now we come to the engine, GM’s LT4 supercharged pushrod V8, which delivers a claimed “640hp and 630ft/lbs.” Frankly, though, I’d be very surprised if CTS-V and Corvette Z06 dyno numbers didn’t match up in real world tests.
Numbers junkies will be celebrating, thinking that Cadillac has shattered the BMW M5’s measly “562hp.” That said, those who know BMW, know that they lie through their teeth about horsepower. The M5 is really making 600-650hp, or right around where the new Caddy is at. Races between the two will be closer than you might expect from a spec sheet. That said, the CTS-V does enjoy a decent weight advantage when compared to the M5, so it may be able to edge it out.
The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V will surely raise the bar on it’s predecessor, which dominated it’s European competition back in 2009. I think the new Caddy will likely out-pace it’s German rivals on the track. It’s lighter weight and noticeable downforce will certianly give it an edge.
GM continues to impress with all of the high performance cars they release. Utilizing advanced technology on top of a tried and true foundation seems to be the magic recipe for them. With that approach, I think they are forging a nice identity for themselves, one that will be respected at a global level. The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is a clear indicator of that.