True to the “V” Heritage?

The Last Word Review: by David Ray

In 2004 I wrote an article about the then-new Cadillac CTS-V sedan.  It was an easy review to do.  That car was basically a Corvette with four doors, a stick shift, and the same pushrod V8 that powered the iconic sports car.  I loved the car on and off the track – and while the niche has not proven to be a huge one, Caddie/GM really did the mature hot rodder a favor in building it.  Over the years we have seen a lot of V cars at HOD events having a blast. A tip of the hat to the V drivers who have tracked their cars!  Yes, they are not going to run with track-purpose cars, but in the Beginner and Intermediate group, driven properly, owners can have their cake (sedan) and eat it too (sports car).  After mulling this article for a week, I started to think of comparisons between the early V’s and this shiny new CT5- V.

Here is a juxtaposition of the two cars:

Original V                                 New V
Eddie Bauer inspired Calvin Klein inspired
As a tool – SledgehammerAs a tool – CNC Laser Cutter
Music – ZZ TopMusic – The Weekend
Favorite track – Road AtlantaFavorite track – Lime Rock
Looks like – TransformerLooks like – Modern Art  

OK, that was fun, but it is time to get serious about this review!!

First impression:  The CT5-V is a stunner.  Well, it is not a Huracan…it’s a sedan.  But the GM design staff carved a gorgeous car here that does NOT look like every other sport sedan.  Taking the pics in a scenic setting was fun, as this model looks good and is worth showing off.  I will specifically highlight the front fascia and grill of the CT5.  In gloss black, this is truly a handsome face in comparison to some truly ugly mugs on sport sedans that are out there today.

Our loaded tester is a very stunning red metallic sport sedan with a clean slate of expectations.  First, it is clearly a sport sedan from the scale of the interior. Competitive with similar mid-size sporty sedans. Not the oversized buckets of the original CTS-V.  The interior is handsome and contemporary and slim in scale, while materials were well-selected to create a premium car feel.  The front seats are excellent and to that mid-size scale.  They might be a bit snug for some larger individuals.  I give thanks to the interior designers for including a proper sport steering wheel that is NOT TOO BIG!!  The size is exactly right and encourages smooth inputs and a nice 9/3 hand position for those bendy sections ahead. Relevant statistics are a curb weight of 3975 lbs, rear-wheel drive (Yay!), and 360HP and 405 Ft lbs of torque from the optional turbo V6.

As I drove out of the driveway in the CT5, with its sharp, edgy lines and unique profile, it felt like a good fit…like I was leaving Mens Wearhouse in a custom-made suit – crisp- fitting and athletic.  A quick sit down in the back seat resulted in a passing, but not a stellar grade.  For the sport sedan category, this back seat stacks up well but does not excel.  Like most back seats I see in smaller and mid-sized cars, I feel that the base of the seat is too short…would love to have more substance beneath my thighs.  Also – they chose to put a full-length sunroof in the car that robs at least 2” of headroom.  Clearly, I’d pass on the sunroof in favor of the more spacious cabin without it.  However, I will still give the CT5 a B+ on the back seat area – based on the size of the car and others that are not as ample.

I do not want to sound ungrateful for the ride, but please…Chevy interior designers…get to work on useable buttons and switches, reasonable sized-knobs, and indicators that are legible, tactile, and logical.  One of the main culprits was the “Speak” command button, which is a metallic tab in line with similar metallic trim (under the cruise control on the left, lower side of the steering wheel), that has a tiny stamping of a face on it…that you could NEVER see while driving a car safely…Yes, folks would get used to many of these controls.  But why not maximize visibility, size of fonts, color coding, touch and feel, and night visibility when designing switchgear in the first place?!

The trunk, while not quite wide enough to handle more than one set of golf clubs, is deep, with a good-sized opening, and overall very functional for four.

Our test model was a totally loaded CT5-V with the optional (really mandatory) twin-turbo V6, 10-speed auto transmission with paddles, platinum, and premium package that had every bell and whistle including the panoramic glass sunroof.  I had hoped to see a price under $60K, but the sticker totaled $64,045.  I am guessing there is a bit of haggle room there, but I’d say that this is in the range for similar cars of similar capabilities.  My friend the now famous Porsche owner, “Bob” gave the V a spin and was impressed.  He especially liked the bark on upshifts using the paddles…a grin was somewhat suppressed as he would not admit to being a Cadillac fan.  When he finished the drive, he gave the car a thumbs up.  However, there was a latent admission that it is not German…We agreed that it’s not a Bimmer M car – but at roughly $20K less than a similarly loaded M3, this is a car for MANY more prospective up and coming enthusiasts, earlier in their climb up the ladder.

I was able to take several drives, including a 170-mile run down from the Foothills to Monterey, over Pacheco Pass.  The V excelled.  The sharp edges of this sedan have been carefully crafted to prevent wind noise – I was blown away with how quiet this car is.  UNTIL you drop the hammer on the twin-turbo V6 guided by the 10-speed auto.  This is where the LOUD clarinet kicks in.  A very sharp bark, with raspy pops on each upshift when full throttle, making you feel just a bit guilty. The V will be noticed and will turn heads while at full chat.  The turbo spooling quickly with the 10 gear ratios to choose from assures a rapid acceleration that more than once surprised me, as immediately I found myself well into jailbait territory. 

On the tight twisties of the Foothills, the V is very sure-footed.  With 19” rims, those Michelin sidewalls are pretty stiff…and the Mag ride is really excellent.  Having said that, the basic ride of the V is very civilized.  There is an argument that “Mag” should not stand for magnetic, but magic!  If you really want to take on a canyon, the adjustable shocks, electronics, and steering of the Mag ride can be dialed to your delight.  Does the car become a track or race car? Depends.  If you’re looking for a dual-purpose classy sport sedan that can track occasionally in stock trim, and not worry about chasing track cars – the V will be a blast.  If you want to win the track day and are going to pound it hard – it will disappoint and be expensive.  I must say though, that with mag ride in the CT5-V, you have an extremely good handling car, that as mentioned before, would be home in the “B” Intermediate group at HOD (OK, upgrade the tires and do an alignment and it might be ok in C group, but not on the front row). 

My week with the CT5-V Series was a delight.  GM is doing a lot of things right, and keeping the V brand alive is appreciated by the HOD community and many happy drivers.  While not as potent as some V’s of the past, this is a thoroughly modern package that is more about precision than power.  Yes, she scoots plenty fast…and the V will be fun on a track.  And I will leave it up to you if you like that Eddie Bauer influence of earlier V’s, or the Calvin Klein up-to-date feel and image. Is this V true to the original concept?  I’m going with a yes, but with the caveat that nothing stays the same forever…as the heritage has definitely evolved to a more efficient, modern package while still delivering plenty of driving thrills.  Long live the V-Series!!

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