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The end of Cadillac CTS-V

Peter Braun September 02, 2022 All Feature Vehicles

Saying Farewell to an American Classic

I had a realization as I hammered down the back straight of one of America’s most fearsome tracks—Circuit of the Americas—with the speedometer touching the scary side of 140 mph: The outgoing Cadillac CTS-V is one of the most underrated cars of the last decade. This was a realization I had many times throughout the next week as I said farewell to the stunning Caddy by driving it from the F1 track in Austin, Texas to my home in Portland, Oregon.

The next two days took me through desert vistas, spectacular thundershowers, and even a parking lot full of rusting tanks, on a chorus of  V-8 roar and supercharger howl.

Driving the Cadillac CTS-V fast is like flying a high- performance aircraft, it can be challenging, even exhausting, but extremely rewarding.

The journey wasn’t just a great way to say goodbye to one of the finest performance machines ever produced in an American factory, but a fantastic opportunity to show off CTS-V’s stunning combination of sports car finesse and muscle car brute force.

On the Track

My time with the CTS-V began in Austin, where Cadillac was hosting what it called an Irish wake to celebrate the outgoing car. It couldn’t have chosen a better place; after all, Circuit of the Americas is much like the CTS-V itself: a fresh American take on a classic European formula.

In the case of the CTS-V, Cadillac took the classic sports sedan formulation of luxury and handling and added American brawn in the form of a 6.2L V-8 with a 1.9L supercharger bolted to it. This insane combination puts out 556 horsepower and 551 thundering pound feet of torque straight to the rear wheels.

On Circuit of the Americas’ elevation changes and undulating corners, this fearsome combination can be a real handful. With the traction control off, the adaptable suspension and transmission in full attack mode, the CTS-V becomes shockingly aggressive.

Like a fighter jet, the CTS-V feels like it was designed to constantly ride the knife’s edge of stability. With fast, communicative steering, savage shifts and an incredibly firm suspension, the Cadillac can change direction like a housefly.

Sure, keeping the big Caddy on the track is a full-time job, but that’s also what’s special about the car. Modern performance cars have so many electronic nannies that they can nearly drive themselves, which makes it easy to pilot them, but it’s also much less fun. The CTS-V, on the other hand, has a distinctly old-school feel to it. Cadillac has given the driver a yacht-load of power, an incredibly stiff platform and a race-style suspension, and told them to go outside and play.

Truly, I haven’t driven anything like it, before or since. Even on Circuit of the Americas’ long straights, where speeds kissed 150 mph, the Cadillac never stopped accelerating, and in the corners it might have been a handful, but it was rewarding and fast, very fast.

On the Open Road

After a satisfying day thrashing the CTS-V on Circuit of the Americas, it was time to undertake the real challenge I had come to Austin to attempt, driving the big Caddy the 2,490 miles from East Texas to my doorstep in Portland. During that long drive, I would find myself accidentally off-roading, sleeping in an $80,000 car mere miles from Juarez, Mexico—the drug murder capital of the world—and enjoying every second of supercharged V-8 power.

The first leg took me across Texas and into New Mexico, where I stayed with family in a town 100 years removed from its glory days of silver mines and gunfights, Silver City.  To get there meant a long night drive across some of the most boring roads that North America has to offer, long, straight stretches of Texas freeway.

Fortunately for me, the speed limits were high, and I was able to take advantage of a classic Cadillac virtue, comfort at passing speeds. The CTS-V and I simply ate the miles, but by 2 o’clock in the morning my focus was fading, and in a car with 556 horsepower that’s a potentially lethal condition.

However, I was still dangerously close to Juarez, an area unfortunately known for its heavy presence of the world’s least friendly drug cartels. With the trip on a shoestring budget, I decided to forgo a hotel, but sleeping in the car in this area seemed foolhardy at best. With this in mind, I marshaled my energy—and energy drinks—for a final push. Finally slogging into New Mexico and finding a likely pull-off, I decided to get some glorious sleep. Thankfully Recaro doesn’t just make seats that are good for racing, they also make a surprisingly good bed.

I woke up refreshed, with the desert sunrise streaming into my $80,000 “hotel room,” ready for another day of adventure.

The next two days took me through desert vistas, spectacular thundershowers, and even a parking lot full of rusting tanks, on a chorus of  V-8 roar and supercharger howl.

It wasn’t until I was on the second-to-last leg of the journey that I encountered anything like the adventure I found in my first day in the Cadillac.

As I was traveling along I-5 in Central California, surely one of the most boring stretches of freeway in the entire country, even the intoxicating acceleration of the CTS-V was wearing thin. On a whim I pulled off the freeway to take a break, and found to my surprise and delight that the satellite navigation had found an entirely different route for me.

Heading off into the wild blue yonder on a back road, I quickly lost my cell phone signal, and shortly thereafter the pavement. The road surface still seemed pretty good, and the navigation was telling me that I had an intersection with what appeared to be a more major road coming up in a few hundred yards. So, undeterred, I pressed on.

Unfortunately, what appeared to be an intersection with a major road turned out to be an essentially nonexistent cow path wandering off into the drought-blasted hills. Still, I didn’t want to give up, and the navigation was again telling me that another intersection was a mere ½-mile further up the road.

Standing alone in the California desert, the CTS-V’s “art and science” design language makes it look like a high-tech escapee from Area 51.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this set of circumstances repeated itself a few more times, until the question became just how much further I dared press on. Just as I was about to give up, tail tucked between my legs, I saw it, just across a small creek running across the “road” was the most stunning strip of pavement I had ever seen.

Illuminated by a ray of sun, it was as if the driving gods had brought me here. So, carefully fording my last obstacle, I prepared for what would be one of the most memorable driving experiences of my life.

The long two-lane road went from blighted pastureland into a perfect canyon, in an ever-tightening series of curves laid out as well as any race track. The CTS-V was perfectly in its element, with monstrous acceleration, fearsome braking and the perfect hint of oversteer as the car clipped apex after apex.


During the rest of the journey home I had a chance to reflect on that moment; it was the perfect cap to an amazing trip and an astounding car.  The outgoing Cadillac CTS-V should be remembered as something truly special, a car that combined traditional American performance with unprecedented refinement.

The CTS-V handled itself well in just about every environment, even a little unplanned jaunt on dirt and gravel roads didn’t faze it.

The new Cadillac CTS-V is likely to be better in nearly every measurable way, but it will have its work cut out for it when it comes to improving on the combination of raw, unbridled muscle car power and sports car handling that make the current generation so special. Personally, I can’t wait for the second generation CTS-V to slip enough in price that I can lay my hands on one, but this time with a manual transmission.


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