Every Performance Automaker Needs Something Like Cadillac's V-Performance Academy
A two-day, Caddy-filled track retreat—and it's all free.
The standard, test drive-plus-explainer buying process doesn't really work for most people purchasing a new, 400-plus-horsepower performance car. The car is meant to go fast, and capably, but that doesn't mean the driver is up to the task after minimal seat time puttering around the neighborhood or, at best, letting the car stretch its legs for a moment on a quick highway run.
The Cadillac V-Performance Academy at Spring Mountain was created to fix that very problem.
Cadillac's two-day program gives owners the opportunity to spend time with the same model of V performance car (meaning, ATS-V or CTS-V) that they have back home, but in a proper driving school setting—in this case, part of the Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in the Mojave Desert. So, instead of fiddling with an owners manual and browsing some YouTube explainer videos, owners can take a doppelgänger of their own car on a race track, to fully explore its performance capabilities and improve their own driving skills. They're also given a thorough walkthrough of the various performance features, and how to use them. The best part: it's all free—as long as you own one the Vs, and you can get yourself to the track.
Two days to figure out just how capable your car actually is
The V-Performance Academy sits owners down with about a dozen well-trained (and extremely patient) driving instructors who are prepared to answer just about any driving- or V-car-related question one could throw at them. The first day is for the most part filled with in-class instruction that's used to familiarize owners with performance-driving basics. Though the feeling of sitting in a classroom when you could be piloting a 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V around a race track isn't exactly the best sensation, it's well worth it, because the fundamentals are the fundamentals for a reason. And once you actually do find yourself coming into a corner with the speedo hovering around 100 mph, it's good to have the basics to fall back on.
After classroom instruction, owners are put behind the wheel to practice braking, emergency maneuvers, and corner visualization. These exercises not only help drivers get comfortable exploring the handling limits of their cars, but also go a long way to helping them feel out the limits of their own driving skills, before a full lapping session.
Even if you weren't comfortable with doing these exercises in your own car, or didn't have somewhere to mess around without risk, this free—worth noting again, this is free—program gives owners access to cars they don't have to worry about damaging (though additional insurance can be purchased) and an extremely safe, professional HPD environment.
After a night of rest, day two brings a copious track time
Even if you didn't want to be lectured—in the nicest way possible, of course—about how to drive properly on track, or how to use your car's various traction modes, the second day at the V-Performance Academy is basically a full track day, in cars you don't own, for free. What more could you want?
Like the first day of instruction, the second day has a balance of driving and whiteboard learning. Only this time, it's real, actual, on-track learning—not just skid exercises and handling maneuvers.
But just because you're out onto the track and the speed picks up, doesn't mean the learning ends. Even while attacking corners at speed and adjusting to the limits of the V car's suspension and tire set-up, you still have an instructor assigned to you to help you learn how to drive better.
While hot around the course, the instructor who's leading your pack of students is on the radio calling out tips and errors he sees from the front. And, yes, they see almost everything.
You're also given an SD card to record your high-speed shenanigans using Cadillac's built-in Performance Data Recorder. The memory card, used correctly, makes for a solid learning tool because drivers can use it to analyze where they messed up, and how they can find extra time.
There's no better way to learn about your car
The first thing I want to do when I get in a new car is drive it to its limits. It's the best—really the only—way to understand fully what a car is capable of, and it also happens to be a ton of fun (usually). The V-Performance Academy allows owners to do exactly that in a safe environment with professionals who are ready to answer any questions you could possibly have about driving, or about the car. It's the quickest way to become a better and more confident driver.
Similar driving school programs are offered by BMW, Porsche, Dodge, and other auto manufacturers, but Cadillac's is the only one that's—you guessed it—free for buyers.
It's not just a school
Most of the time students have during the program is used for educational purposes, but the on-site condos provide an ideal space for resting up or looking over your clips from that day's PDR file collection. And if you do have some free time, you can take your loaner Caddy—most likely a CT6 or XT5—on a drive around Pahrump, or on an unguided tour of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
Before my two-day school began, I took my loaner CT6 out to explore the Canyons and to collect an In-N-Out meal. That in itself was almost worth the four-hour flight from New York City.
If you own a Cadillac V car, you have no reason not to go
If you've purchased a new ATS-V and CTS-V, you have to at least try to find two days that line up with one of the V Performance Academy's dates.
There's no reason to own a powerful performance car if you don't actually know what it's capable of, or how to use it properly. And even if you did go the extra mile to take your 640-hp CTS-V to a track day, there's a good chance that you would still misuse the car's driving modes or advanced traction control systems.
Plus, you can't say "no" to free track time. Even if you're moderately decent at performance driving, two days at a driving school, beating on cars you don't have to worry about maintaining, is basically a gift from above. Especially so when that car is identical to your own and you have a line of race-taught instructors who are willing to make you a faster and safer driver.
Cadillac has gone out of its way to offer this program to its performance car buyers, and the automaker has done a damn good job with it. If you've got a V car in the garage, you must try it out for yourself.