Cadillac CTS V-Sport Quick Review
Critic’s Notebook takeaway: The junior varsity V-Sport just wants to dance with somebody.
The CTS V-Sport is the Cadillac for kids who just wanna bomb around. Stomp, steer, whoosh, whee! Sure, the pure "V" does all the dynamic things at Daft Punk magnitude—harder, better, faster, stronger—but it's almost $25,000 more expensive, and if you prod a 640-horsepower sedan around town, you soon end up two towns over, then arrested, or, worse, sailing into a Dairy Queen and dying a delicious death covered in soft-serve and brownie bits. The V-Sport encourages fun instead of demanding insanity.
There was a period, maybe around 2008, when the BMW 5-Series did that same thing. It was tuned to be driven in anger, and with undue haste. (That is, as a BMW driver drives.) Throttle tip-in was so immediate that sedate progress was basically impossible; with the automatic transmission, shifts came hard and fast, and the steering was lively, urging drivers to take corners at rude speeds. That personality, long-gone from BMW's now sedate mid-sizer, lives on in the Cadillac CTS V-Sport. It's a joy to drive petulantly while complaining to a friend, or singing along, peeved, to Whitney Houston's infidelity ballad "It's Not Alright, But It's Okay." The turbocharged V6 is burbly and meaty, perfect for prodding as you scream, "as it turns out, you were making a foooool out of me!" And when the song ends and your pique subsides, the CTS's Magnetic Ride Control can loosen its grip on the road and let you cruise. It can still "Cadillac."
The interior is handsome and well-built, but this particular car was outfitted with carbon-fiber trim flecked with red, to match the red leather trimming. It was beautiful, but as a cherry blossom is beautiful—I felt compelled to appreciate it and capture it in my mind's eye, knowing that almost immediately, it will have faded. Eighteen months from now, out of this particular aesthetic moment, it will look horribly out of date; if I were buying, I'd go with the open-poor wood trim and Kona leather, the color of a catcher's mitt, underscoring the Caddy's Americana bona fides.
The car I found myself comparing the CTS to is of a much richer breed: the Maserati Ghibli, which offers a forced-induction V6 and sporty dynamics for $70,000, versus the V-Sport's $59,995. At those prices, the Ghibli is slower, and smaller, and to these eyes, uglier. If you're going to romp in a sports sedan, especially in the midwest, where I was, why choose the finicky Italian (or sober German) when there's a goofy, ready-to-party all-American whose issues you can have wrenched on at any of the 928 dealerships across the land? (By comparison, there are 364 Mercedes dealerships, and only 281 Audi dealerships.) The square jaw is certainly there, but more compelling are the rectilinear glutes: not since the '71 Coupe De Ville has a taillight treatment put such a resonant period on the end of an automotive phrase.
In the small town I grew up in—and played Little League in—the fancier parents drove GMC Yukon Denalis and Cadillac DeVilles, all from the big GM dealership on the outskirts. The other premium brands didn't have local appeal: BMWs and Mercedes identified you as a urbanite, Saabs and Volvos as a lost Quebecoise or possessor (yes) of a cross-country ski-wax fortune. After practice, you'd admire the big Cadillacs before ambling over to your own cloth-seated Suburban; Caddies, then, being the absolute top limit of the automotive envelope. Seeing things now, that was laughable. But with the CTS V-Sport—and the brands two other excellent, rear-drive sedans—Cadillac is offering small-town kids world-class athletes to admire. And that's just fun.