|The four-door Cadillac CTS-V, which boasts 556 horsepower, can burn rubber yet get you down the road quietly when you lay off the gas.|
It's not every day you find a car that offers 556 horsepower and 551 foot-pounds of torque, especially one that's a four-door sedan. General Motors' ( GM) 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is taking on rival models by BMW and Daimler ( DAI), and winning. That's no small feat considering the contenders are the bratwurst-fed, 500-horsepower BMW M5 and the muscular, 507-horsepower Mercedes-Benz E63 from Daimler.
General Motors gained an edge by taking some of its most important parts from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. This helped the CTS-V reign above other sedans at the infamous Nurburgring racetrack in Germany. This dragster becomes a cruiser on the road, tackling long hauls with limited engine noise and a flexible suspension. Still, it can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds while carrying four adults. That's super-car territory. Don't get too excited: Speed takes a toll on gas consumption. After more than 1,000 miles of driving, my fuel usage slumped to 14 miles a gallon. The sound of the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine is ferocious. But my favorite noises are the burps and pops that come when you let the revolutions per minute gradually decline. The accelerator serves more as a volume control for the engine. You can mash the pedal for a hearty rev or tap it gently if you want to hear crickets outside. This monstrous engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, which can launch the car at first, second or third gear. Many contemporary gearboxes shift cars automatically into first gear at every stop, which can get annoying if you prefer second. Thankfully, this flexibility keeps tire squealing and chirping to a minimum.
The CTS-V offers the "Magnetic Ride" suspension technology of the Corvette. Drivers can choose "tour" or "sport" modes, allowing either a leisurely cruise or a stiff ride. Caution: The sport mode controls movement so much, it hurts. It's fantastic for the track, but it wreaks havoc on poor road surfaces. Turning in the CTS- V is impressive, thanks to rear tires that are 19 inches wide and 9 inches thick. Road grip is finite, though, and the car will shimmy and shake if the driver becomes overzealous with the gas pedal. The CTS-V, with its mix of leather and suede-like Alcantara, offers the nicest American-designed interior on the market. Kudos to the $3,400 Recaro seats, which keep occupants from being tossed around the cabin. Despite a few creaks and rattles, it was nice to drive a domestic car that felt as though it was carved from a block of metal. This car has the potential to become a classic. It's a niche vehicle that doesn't deliver the profit margin that a struggling company like General Motors needs. Americans' interest in hybrid and electric cars will probably put an end to the horsepower wars in the industry. With that said, the latest CTS-V probably has several years left on its lifecycle. Before they're all sold, I suggest getting behind the wheel of one as soon as possible.