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Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

Road Test

Cadillac CTS -V Coupe road tested

Driven October 2010

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If you wonder why Cadillac continues to bother to try and sell us its cars - just 20 have been registered in the UK this year - you need to take a closer look at the CTS-V Coupe. It's not quite there yet. Not quite. But it's close to being a match for Europe's finest über coupes.

We got the first proper inkling of this when we took Germany's and the UK's finest super saloons on an eventful US road trip from Las Vegas to San Francisco last year. Stacked up against a truly ballistic Jag XF-R, battle-hardened Mercedes CLS63 AMG and a light-on-its-loafers BMW M5, the thundering CTS-V saloon gave them all a run for their money and left us with the distinct impression that Cadillac was on the right track.

After driving the CTS-V Coupe, though, that impression has now become a certainty.  

Yes, it looks like it's been styled with a breadknife, has an underbite you could lose a dentist's arm in and a red boomerang for a rear brake light. But it's none the worse for that. Cars in this category need to stand out, and the Coupe does so admirably.

See our pics of the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

And, yes, it shares its mechanical bits with the saloon. However the Coupe's architecture has been redesigned to create a pleasingly short rear overhang and kicked-up rear. So, despite appearances, it's pretty much all-new from the A-pillar back.

It's a smidge over three inches shorter than the saloon, all of which has been lost from the area where the boot used to be. The rear wheels have been pushed out an extra inch either side and the roofline has been lowered by two inches. So it squats a little lower on the road.

As we visually judge a car's level of performance and luxury - whether we know it or not - by how low and how wide it is (thank you ex-Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker for this insight), this gives the Coupe an extra 20mph over its booted brother, even when it's standing perfectly still.

But that is largely just an illusion as, like I said, the Coupe's oily and bouncy bits are exactly the same as the saloon's. It's about 13kg lighter due to its losing two doors and the boot. And it should be a little stiffer as it's only got two doors, but other than that it's got the same set-up. Whichis hardly any problem at all, as any criticism we had of those last time were mostly focused on the sludgy gearbox.

And, to cut straight to it, they pretty much still are. I'll explain more in a moment, but the reason I bring it up now is that the rest of the car is very good. That's not a qualified ‘good for an American car', that's good for any car. So you should take it seriously and not write it off as another irrelevance from Over There. It's just a sorted gearbox and a broad mind away from being a true equal.

At its heart is the 6,162cc supercharged V8 that has been doing sterling duty, in a slightly different form, scaring drivers witless at the front of the mighty Corvette ZR-1. In the Coupe, it hits like a wrecking ball from tick-over and builds speed as solidly as a falling skyscraper to a tune that summons all 61 years of GM's muscle-car heritage. (The 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is credited with being the first of the breed.)

It's thirsty when you thrash it - something around 15mpg or less is the norm, which is on a par with its competitors. But then what big engine isn't? At least this big fella gives you a good return on your investment. With 556bhp and 561lb of torque, you know your petrol is being used well.

And that you can use it well, too. Those big numbers aren't squirrelled away at the top end of the tacho like in, say, the screaming V10 of the M5. It's partly down to the whisper-quiet supercharger force-feeding the engine, but it's also because Americans understand how to build a great performance engine out of little more than knitting needles and string.

See our pics of the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

Where almost every othercar maker uses the latest hi-tech to achieve their numbers, GM has stuck with a tried-and-tested formula of pushrods and plenty of capacity. It's basic but effective. Very effective.

With peak torque hitting the rear wheels almost exactly in the middle of the car's fat rev range, you can wallow around in the Coupe's huge mudbath of go, adjusting the direction of the car with the throttle at even relatively sane speeds when you have the chassis nanny, StabiliTrak, turned off. It's a fantastic weapon for circle work.

But, just as importantly, it's also equally as impressive when you don't want to be a hooligan, too. The Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres are just as good at generating mechanical grip and keeping the car on the road as generating clouds of white smoke when the red mist descends. Likewise, the Magnetic Ride Control can be switched from concrete to cushy, so you can give your back a break when you've quite finished being an idiot.

The interior flags this dualability in its mix of equipment. The optional Recaro seats bearhug you into place and are perfect for stopping you going one way when the car is going another. But there's also lashings of suede, a large, easy-to-use navigation/entertainment screen and all the other toys you would expect to find on a range-topping luxury coupe.

The only real problem - and it affects your whole impression of the Coupe - other than the over-powering smell of plastic, is the lazy, snooze-o-matic six-speed auto 'box. Even with the fantastic spread of power, and whatever mode you have it in, it takes its own sweet time to find and mesh with the gear you want. At first, it feels like there might be something up with the throttle or fuel management, the car's otherwise torpedo-like progress being temporarily delayed between each shift. But we know it's the gearbox, as it was exactly the same story in the CTS-V saloon.

You kind of get used to it after a while, and can drive around it as the engine's so tractable. But all it takes is a quick blast in a comparable Jaguar, Mercedes or BMW to know that it just ain't right. Which is a shame for the driver, but an even bigger shame for Cadillac.

See our pics of the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

Without this affliction, the whole car would be a much more fun place to be. There is a six-speed manual 'box too, which we haven't tried, but I can't see that being suitable. Cars of this ilk in 2010 should have a state-of-the-art auto or semi-auto transmission to be taken seriously, not manual selectors. And, as a relative newcomer to the market, it should have at least the equal,if not the best, of them all.

Not that many people in the UK will find out anytime soon. With the Cadillac dealer network in England down to just one last outpost in Manchester, it's unlikely that, unless your name is Rio or Dimitar and you call Old Trafford the office, you will get the chance or the urge to find out.

Cadillac has just been rebranded in the US - for the umpteenth time in the last few years as the company searches for a tagline that resonates with the public - and now runs under the banner ‘The new standard for the world.' I'm not sure which world they are talking about. If it's the world as in the World Series of baseball, which is only open to US teams, that's probably right.

However, if it's the world including the rest of us, it's close, but for the moment, wrong.

Pat Devereux

Performance: 0-60mph in 4.0secs, max speed 178mph, 15mpg
Tech: 6162cc, V8, RWD, 556bhp, 561lb ft, 1933kg, n/a g/km CO2

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