Driving a 2017 CTS-V on the track
Don’t let the fancy wood and leather fool you. The 2017 Cadillac CTS-V might excel as a docile luxury cruiser, but it also has a wild side that can get out of control if you don’t know what you’re doing—remember, there’s a supercharged eight-cylinder under the hood churning out over 600 horsepower.
That said, learning how to tame this super sedan should be at the top of your list. Thankfully, the brand recently made that easy to do for anyone who purchases a 2017 CTS-V (or ATS-V), which now includes complimentary access to the Cadillac V-Performance Academy, an extensive two-day program that explores the limits of your V car while sharpening your skills on the track. Here are the eight things we learned when we put ourselves through the program.
Almost everything is included
The only big-ticket item you’re responsible for is airfare to and from Las Vegas. From there, Cadillac will shuttle you to Spring Mountain racetrack and resort in Pahrump, Nevada, about an hour drive west of Vegas. The program also includes lodging for both nights at an on-site condo, most meals, and a courtesy vehicle to get around the resort. A helmet and a head and neck restraint are also provided. Now you really have no excuse.
Your wheels for the program will be the same model you purchased back home. Same drivetrain, too. We attended the program with other journalists, but we were also among actual customers including newly minted CTS-V owners and a few ATS-V buyers who sprung for the manual transmission. The three-pedaled ATS-V wasn’t available to us, so we hopped into a four-door classroom bully—the 640-hp CTS-V sedan.
No proper driving school is complete without classroom time and PowerPoint presentations. Thankfully, the V Academy breaks it down with short sessions spread throughout both days. Instructors were engaging and informative. Topics ranged from proper racing line, understeer versus oversteer, and vehicle features. “I didn’t know my car did that!” was something almost every owner repeated in class.
Appreciate the basics
The first day will cover things such as proper seating position, vehicle driving modes, and a handful of relatively simple routines such as slalom and hard-braking courses. For me, the “Serpentine” exercise was the most valuable. Here, the instructor covers your windshield with a sunshade as you snake through rows of cones. It forces you to use your side windows and peripheral vision. It’s a low-speed exercise, but it’s one that I kept thinking back to when it came time for the fast and hot laps on the track.
Hey, that looks familiar
Cadillac utilizes MT’s signature figure-eight course at its V-Performance Academy, albeit a very modified version (it’s smaller, wet, and slippery). The main purpose here is to demonstrate how well the vehicle’s Snow/Ice mode maintains vehicle control in slippery conditions, but what you should really aim for is turning off Snow/Ice mode to work on your drifting skills.
Putting it all together
Did you pay attention in class and complete the slow-speed drills with enthusiasm? If so, you should do well putting together all those new skills for the lead/follow track sessions. As the name implies, you’ll follow a V-Performance Academy instructor around the track and attempt to replicate his or her racing line and brake and acceleration points. The instructor will also be watching you through the rear view while providing feedback via walkie-talkies (all while masterfully hauling through the track). Sessions start off fairly slow, but things get quick and serious by the second day. There’s about six lead/follow sessions total, and you’ll likely be physically and mentally spent when it’s all done.
Take advantage of the Performance Data Recorder
Our CTS-V was equipped with the Performance Data Recorder (PDR) that not only captures front-facing video of your track sessions, but logs a long list of data points including lap times, vehicle speed, as well as throttle, brake, and steering inputs. Utilizing the system is optional, but we highly recommend taking advantage of the PDR to compare your data with an instructor so you can fine-tune your performance on the track.
The CTS-V is insanely quick
It had been awhile since I last drove a CTS-V. It might have been a lunch run to Chipotle, top speed 35 mph (56 km/h). This time around, we going more than triple that speed, and CTS-V felt like it had much more in it—Caddy says the CTS-V tops out at 200 mph (322 km/h), and we see no reason to doubt it.
In all, the Cadillac V-Performance Academy is top notch. The automaker claims it’s the most extensive complimentary program offered by any automaker including Mercedes-AMG and BMW. So the next time you see an ATS-V or CTS-V leaving a Cars and Coffee parking lot, relax—he or she most likely knows what they’re doing.
Read more about the Cadillac CTS-V and ATS-V:
- 2016 Cadillac CTS-V First Drive
- 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan Auto, Coupe Manual First Test
- Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio vs. BMW M3 vs. Mercedes-AMG C63 S vs. Cadillac ATS-V