The Cadillac CTS-V is a very good super sedan. You can tell by just ogling the stats. The supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 engine creates 640 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. Weighing in at about 4,100 pounds (1,860 kg), the CTS-V weighs less then the fat, German competition. You’ve also got big Brembo brakes, Michelin Super Sport tires, GM’s exceptional Alpha platform, and the so-good-Ford’s-now-using-them Delphi magnetic dampers.
But even with all that kit, the CTS-V is not good enough.
Say huh? Yeah, you heard me right. The CTS-V as it stands is not good enough. Cadillac is close with this car. If you’re German, uncomfortably close. But Dave Leone and his team haven’t reached the Promised Land. Yet.
But they could. The answer is to reach higher. To grab the brass ring. To internalize the mantra that good enough is never good enough. To put your foot on the other guy’s throat and simply keep pressing. To put it in terminology Cadillac can totally understand, it’s time to dare greatly. Then call the solution VMax.
Before we talk VMax specifics, let’s talk business case. Put very simply, performance cars are premium products. Premium cars make up only 11-12 percent of the auto industry’s volume, but (depending on who you talk to) either 50 percent or more than 50 percent of the profits. If people are willing to pay more for more performance, you make more profit. All indicators point to the fact that they are more than willing. So right here is the excuse needed to justify a Cadillac VMax badge: GM wants to make more money.
VMax wouldn’t be unprecedented. BMW makes Competition Package versions of their M cars. AMG adds an S before sometimes adding Black Series. Audi makes the R8 V10 Plus. Jaguar goes from R to RS to (sometimes) RS-GT, and now all the way up to SVR. It’s time for Cadillac to get with the (more profits) program.
Here’s where the CTS-V is strong. That engine, obviously. Chassis dynamics and as the Germans are so found of saying kinematics (sporty ride and sporty handling) are the strongest in its segment. The car’s damping is incredible. Performance Traction Management, aka PTM, is Chevy and Cadillac’s ace in the hole when combined with the same trick eDiff found on the Corvette, making the CTS-V better to drive in Mode 5 than with everything off. All that stuff is very good, bordering on great.
Here’s where the CTS-V is weak. Transmission. Cadillac threw away the manual transmission for the third-generation CTS-V (boo), and there aren’t any dual-clutch transmissions on the market that can handle so much torque. Why do you think all the BMWs and Audis that make more than 500 pound-feet of twist use the ZF eight-speed auto? No, the Veyron’s Ricardo unit doesn’t count. As a result, we have GM’s new eight-speed automatic, the 8L90 Hydramatic. While there’s nothing mechanically wrong with the 8L90 (though obviously there will be compromises when the same cogswapper must work in both a Yukon and a Corvette), something isn’t kosher electronically. Programming? Processing power? Bus speeds? Operating system speed? I don’t know the exact culprit (it’s one of those), but I do know that it’s not good enough. Sadly for Caddy, the V-6 Camaro uses an eight-Speed (the mechanically similar 8L45) that’s much quicker. This has to be fixed.
Here’s why the 8L90 in the CTS-V is so weak: once you’ve engaged manual mode, the only way to switch gears is via the paddles (which are electric switches instead of real paddles). Which would be fine, if the 8L90 weren’t so slow. For CTS-V duty, the LT4’s redline has been lowered to 6500 rpm, though it feels more like 6350 rpm to me. Point is, on the German competition, when you pull the upshift paddle at redline, the transmission quickly clicks into the next higher gear. On the CTS-V there’s a pause.
That pause is annoying because A) you’re staring right at the HUD tachometer and B) you run into a hard fuel cutoff. Going for a fast lap in manual? Sorry! Because in addition to everything else you’re trying to pay attention to, you have to remember to pretend/remember to short-shift at 6000 rpm. You’re not actually short-shifting, but the delay between your right hand pulling the paddle and the next gear takes about 350 rpm at WOT. It’s not acceptable to make drivers perform that extra calculation. Also, in my experience, the car’s quicker in manual than auto. This weakness can be addressed and fixed with the CTS-VMax.
Then you got wheels and tires. Michelin Pilot Super Sports are excellent street tires. But Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s are better. Slap them on the VMax. Hey, Cup 2s can be optioned on the AMG C63 S. Why not on a Cadillac? And while we’re at it, how about wider wheels, too. At least big enough to fit 305s, if not 315 or 325s. A more planted rear end would obviously help put the power down even better.
Let’s keep going. How about a carbon fiber roof? Or a carbon fiber trunk lid? An obnoxious, but functional, down-force-generating rear wing is a must. Canards. Dive planes. Michelin pilot sport cup 2s. Carbon Fiber wheels. Fix the transmission. Go nuts. Make it the very best it can be.
Is this a pipe dream? A fantasy? While I don’t have any specifics, my sources do tell me that Cadillac might just be cooking something like VMax up. After all, VMax is too good a name not to. What do you think? Are the ATS-V and CTS-V good enough as they stand? Or is there room for improvement? Like say if they dropped a 7.0-liter V-8 into the ATS-VMax, hint, hint? Let us know below. Until then, dream greatly.