To this day, the only car with leather seats my parents have ever owned is their 1994 Cadillac DeVille. That car was low (as a kid I often climbed onto the roof from the trunk), softly sprung, and had ashtrays filled with old candy wrappers. That last part wasn’t a standard feature, I was just lazy and no one in my family smoked.
There’s no way I’d mistake the latest CTS-V for my parents’ old Caddy. Only thing besides leather seats that it shares with that DeVille is a four-door layout. Fact is, while Cadillac’s current lineup of cars can still glide serenely down the road, more than a few of them can also carve it up.
[Full disclosure: I recently attended a Cadillac Truth + Dare event in the Chicagoland area with some relatives. Cadillac provided the cars, the support team, and various courses laid out with cones and fake deer. They also gave me a nice hat.]
The Truth + Dare event had several stations, each focusing on a different aspect of the Cadillac driving experience. One, for example, was on advanced tech options, as demonstrated by the CT6. Unfortunately, we got there a bit late, and couldn’t do more than sit in the car. But even that brief sit was enough to wow my parents and uncle.
I was wowed, too, by the fact that the people who’d been in the CT6 before us had somehow managed to trip the OnStar system. I think at this point, it isn’t the refinement of the technology that’ll be the issue—it’s the ability of the population to operate said tech that’ll be causing the problems. Just watch our man Doug’s video on the CT6 if you don’t believe me.
But I wasn’t too saddened by missing the first station. I’d really come for the next one: Performance. I had the giggles before I even sat in a car.
There were two halves to the Performance station. The first was a 0-60 drag-strip demo, featuring the RWD, 640-hp, supercharged-LT4-powered CTS-V sedan. Start at the green flags, bury the loud pedal into the carpet, and brake when you got to the yellow flags.
It’s the simple things in life that bring the most joy.
Sadly, due to safety rules, I couldn’t take pictures or film from the inside of the car. Instead, I offer a transcript of my thoughts: “Wow, these seat bolsters are insane. Hella comfy, though. OK, just keep it straight, stomp on the gas. Just breathe, breathe. All right, here we go-holycrapholycrapOHMYGOD-why-is-my-stomach-in-my-throat-I’mgonnadieBRAKE!!”
I have no idea how fast I was going. I have no idea how quickly or slowly that blitz down the cone-lined lane was. All I know is that I was terrified of unleashing that atomic-bomb of a V8...and I wanted to do it again. And again. I never wanted to stop. I needed to hear that raspy, resonant, baritone roar echo off the asphalt again. One more time, please, Mr. Cadillac Rep?
I don’t have a problem, I swear.
If the engine’s performance shoved me deep into the seat, the Brembo brakes popped me back out into the seat-belt. They’re six-piston in front, four-piston in back, and even after an entire (admittedly cool) day’s worth of drivers stomping on the brake pedal, it was one of the firmest I’d ever pressed.
I’d been giggling when I’d walked up; now I was cackling and rubbing my hands. Jumping to light-speed will do that, apparently. And there was still the ATS-V to experience.
Unlike the CTS-V, the ATS-V’s engine is a V6, twin-turbo instead of supercharged. As such, it makes “only” 464-hp and 445 lb-ft, instead of the larger vehicle’s 640-hp and 630 lb-ft. But the ATS’ lighter weight means its 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds is only 0.1 seconds slower. Its brakes are also six-piston front & four-piston rear Brembo’s. And the version on hand had the same 8-speed auto.
If the CTS-V is a velvet-covered sledgehammer, the ATS-V is more of a leather-handled scalpel. Which is why, instead of a 0-60 test, Cadillac created a short autocross course to show off its skills.
Please note: despite my daily driver, I’ve never driven an autocross course.
With my mother in the back-seat, and still feeling the piano-wire-nerves from the CTS-V, I didn’t feel comfortable going full wannabe racer. My pace could best be described as “brisk”.
Even so, the ATS-V impressed. The 8-speed auto was seamless in its shifts, and if those turbos had any lag, I didn’t feel it. The V6 doesn’t move me the same way the V8 does, but even if it doesn’t exactly sing, it certainly doesn’t drone.
My NB’s steering is still more talkative, but there was still a hushed conversation going on between the Cadillac’s wheel and my hands. Add in the damn-near perfect weight and the Alcantara beneath my palms, and I never lacked for confidence in the corners.
The suspension and chassis should also be thanked for that. I’ve sadly never driven any BMW, but after that ATS-V, I understand both why my mom’s wanted a Bimmer all these years, and what the latest batch of BMW sedans have lost. Review after review has come out, raving about the Alpha platform on which the ATS (and Camaro) is built. You can add my name onto the list of raving fans.
Chucking the coupe (the sedan has sadly been canceled) around corners and over the cracked and undulating pavement of the Arlington Raceway parking lot, my line was never disturbed nor my mother’s kidneys pummeled. The ride may be on the firm side—quelle surprise—but it’s well-dampened, never overly stiff.
I have to thank the Cadillac employee who was riding shotgun for pushing me to demonstrate perhaps the best visceral example of how effective the ATS-V is at conquering a race course. At the final wide corner of the module, he asked me to stand on the throttle. And oh my, did the coupe grip. I could’ve sworn the Michelin Pilot Super Sports were coated in Super Glue.
The seats might as well have been. They weren’t as heavily bolstered as the ones in the CTS-V, but they still held me securely in place.
Sadly, I had to leave their embrace, as our time in the Performance module was over. As I walked away, I flashed the cars a “V for victory” sign.
I missed the official title of the next module, but it could best be described as “A Relaxing Weekend Drive”. The cone-lined course was filled with typical roadway hazards: thick wooden beams, a bridge, an immense coiled rope, a fake deer, and another bridge that’d been set at a roughly 45-degree angle. All the typical things you’d encounter on a casual drive to your cabin in the woods.
For this module, we had access to the XT5 crossover and the new Escalade. I started behind the wheel of the latter.
Um, this thing is huge. Like, on the scale of some European nations. The week before the Truth + Dare event, I drove a bunch of Polish Boy Scouts to and from camp in Wisconsin in a 12-passenger GMC van. I hadn’t expected that to be a training ride for Cadillac’s latest tank—I mean, SUV.
“It’s like a private airplane back here!” my mom said, getting into the giant SUV’s middle row.
I now understand why the Escalade is the ride of choice for many celebrities & rich people. Calling it a tank is actually a perfect summary: you don’t drive it down the road, you use it to conquer the road and crush any who would be foolish enough to get in your way into the asphalt. I could physically feel my ego expand as I carefully tip-toed around the course. No wonder the newest-gen ‘Slade beat out the competition on its debut when Motor Trend tested it.
Considering you can spec this monster SUV into the $100k+ range—although the one I rode in was *only* around $80k—listing the full options list here would be an exercise in tedium. But I will talk about the feature that impressed me the most: the extensive camera setup.
Picture this: you’re piloting your brand-new Escalade down the gravel road to the ski-lodge, when all of a sudden, *gasp*, you come upon an actual obstacle—a fallen tree. You don’t want to scratch your paint job, but the massive dimensions of your SUV mean your sight-lines are massively obscured. You almost wish you’d bought a smaller car, but the SUV’s whispering to your ego shuts that right down. Luckily, there’s a solution.
The center screen can show the feed from the cameras mounted around the bumper level of the Escalade. That, combined with the sensors also dotting the lower parts of the SUV, mean you can easily pick your line around big rocks, potholes...or allow you to actually park between the bright yellow lines at the shopping mall. The light steering effort may think it’s fooling you, but I never forgot that I was handling something roughly the size of an oil tanker.
Hopping out of the Escalade and into the XT5, although the crossover’s MSRP was roughly half that of the SUV, I preferred the smaller vehicle. You might think the lower price tag would mean cheaper-feeling materials, but it wasn’t like anything I touched was out of a Fischer-Price catalog.
Also, even though the XT5 didn’t come with the Magnetic Ride Control that the Escalade did, it handled the rough simulated bumps of the course much better than the larger vehicle did. The ‘Slade may have more mass to dampen bumps, but it’s also got 22-inch wheels and (relatively) thin tires.
With that, our time with the Truth + Dare even was over. As I walked back to our car, I asked my mom, dad, and uncle what they’d thought of the cars.
My uncle immediately chimed in with his opinion of the CTS-V’s 640 horses: “Wow!” He and my dad couldn’t believe you could still buy a RWD American car, let alone one with that much power.
My mom isn’t a car enthusiast. She has no interest in power figures or Nurburgring times; she also refuses to drive on the highway. But she knows what she likes, and she loved the interior of every single Cadillac, as did my uncle and dad.
Speaking of my dad, he’s not much for horsepower numbers, as he reminds me every time he talks about driving a 150-hp, gasoline-powered truck in the army. But he had a smile on his face when he talked about the CTS-V’s engine. He even liked the exterior styling, which he’d previously called inferior to the ‘old styling’—i.e., his old DeVille’s styling.
It’s funny, actually: at no time before, during, or after the event, did any one of us mention that car. One of the pinnacles of early-90s American luxury, forgotten. The only luxury car my parents have ever owned, and my mom still dreams about a BMW.
But as we drove away, me behind the wheel of my parent’s CX-5, my mom didn’t mention the German brand. All she said was that if someone worked hard enough, they could afford a car like that CTS. No one in the car qualified that statement.
It’s taken quite a while, but Cadillac is finally a marque worthy of your time and consideration. The brand’s been dominating in IMSA racing, their vehicles’ interiors are already better than BMW’s, and after what I experienced, there’s no reason to doubt the reviews. The days of the DeVille are gone, and that’s the gospel truth.