Twenty years after its "Breakthrough" ad campaign with Led Zeppelin as a soundtrack, Cadillac is still working hard to produce performance cars that upend people's perception of the brand. Cars like the CT4-V Blackwing, complete with a six-speed manual and 472 horsepower (to say nothing of the CT5-V Blackwing, with 668 horses) prove that Cadillac can build cars that can run with---and in some ways beat---European monsters like the BMW M5 Competition.
That's great, but that's also limited-production territory. What could re-center Cadillac's reputation a whole lot quicker is the CT5 V-Series----the sweet spot of the CT5. Better equipped and more powerful than the base CT5, less outrageous than the Blackwing. If only people knew.
Under the hood, a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 360 horsepower, 405 lb-ft of torque, capable of 0-60 runs of 4.6 seconds and a top speed on the racetrack of 156 miles per hour. All while returning an EPA-estimated 18 miles per gallon city/27 highway/21 combined. The CT5 V-Series is rear-wheel drive, with magnetic ride control, a rear electronic limited slip differential, customizable drive modes, launch control, Brembo front brakes and comes with low-profile summer tires.
With my wife still in Georgia helping with the new grandbaby, I had a Saturday all to myself and the CT5 V-Series in my driveway. I hadn't ever been to the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada (it opened five years after I left town), and I hadn't walked around Virginia City without news to cover and deadlines to meet since I was a kid, so I cooked up a day trip that put me behind the wheel of the Cadillac for 276 miles---to Reno on I-80, down to Virginia City, then to Nevada's oldest settlement, Genoa, and over Kingsbury Grade to South Lake Tahoe (for lunch at the Sno-Flake Drive-In), then home on U.S. 50. All told, it was a shade under 11 hours from leaving home to returning, with maybe six of those at the wheel--interstates, two-lanes, winding back roads and a lot of elevation changes (220 feet above sea level to 7,343 and back, with a lot in between). And the CT5 V-Series handled them all flawlessly, as it did city streets and urban freeways during the week. I drive 104 cars a year and at no point did I think some other car would have been a better choice.
Supportive seats, room for five people and their stuff---and actual physical controls with a ten-inch touchscreen that largely confines itself to nav and entertainment (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) duties. Regular readers may remember a less-enthusiastic review of the CT5 that I wrote two years ago. And the CT5 V-Series actually helps make that point. The issue that I had with the base CT5 was that Cadillac was focused on holding the starting price below $40,000, which then required a bunch of extra-cost add-ons to even make it feel close to the kind of "special" Cadillacs should convey. The CT5 V-Series fixes all that. Setting the base price at $51,890 (including destination) allows them to equip this car properly---from the aforementioned engine, suspension pieces and tires to ambient lighting, rain-sensing wipers, a 15-speaker audio system, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and 18-way adjustable front power seats with four-way power lumbar and bolster adjustability. It also, in a major gold star moment for GM, includes a comprehensive suite of active safety features.
Our test car did have extra-cost options---$3,700 for the Super Cruise 1 Package, which in addition to Cadillac's hands-free Super Cruise driving tech, upgrades the touchscreen to 12 inches (which makes a convincing case for being as large as a touchscreen needs to be), a reconfigurable driver cluster display, launch control and a video recorder; $1,500 for the jet black with jet black accent leather interior; $1,190 for the Climate Package (including power lumbar massage for the front seats), and $625 for the Rift Metallic paint.
Bottom line on the window sticker: $58,905.
And that strikes me as the sweet spot for a premium American road car. The Blackwings tend to get the attention---especially from automotive journalists---and they're amazing. But the real story for those of us who care about performance sedans is just how good the CT5 V-Series is.