General Motors steps up the plate and hits a home run
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT, Supercharged Corvette V8 and retuned suspension make the CTS-V a  
force to be reckoned with.

The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V is the most refined, luxurious four-door Corvette ever built - which explains why it is beating most other upscale sport sedans in head-to-head comparisons.

Some automotive writers snickered when Cadillac announced it was going to take BMW and Mercedes on a few years ago. It had been a long time since General Motors' prestige division had produced any truly inspiring cars. The angular CTS that debuted in 2003 showed promise but lacked the horsepower and handling crispness of its European rivals. Even the high-performance V model fell short of the factory-authorized aftermarket BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG versions of their sedans.

But this year Cadillac fulfilled its promise by squeezing the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 from the top-of-the-line ZR1 Corvette into CTS-V and tightening up its suspension. The result is a supercar that has beaten the BMW M5 and all-new Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG in numerous comparison tests. In fact, a CTS-V with a six-speed automatic lapped the famous Nürburgring test track in German in 7:59.32, a record for production sedans.

Even more remarkable, the CTS-V starts at around $62,000, which is about $25,000 less than two European cars. The only better bang-for-the-buck performance sedan bargain is the Chrysler 300C SRT-8 with the 425 horsepower 6.1-liter V8. It starts at around $45,000 but lacks the Cadillac's quality and refinement.

First-time drivers can be excused for underestimating the car's potential, however. Exterior styling is very aggressive, with a large front air dam and body side moldings accentuating the sharply angled lines. The interior is also very sporty-looking, especially when equipped with the optional leather Recaro seats and metal pedals that came with our test car. But even with all that power under the hood, the CTS-V is very easily to drive gently around town. It does not surge or shake like such less-powerful performance cars as either of the HEMI-equipped Challengers or the new 5.0-liter Mustang.

But stomp on the gas and everything changes. All 556 horsepower are suddenly unleashed, rocketing the 4,300-pound car from zero-to-60 is just over four seconds. And the momentum continues building well after that if you've got the nerve to keep it floored. The speedometer's 200 mile per hour top speed may be a bluff, but we bet not by much.

Handling is also impressive for such a large car. It sweeps through fast corners without the rear end threatening to break loose. Grip is so good it is hard to believe that all-wheel-drive is not standard - or even an option, in fact. If that's a priority, check out the less powerful but similarly-styled SRX crossover.

With so much going it, complaints about the CTS-V seem insignificant. Even the optional Recaro front seats could be better bolstered. Though precise, the steering is a little light. The optional suede-like covering on the steering wheel and shift lever might put some drivers off, although we found it easy to grip on twisty roads. The pop-up navigation/electronic system management screen was slightly more distracting than a flush one would be. And the lack of a rear view camera seems like an oversight, although rear visibility is pretty good.

The positives far outweigh any negatives with the 2010 CTS-V, however. Stepping up to compete against the world's best cars was a bold move for Cadillac, but the gamble has more than paid off. Anyone considering buying a luxury performance car would be foolish not to give it a try.

Facts and figures

• Model: 2010 CTS-V.

• Manufacturer: Cadillac.

• Class: Full-size car.

• Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive.

• Style: Sedan.

• Engine: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8 (556 hp, 551 ft-lbs torque).

• Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic (as tested).

• EPA estimated city/highway mileage: 12/18.

• Price: Beginning at approximately $60,720 ($68,445 as tested).

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