MILFORD, Mich. -- Pound that pedal to the floor on the latest incarnation of Cadillac's souped-up CTSv -- quickest and most powerful American production sedan ever -- and those 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires peel off Z-rated rubber on the tarmac of a circuitous test track at the Milford Proving Ground of General Motors near Detroit.
With its wide track and squatty stance for knife-edge sharp skin that ripples over wheelwells and amplifies a blunt in-your-face prow capped by a toothy grille, this high performance sports touring sedan charges down the track with the strength of 556 horses from a supercharged V8 engine out of the hot ZR1 Corvette making massive torque to twirl those rear wheels.
It pins your shoulders to the bolstered leather bucket and pulls G-forces through your eyeballs in the first-gear dash, ultimately propelling more than two tons of a mechanical marvel to speed at the speedometer's mark of 60 mph in less than four seconds. That's the best zero-to-60 time yet for a stock American sports sedan, but this one also promises to peg the speedo needle at a top number approaching warp speed.
Not only is it the quickest production Cadillac on record but a dreamboat to drive around a wiggly course like the demanding tangle of off-camber curves, crinkles and carousels built into the Lutzburgring track at Milford. It's obviously bred for race-track running, as it underwent lots of testing during the development on Germany's 14-mile-long Nurburgring Nordschliefe course.
The 2009 CTSv comes from GM's High Performance Vehicle Operations, sort of a tuner shop charged with pumping up racy versions of GM production models. CTSv begins with the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform of the mid-size CTS (Cadillac Touring Sedan), which itself made history with a 2003 debut as the first RWD vehicle in Cadillac's fleet since 1979 and the first to offer a manual transmission on a rear-drive chassis in half a century.
Key component of this new CTSv is the LSA 6.2-liter V8, which is based on GM's legendary small-block V8 and hitched to an intercooled Eaton R1900 supercharger system. Preliminary estimates of this plant's output indicate it develops an 556 hp at 6200 rpm and massive torque of 551 lb-ft at 3800 rpm. It operates with a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission or GM's new Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic, which was designed to handle a huge torque load, with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
All of the go-power for CTSv is countered by serious stopping power. The four-wheel disc brake system by the Brembo brand from Italy uses slotted and vented rotors -- 15-inch up front and 14.7-inch in back -- with six-piston aluminum calipers in the front and four-piston aluminum calipers in the rear.
Also, there are electronic connections to anti-lock (ABS) and traction control (TCS) devices, plus dynamic rear brake proportioning (DBP) and StabiliTrak, the world's best vehicle stability controller. Steering, through a rack and pinion device with variable-assist power, feels dead-on precise and quick.
Suspension elements consist of lightweight aluminum for upper and lower control arms to reduce the vehicle's unsprung mass, which makes it stick better on the road and glide more uniformly over bumps. Further, Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension magic applies.
The MRC amounts to variable shock damping to control wheel and body motion via magnetized fluid in shocks. By governing the current to an electromagnetic coil inside the damper, shock fluid's consistency can be changed instantly for continuously variable shock damping.
Wheels and tires are special. The forged alloy wheels measure 19 x 9 inches in front and 19 x 9.5 inches in back, with Michelin PS2 summer tires of 255/40ZR19 forward and 285/35ZR19 trailing.
Park the CTSv beside a CTS and you'll see that the V-badged version looks like a muscle-bound cousin.
Special body modifications mark this high-performance edition:
* The round wreath and crest of Cadillac mounts squarely at the center of a mesh steel grille on this car's chiseled prow.
* The satin-finish grille measures nearly twice as large as the one worn by a standard CTS so more air flows through the intake.
* Front corners carry piercing optics with stacked round high-intensity discharge (HID) xenon lamps that swivel in concert with the vehicle's front wheels.
* A power-dome bump on the hood accommodates the large supercharged engine below deck.
* A new front fascia houses more mesh steel in the center vent plus round foglamps to each side.
Inside a spacious cabin with room for five riders, the exterior theme of chiseled forms and angular features is expressed in a monochromatic treatment with hand-cut, hand-sewn and hand-wrapped surfaces.
Special performance driving seats mount up front and move under power controls in 14 directions, with pneumatic bolster controls set in seat cushions and backrests. These adjustable bolsters are designed to keep the body pinned in place during tight-corner maneuvers.
Vivid analog instruments are housed in three tubular binnacles and the dashboard center stack of controls is trimmed in a high-tech black metallic finish.
Designers of the CTSv conspired with the engineers who developed the iPod as well as computer and entertainment experts, and the outcome of this work is a center console for CTS that's geared to work seamlessly with iPods, MP3 players and other digital music devices -- you can even recharge an iPod or MP3 player from the USB port.
A 40-gigabyte hard drive enables pause-and-rewind of a live radio program, or ripping tracks from CDs. And the Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround premium audio kit is a 300-watt and 10-speaker system which incorporates Bose Centerpoint technology for two-channel audio information.
Cadillac's most powerful car comes with a price tag estimated to tally around $63,000.