Cadillac CTS-V

US muscle car offers ’Vette V8 power and Euro-focused dynamics.

When it comes to performance cars, US firms usually favour brawn over brains – but that’s set to change with the new CTS-V. Honed on the famous Nürburgring circuit in Germany, the big saloon has been developed to deliver driving thrills to match the best in Europe.

Cadillac bosses haven’t forgotten their muscle car roots, though, because beneath the newcomer’s four-door bodywork is a detuned version of the supercharged 6.2-litre V8 from the Corvette ZR-1. It pumps out a remarkable 556bhp, making it the most powerful of our trio.

This car is also the model that attracts the most attention here. With its mix of straight lines and sharp creases, the Cadillac really stands out from the crowd. The bold shape is enhanced by a power bulge on the bonnet, together with a deeper front bumper, side skirts and mesh grille. Inside, the cabin isn’t short of visual appeal, thanks to an attractive dash. It’s packed with standard kit, too, with sat-nav, a TV and 40Gb music server. Our test car had standard seats, but all UK versions will get body-hugging heated and ventilated Recaro items in the front.

Despite all this, the Cadillac can’t match its rivals’ premium feel. The interior is let down by cheap-looking plastics, the switchgear feels fragile and the build quality is below class standards. Worse still, it can’t compete with the Merc or Jaguar for space, and the 373-litre boot is by far the smallest; the AMG serves up an extra 167 litres.

One place where the CTS-V isn’t short of capacity is under the bonnet. Despite greasy track conditions, it blasted from 30-70mph in 3.8 seconds – half-a-second faster than the XFR. However, on the road the engine’s slow-revving nature means the Cadillac feels slightly lazier than its rivals. This is compounded by the six-speed auto gearbox, which should be quicker to respond to the steering wheel-mounted shift buttons. However, you might be tempted to forgive these faults when you hear the bellowing soundtrack of the V8 powerplant.

A major obstacle to the CTS-V’s ultimate success here is its left-hand-drive layout. But the car’s driving dynamics are surprisingly involving. The steering is well weighted, grip levels are high and the Magnetic Ride Control dampers limit body roll.

With a colossal 747Nm of torque, you have to take care on slippery surfaces, because the Cadillac will spin its rear wheels easily. And while the big Brembo brakes are powerful, the pedal lacks feel. However, it’s the stiff ride that most lets the CTS-V down. Even in its softest Tour setting, the big American car jiggles and hops about on bumpy back roads. There’s no denying that the Cadillac has plenty of charm, but it lacks the polish and sophistication of its European rivals.

Details

WHY: Yanks have shoehorned large motors into saloons for decades – and the handling promises to impress, too.

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