The Cadillac STS-V: A powerful surprise
With this car, General Motors offers surprisingly powerful evidence that its best is yet to come.
(Business 2.0 Magazine) - Did you read Bob Lutz's blog the other day? You know Bob: He's vice chairman of General Motors, in charge of new products (that means cars). According to his blog, Bob's had a tough go of it lately. GM lost a defibrillating $10.6 billion last year, and whispers of impending doom dog his every step.
"Had a chance to 'de-bunk the imminent collapse of GM' myth," Bob blogged recently.
Later that day he described how he had "'De-bunked the myth' again," and mere days later a weary Bob gave "the 'Don't believe our obituary' speech ... told them the best was yet to come." Bob helpfully added, "Don't take my word for it. Go drive one of our vehicles - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised." Fair enough.
And so it was that, 200 miles and three Waffle Houses into a Deep South runabout with a 2006 Cadillac STS-V, I at last began to be surprised. Not that I wasn't always willing to be wooed by what Bob and his colleagues boast is "the most powerful production Cadillac ever."
Any car that approaches the 500-horsepower range commands respect, and in all ways the STS-V makes a fine first impression. (Among other niceties, it can fire its ignition remotely, blasting the air conditioning or heat before you touch the door.) The STS-V, a steroid version of the base STS, is among the latest, most touted vehicles from Bob's idea lab. And, as with all new-age Caddys, it embraces unconventional design as a consumer wedge issue -- the theory being that it's better to provoke than to be ignored.
Accordingly, the V is bright and angular, with a mouthy stainless-steel grille, vertical headlights, vertiginous flanks, and an engorged hood that cocoons a supercharged Northstar V-8.
Inside, things are less dramatic, evoking workaday GM (Research) interiors executed with a touch of flair -- Caddy outsourced part of the job to Draxlmaier, the company that cobbles cabins for Mercedes-Benz. My tester sported tasteful olive ash wood trim (picture a deep pinot noir, glinting in the sun), a French-stitched dashboard, and ebony leather seats with nubbly suede inserts, the better to hold you in place on hard corners.
It was a surprisingly comfy and classy environment, particularly when you consider that I was road-tripping Alabama. After touch-tapping a destination into the navigation system, I tuned the satellite radio to the blues and wheeled the car onto Highway 80, a faded coast-to-coast route made obsolete by the interstate system. As a testing ground, 80 has few peers; curvy and empty, swooping through swampy cotton land and deep piney woods, with only barbecue joints and the odd errant possum to impede your progress. Properly poised, I was ready to experience what Bob and his brethren call "the Cadillac renaissance." Simply translated, this means zero to 60 in under five seconds.
Power beneath the hood
As this is a slightly shorter column than usual, I'll cut to the chase: Bob built a damn nice car.
The V's signature attribute is its engine: hugely powerful, disarmingly silent, unnervingly smooth. The depth is deceptive, which explains how I traversed most of backwoods 'Bama before Bob's challenge truly took hold. My "aha" moment arrived in the form of a tractor, which belched its way onto the road just in front of me. An SUV was closing in from the opposite direction, leaving two options: 1) Brake! or 2) Gas!
Now, Cadillac saw fit to offer only one transmission for the STS-V, a six-speed manu-matic, but it married it to something called "performance algorithm liftfoot," which electronically monitors driver performance and road signals to retard or enhance upshifts and downshifts as it sees fit (we humans can't react quickly enough).
Here's how all this synaptic drama played out. I tickled the brake; the car tensed. I swung toward oncoming traffic; the car bounded into the left lane. I stood on the gas; the engine let loose, the blues wailed, the speedometer hit 105 mph, and the tractor swiftly dwindled to a rusty speck in the rearview. Which is when I hit the possum.
Allow me to blame Bob for this tragedy. Had he not willed a $77,000 sports sedan into being, that marsupial might still be alive. Had he not dared skeptics to drive it, that creature might have escaped its fate beneath 19-inch run-flat tires. Had, in fact, Bob and his brethren simply allowed Cadillac to linger on its laurels, I might not now be riddled with guilt. Alas, no.
So take solace in the fact that the possum has gone to a better place, and that the STS-V survived with nary a scratch. All debunking aside, I'm sure Bob would have wanted it this way.
2006 Cadillac STS-V
Created for: Red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans looking for a worthy alternative to European sport sedans
Coolest feature: Performance algorithm liftfoot, which monitors driver performance and road cues to optimize shifting between gears
What it's got: A honkin' Detroit engine (4.4-liter, 469-hp supercharged V-8)
What it gets: Not much in this era of $3-a-gallon gas (14 city/20 highway)
How much? $77,090
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