Shifting into Beast Mode in a 2019 Cadillac CTS V-Series Sedan

2019 Cadillac CTS V-Series Sedan RWD photos by Matt Coker

I didn’t think much of the 2019 Cadillac CTS V-Series Sedan that I briefly caught out of the corner of my eye after it was dropped off in front of my home. Its shape and Satin Steel Metallic paint job had me thinking, “ho-hum … another commuter sedan. How pedestrian.”

It was only until I went out to move the CTS from my street to the driveway, and got my first full eyeful, that everything changed. That’s when I realized the CTS would be among the sportier looking vehicles driven by drones commuting on the 405 every morning. The 19-inch polished wheels and performance brakes visible through the spokes (dark gold Brembo Calipers) were dead giveaways, as was the carbon fiber rear spoiler, front splitter and vented hood.

Opening the door and plopping down–as opposed to sliding straight over–into the sueded microfiber Recaro performance seat, I was reminded of the near-supine position I had been in when I drove the 2018 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Coupe for what I described as my “Vrooomiest Ride Me” column ever.

Then I pushed the ignition button, heard the tiger-like growl of the 6.2-liter V8 supercharged engine and was really reminded of that Vette coupe.

You’ll be shopping for driving gloves to wrap around this.

I would say the Caddy had me at that ferocious-sounding growl, but I was not ready to elope with this total stranger until the following day, when I first took the CTS on the road. An ever-so-gentle push of the sport alloy accelerator pedal had the beast lunging forward like a racing greyhound once the mechanical rabbit is released. Mind you, I was on a city street approaching a school zone, so I had to behave.

Behaving while hitting the freeway? Not so much. On a straight, longish and thankfully empty onramp, the CTS reached 0-60 mph in the blink of an eye–and when it felt to me as if I reached 60 and should therefore ease off the pedal, the speedometer informed I was already blowing past 80 mph.

By the way, the automatic transmission had only shifted seamlessly through the lower few of its eight gears. (Magnesium paddle shifters allow you to take over, too.)

It felt as if I floored it, I might go airborne! I’d obviously need a smokey detector if I owned one of these babies. One of these Cadillacs. Imagine that.

The shifter mimics a manual. You can take over thanks to paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

Don’t get me wrong: I have forever loved the smooth-riding boats that are baked into the Cadillac brand, but I also appreciate that, just as the carmaker impressively diversified into the full-size SUV market with the Escalade, it has carved a niche in its fleet for race-ready rides.

Among the eggs in the CTS performance basket is Cadillac Magnetic Ride Control, an adaptive damping system that can read road conditions every millisecond and change the vehicle’s damping settings for better ride and handling on a variety of road surfaces.

Similarly, there is the Performance Traction Management system that allows the driver to chose Wet (for slick roads), Dry (for dry roads), Sport 1 (for throttle-based traction control that turns down the stability control system), Sport 2 (which turns stability control off completely) and Race (for you-know whating).

For street safety’s sake, I was happy with the CTS stability control keeping me in my lane, so to speak, when I snapped back into straightaways after testing its handling (which was excellent) on the curves.

Ready to pass the starting line. Note the (upside down) Cadillac emblem in the center of the wheel.

Standard safety features include: front and rear parking assist; lane-change, forward-collision, side blind zone and rear cross traffic alerts; lane-keep assist with lane departure warning; and airbags throughout the front and back seating areas.

If you’re worried about little time behind the wheel of a performance vehicle such as this, Cadillac includes two days of training, which must be redeemed within a year of purchasing the CTS.

One thing that definitely takes some getting used to is, shortly after putting the sedan in drive, feeling your seat belt automatically tighten across your front shoulder area, which it also does when you step on it. One supposes what is at first disconcerting eventually becomes comforting and reassuring.

You don’t get a spare tire, but tire sealant and an inflator kit are standard, as are a theft-deterrent system and a rear-view camera screen that takes the place of a rear-view mirror. It was not long ago that I felt those were disconcerting; now I am disappointed with new cars with mirrors as opposed to cameras.

Look behind you! That’s not a mirror image but a rear-camera view.

Now, with a base manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) five bucks shy of $87,000, you can expect things like the heated and ventilated performance front seats with leather surfaces, microfiber sueded fabric inserts and power lumbar adjustments to be standard. (The driver’s seat also has a memory adjuster.)

Also standard are: a curb-view camera; the leather wrap on the heatable steering wheel; power and heated outside mirrors; high intensity headlamps with adaptive forward lighting; and a navigation and entertainment cluster that includes controls for the Bose surround sound stereo system, SiriusXM (with a three-month subscription) and Apple, Android and Google capabilities.

Another subscription allows for a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot as well as other OnStar roadside and navigation services. Cadillac owners get a four-year or 50,000-mile (whichever comes first) bumper-to-bumper warranty and six years or 70,000 miles on the powertrain and for roadside assistance as well as courtesy transportation to and from the service shop. A first service visit is complimentary.

When it comes to gas, the CTS gets a respectable 16 miles to the gallon overall or 14 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. You will spend nearly $3,000 in annual fuel costs and $7,000 more over five years compared to the average new vehicle because you will be filling up with premium. Government ratings on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being best, have this Caddy ranking a one on smog and a two on fuel economy and greenhouse gas. Government Five-Star Safety Ratings (with five being best) show three stars for passengers in a frontal crash, four stars for the driver and five stars for rollovers.

It’s for your phone!

Oh, I almost forgot my favorite standard feature that I discovered accidentally when I pushed against the panel under the eight-inch color screen in the center of the dash. It rose like a hatchback door to reveal a secret compartment to charge your cell phone. Mine was not compatible, but I did use the box to hide some stuff when I went on a nature walk.

My test vehicle also included a $6,250 Carbon Fiber Package (to cover the aforementioned hood, spoiler, front splitter and rear diffuser); a $2,500 Luxury Package (for the rear camera mirror, better climate control, power rear and side manual sunshades, heatable and split-folding rear seats and a 110-volt power outlet); the $2,300 Recaro front seats; a $1,600 performance data and video recorder; a $1,450 “Ultraview” sunroof; and a $1,295, dealer-installed carbon fiber engine cover. In addition to the destination charge and a $1,300 gas guzzler tax, this pushed the total MSRP up to $106,180 (and our highest-priced Ride Me ride to date!).

That will be worth it to anyone who appreciates multiple repeats of one of my favorite moments in the CTS. It came after a particularly … ahem … event-filled freeway session, where I capitalized on any opening to open the thing up (as much as SoCal traffic allows, anyway). After pulling onto the offramp and coming to a stop at the red light–thanks the stars for those performance brakes–the engine kept pinging and banging as if to say, “Aw, come on, is that all there is? Can’t we go fast again? When can we go fast again? Huh? Pretty please …”

This is a beast that needs to be fed.

OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.

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