Such Sweet Sorrow: Cadillac’s CTS-V gets an Irish wake

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. The honkin’, stonkin’ second-generation
CTS-V, powered by
Cadillac’s brawny supercharged 6.2-liter V8 has been a very good thing. And now that the 500 final coupes – the only CTS-Vs designated 2015 models – have been built (just five remain unsold as of this writing), it is indeed a good thing that’s come to an end.

Cadillac is not letting 2009–2015
CTS-V go gently into that good night, even as its replacement is poised to debut in just in just two months at the
2015 Detroit Auto Show. Instead, Cadillac invited us to Austin’s
Circuit of the Americas racetrack for what it called an «Irish wake» for the model that has proven to be one of the quickest and most charismatic models in
General Motors’ history.

If you don’t know what an Irish wake is, if you envision storytelling, songs, debauchery and more than a little liquor, you’ll be in the ballpark. In this case, though, adrenaline substituted in for the booze, with squealing tires and shrieking V8s providing the singing. The debauchery took the form of an all-you-can-drive lapping of COTA in all three bodystyles –
coupe, sedan and
wagon – and the stories were told by the grins plastered on our faces all day.

Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

First and foremost, we’ll miss the CTS-V’s perfect balance of luxury and sportiness.

Even after six years with no major changes, the CTS-V is surprisingly spry. Certainly, you never forget that it’s a heavy thing, weighing in anywhere between 4217 pounds for the manual-equipped coupe to 4424 for an automatic wagon, but with 0-60 times of about four seconds and the ability to hit about 150 mph on COTA’s back straight, the Vs remain an absolute hoot on the track. Sure, some of its details – the blocky front fascia shapes and the spoiler on the sedan and coupe models, for example – look a bit dated, but the overall design still looks sufficiently badass. The interior design has worn pretty well, too, and however Cadillac may feel about center stack buttons being so last decade, we favor them over the capacitive-touch madness of today’s
CUE system. We’re not going to bother doing another full review of the car here, but suffice it to say, there is plenty we will miss.

First and foremost, will be the CTS-V’s perfect balance of luxury and sportiness. Rumor has it that Cadillac will offer the 6.2-liter LT4 V8 in the next
generation (we predict about 600 hp), but we hear that the
new car will skew more toward luxury than balls-out performance. Track-happy
Caddy fans will be steered toward the new
ATS-V, which will skew the balance the other way. Neither car, we’re told, will have the same «bimodal» personality.

Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

We will miss the V8’s distinct engine rumble and the supercharger’s whine; given the aforementioned emphasis on luxury, we’re not sure how vocal the next V8 will be.

We will miss the radical, wedge-shaped coupe and especially the deliciously ironic wagon model. The CTS-V Coupe will effectively be replaced by the more conventional-looking
ATS-V Coupe, The wagon, however, won’t be replaced by anything, which is perhaps the saddest thing about the retirement of this generation. Of the slightly over 18,000 CTS-Vs sold since 2010, just 1,767 were wagons.

And of course, we will seriously miss the availability of a manual transmission. In truth, the three-pedal setup was never that popular among buyers – the highest manual transmission take rate among coupe buyers was 15.6 percent in 2011 and the highest take rate for the CTS-V sedan was but 13.4 percent in 2010.

Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

A manual CTS-V wagon is the rarest and perhaps the most collectible V of them all.

Interestingly, the manual fared best of all among wagon customers, with its top year being 2014 at 35.4 percent, and none of its four years of production seeing less than 27 percent. Crazy, right?

Even so, a manual CTS-V wagon is the rarest and perhaps the most collectible CTS-V of them all, with only 509 sold since 2011. Another rare bird is the matte silver CTS-V coupe, just 100 of which were built in 2013.

Speaking of collectibles, Cadillac loaned us one of the rarest of the rare, a 2013 CTS-V wagon painted in Stealth Blue (one of a total of only 45 CTS-Vs in that
color) for our last night. A blast from COTA to San Antonio for dinner reminded us that thanks to its adjustable magnetorheological shocks, the CTS-V simply devours the miles, with a reasonable ride that is firm but never brittle. What’s more, the exhaust burble is always present but never obtrusive and the chassis veritably telegraphs road texture to the driver’s cerebral cortex.

Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

We suited up and got strapped in for an underwear-soiling right-seat ride with Johnny O’Connell.

Alas, there is much we won’t miss, too. The infotainment system is slow to react and can’t perform half of the tricks that Caddy’s new (if annoying) CUE system can. Some materials and components inside the CTS-V, including the seat controls and grainy urethanes, are starting to feel their age. The 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission was pretty advanced for its day, but it feels lethargic next to today’s more sophisticated automatics, like the eight-speed unit in the
Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. And we pray that the next V can go far further on a gallon of gas than this car, which the
EPA says can only go 12 miles in the city and 18 miles on highway, in automatic form.

For a final bit of debauchery, we suited up and got strapped in for an underwear-soiling right-seat ride with champion driver Johnny O’Connell in his CTS-V.R racecar that has been so wildly successful for Cadillac. That car, which led Cadillac to three consecutive World Challenge victories in 2012, 2013, and 2014 in O’Connell’s deft hands, is soon to be retired, replaced by the incredibly mean-looking,
600-hp ATS-V.R that Cadillac unveiled before our eyes at the event. We shall see if the new V6-powered racer is as successful as its predecessor (especially as it enters new territory as a
FIA GT3-spec car), but one thing’s for sure, it’s got big shoes to fill.

Cadillac CTS-V
Cadillac CTS-V
Cadillac ATS-V.R
Cadillac ATS-V.R

While it’s nice that Cadillac is expanding its presence in
motorsports, and better yet, promising more of its racing technologies will make their way into its road cars, the primary beneficiary of the brand’s efforts is likely to be the ATS-V. The extent to which the cushier next-generation CTS-V feels at home on a track – or even our favorite twisty two-laner – remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, we bid the outgoing CTS-V a fond farewell. It’s been a very good run.

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