2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport Review
The newest product offering from Cadillac on the CTS platform is the all new 2014 CTS V-Sport trim. This is different than the V-Series vehicle that has yet to be introduced. The V-Series is the range topping model for the CTS platform. The introduction of the new V-Sport has raised questions to as if the V-Sport is worthy of carrying the V badge. We decided to find out and see for ourselves. Would the V-Sport be a worthy platform for extensive modifications or would it fall short of being able to adequately carry the V badge? One test is worth a thousand opinions.
We recently had the opportunity to run the newest V trim vehicle from Cadillac at one of the local tracks here in southern California, Buttonwillow Raceway. This event just so happened to be final round of the Cadillac Challenge, an all Cadillac race series that is based on a time attack format. The test vehicle was a 2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport automatic RWD with the optional 18” wheels wrapped in Pirelli tires. The base motor makes 420HP through an 8 speed automatic transmission. Power is made from a 3.6L V6 direct injection twin turbo mill putting the power through an electronic limited slip differential. On paper the car certainly had all the right stuff considering the curb weight is just over 3900 lbs. But the big question was how it would perform compared to the outgoing CTS-V model and the other V-Series cars that have come before it. Would it be worthy of the V badge? How would the longer wheel base and chassis perform on the tight turns and corners of Buttonwillow Raceway?
Going into the test I really didn’t have any expectations other than just to lay down some solid and consistent laps while trying to find the limit of what the car would allow me to do as a driver. In addition to that I was looking for any particular glaring weakness of the vehicle or areas that I would look to improve. My normal office on wheels is a 2013 CTS-V coupe with 800HP setup for full road race capable of traversing this same track and configuration under 2 minutes on slicks.
Now that we have the formalities out of the way let’s get to the test. I took the vehicle out 3 separate times at 15-20 minutes per session. My morning session started out by setting the car up with all of the factory driving options activated i.e. competitive driving mode and track mode. Tire pressures were not altered at anytime during any of the sessions nor in between. As I started to get settled into the car I began my progressions of analyzing what the vehicle was doing in the given condition I was putting it through. Rather than going into turns like a bull I was looking to sneak up on what the car would allow me to do rather than trying to force my will onto the car. The car certainly responded well as it was very neutral upon turn in. The grip level was surprising good for a street tire based off my initial driving impression. I offer my assessment of the vehicle turn by turn at Buttonwillow Raceway.
Going into turn 1 coming down the straight away I am hitting speeds of 112MPH before jumping on the binders to slow for my entry into 1. Initially I slide over to the right side of the track to setup my angle to hit the apex of the turn at max speed. I purposely enter the turn wide using the rumble strips under heavy braking. The vehicle seemed completely undaunted by this action and remained completely stable while performing this action. As I carried speed through turn 1, I rolled back on throttle to power out of the corner. This is when I noticed I could have rolled onto the throttle a little quicker as the turbos would need a split second to build boost back up. I made a mental note of this and started to apply throttle just ever so slightly sooner than I normally would. As I accelerated forward I was looking at turn two. Turn two is called the “Off Ramp”. When you look at it, the name makes sense. I have seen cars approach this turn in a variety of ways. From hook slides, to power slides, this turn can be tricky. I looked at this turn like an increasing radius corner allowing me to roll on throttle as the turn starts to open up. On the higher horsepower cars I am usually fighting for traction here as I roll throttle. In the 2014 CTS V-Sport, the electronically controlled LSD was clearly allowing me to apply maximum acceleration while on the verge of allowable grip. As the car accelerated out of this turn I was able to keep up the overall speed of the vehicle through this section.
The next section of the track can certainly be action packed. This section is called Cotton Corners and consists of a quick right-left-right up and over a small ridge where the car gets nice and light. Once you traverse that the track bends to the right and then up and over another small ridge that typically yields a little air time. This section also happens to tell me a lot about this car. The quick right-left-right transition showed me that the chassis is very solid and responsive. The car was very neutral and did not understeer. The back end tracked the front end very well and exhibited good rotation. Once I made my way through this section I was quickly heading to a section of the track called the Bus Stop. If you have ever driven this track you will know that the Bus Stop can ruin your day pretty quickly if you don’t get it right through here. If you set the car up right going into the Bus Stop you can take the first section at wide open throttle. What makes this daunting is that the turn leading into the Bus Stop can also be taken at wide open throttle. Since this is a right-left turn the mass of the vehicle can sometimes be a factor on the heavier cars in terms of weight transfer. Given the weight of this vehicle the mass was not a factor as the vehicle quickly shifted directions from one side to the other. The second part of the Bus Stop was a quick touch of the brakes, while riding the rumble strips, and then quickly clipping over the inside apex while tracking out to the rumble strip on the right side. Unfortunately there is not a quick smooth way through this section of track. It can be a rough ride if you are looking to shave a few seconds off your lap time through here. Even with the CTS V-Sport in track mode you did not get the sense that the tightness of the suspension was overbearing in anyway. I felt like I had full control of the vehicle through this rough section of the track. I then readied the car for a right hand sweeper that is taken at a pretty good clip. This is a high speed sweeper that isn’t very challenging in any car, but the car was very smooth and responsive as I began to roll into the throttle while approaching the apex of the turn.
Now comes the fast back 3rd of the track. At wide open throttle going into Lost Hill there is a small bend in the road that sets you up for Lost Hill. I was able to take this bend at wide open throttle without touching the brakes. My speed through this turn was 103MPH while holding on to the edge of the track. I was very impressed by how the car was able to maintain that level of grip at that speed through that bend. After I quickly jumped on the brakes going up Lost Hill, I’m already getting back on the gas and the car floats & slides over the Hill. This corner is similar to the corkscrew at Laguna Seca in the sense that you cannot see where you are going. You need to point for your reference point and trust that you got it right on the other side. The CTS exhibited great balance as the car gets extremely light while turning in this section of the track. Again I was impressed by the fact that the car did what I asked it to without any commotion. Coming down the backside of the Hill, I’m flat out going into the Sweeper and then hard on the brakes. Typically this would be an area in which I would expect brake fade given the fact that I like to trail brake in this section of the track. Hard on the brakes and then continue moderate brake pressure while initiating my turn into the Sweeper. I’m trying to scrub just enough speed to still be able to make the turn. The car was pretty flat through this area given that the track is flat and I’m trail braking. Once I was through the Sweeper I get the car lined up for the Esses. This is a series of esses that will start to increase in speed as you make your way through this area. In other cars the traction control starts to go nuts in this section given that you are trying to accelerate your way through the esses. As I ride the rumble strips bouncing from corner to corner through the esses I notice how the large bumps I’m flying over have seemingly little to no effect on the car. I didn’t notice any decrease in power or interference from the computer as I quickly made my way out of the esses. The final turn is a sharp left hander where many drivers go in way too hot and go off track. This is an on camber turn, but one that requires respect. The CTS V-Sport settled in very nice here. On the binders going into the turn and then quickly back on throttle as the camber of the turn starts to help load up the cars suspension. The result was great traction leading back onto the front straight away and past the start/finish.
As I continued throughout the session as well as the additional sessions throughout the day I couldn’t help but to notice that there was not any one glaring weakness that the CTS V-Sport exhibited while driving it in anger on the track. No issues with brake fade, no mind numbing body roll, no obnoxious wallowing weight transfer, and adequate power throughout the band. The transmission was responsive and knew what gear it needed to be in when I was ready to apply throttle. I must say I was fairly impressed. Given that I didn’t have any expectations going into this I came away with a confirmation. My confirmation was that this car is certainly worthy of carrying the V badge. Albeit a “Sport” it certainly proved it was up to the challenge and showed the pace to back it up. To put things into perspective my best lap time in this bone stock CTS V-Sport would have finished in first place in the C2 modified class of the Cadillac Challenge at last year’s event in the same configuration. I finished the event with a best lap time of 2:07.730. An impressive time for a bone stock car!