The chap leaning out the back of this car is Cadillac’s official photographer, and we’re photographing him because we've caught the Daddy Caddy – Cadillac’s new CTS-V – being photographed for its official press and sales literature, ahead of its arrival at the Detroit Motor Show next month. Which means the CTS-V is completely stripped of camouflage and in full production trim. So much for top-secret photo locations...
It certainly looks a bit quick…
When the CTS-V looms large and fast in your rear-view mirror, there will be no mistaking it for anything other than a brutish muscle car. Check out the massive power bulge on its bonnet, the mesh-backed grille flanked by piercing bi-Xenon headlamps, the liberal application of chrome, the low-slung front air intake (more mesh) and the flared wheelarches housing 19-inch alloys. And when it bolts passed you, it will be spitting out a thunderous V8 soundtrack from two vast exhaust pipes.
Its cabin will also get the all-boxes-ticked treatment, with electrically-adjustable leather front bucket seats, premium Bose stereo with 40Gb hard-drive, 3D sat-nav, LED interior lighting and an advanced climate control system.
So will it be fast?
Hell yes. The all-wheel-drive CTS-V will be powered by the mighty 7.0-litre all-alloy LS7 powerplant borrowed from the brilliant Corvette Z06. It’s one hell of an engine - the dry-sumped V8 is hand-finished, features titanium con-rods, a forged steel crankshaft and develops 512bhp at 6300rpm and a mighty 470lb ft at 4800rpm, making it GM’s most powerful passenger car engine and largest-displacement small-block to date. So despite a kerb weight the wrong side of 1800kg, the hot Cadillac should claw its way to 60mph in five seconds dead and rocket onto an estimated 175mph top speed.
It’s hooked up to a six-cog Tremec 'box that drives all four wheels through GM’s new 4x4 set-up that been recalibrated for a strong rear-end bias. And it was obviously a tight fit squeezing the hand-assembled smallblock into the Caddy’s engine – just look at the size of that power bulge needed to house the engine and still meet stringent pedestrian impact regulation.
So it’s brisk, but will it go around corners?
It’s beginning to sound like a dog-eared cliché, but the CTS-V spent most of its development time hammering around the Nürburgring, a 17-mile long circuit with 73 corners. If it can't go around corners after a thousand test laps of this unforgiving circuit, it never will. It’s multi-link rear and wishbone front suspension has been uprated with firmer springs and dampers and thicker anti-roll bars, while the variable-assist steering has been tweaked for more off-centre feel.
The big Cadillac is expected to use the Z06’s formidable braking set-up - four-piston calliper Brembo brakes gripping 355mm vented discs up front and 365mm vented rotors at the rear. And Cadillac’s engineers believe the CTS-V’s intelligent all-wheel drive will give it a useful real-world advantage, allowing drivers to use more power more of the time, irrespective of weather conditions. Try booting an M5 in the wet, and you’ll see their point.
So how much for this American M5?
Not a lot, relatively speaking. Caddy's V-division will produce no more than 7000 CTS flagship models a year, and although European sales have been confirmed, its arrival in the UK has yet to be firmed up. Given the low production runs for Europe and America, the cost of tooling up for a handful of right-hand-drive sales in the UK and other rhd markets like Australia and Japan means Cadillac UK is likely to have a left-hook performance flagship come early 2009. Still, with a proposed £45,000 pricetag, it should have the looks, performance and exclusivity to tempt a few drivers away from the default M5/RS6/E63 choice.