The Art of the Drive

Produced with  Cadillac Magazine

Design And Performance Coalesce Into A Masterpiece In The CTS-V

It’s been said that art should evoke such scholarly questions as “What were they taking back then, anyway?” You stare at an abstract painting and think, “How could they do that?” Similarly, the 2016 CTS-V challenges us to critically understand mission, character, and soul. One glance says it is absolutely a Cadillac: crisply styled, luxurious, and individualistic. But it also packs 640 horsepower—with a race-bred chassis to match. So to understand the artistry of the CTS-V, you must know that it is both the velvet glove and the nine-pound hammer—all in one.

But where might one appreciate such rolling art? Montecito, California. Overlooking the blue Pacific in Santa Barbara County, this luxury enclave boasts a population of barely 9,000 lucky souls, including tycoons, producers, and stars. Homes begin around $1 million and accelerate to nearly $30 million, and the local bistro’s parking lot is stacked with talent from Germany, England, and Italy. And when the CTS-V rumbles in, add the Motor City.

If the patrons hadn’t already noticed the CTS-V’s crouching shape and HID headlamps, they definitely feel its growling quad exhausts. This is not your normal Hamptons or Rodeo Drive cappuccino-getter. In fact, with a car this hot, we order an iced café Americano just to annoy the anointed. We then head into the nearby Los Padres National Forest, where miles of winding roads make the perfect gallery for appreciating this beautiful beast. Our route segues into a road so steep and crooked that it could be part of the Monte Carlo Rally. El Niño rains have washed rubble across the tarmac in places, but the StabiliTrak system handles it before we’re even aware of danger.

 

The first turn of the available sueded wheel reveals this is a genuine driver’s car; the steering is instantaneous and the body stays flat even during vigorous exercises. How-ever demanding the road, the Cadillac adapts, seeming more like a superbike with five seats than a luxury sedan. And that’s just in Touring mode. Toggling to Sport mode, the CTS-V becomes a fully clawed mountain lion. And Track mode? Come on baby, light my tires.

The next pocket of civilization appears near Los Olivos, home to over a dozen wineries. That’s fine for weekends with your significant other, but today they flash past in a blur. There’s a lot of two-lane ahead and only so many hours of daylight. Though should this high-powered day trip become Mr. Toad’s wild night-ride, it would scarcely matter, because the headlamps throw an atomic blast of illumination down the road, even steering the beams around corners. So while this beast is racetrack ready, it’s more importantly ready for everyday driving.

Halfway is little New Cuyama (pop. 517 on a busy day). Just over the coastal mountains, it’s as low-key as a scene from The Last Picture Show, 180 degrees from the tony vibe of our starting point on the coast. Here the road changes from scything to straight-as-an-arrow across the Cuyama Valley, letting the CTS-V finally stretch its legs, settling into the 8-speed(!) transmission’s top gear and the engine’s V4 mode to effortlessly inhale the miles. Lane Keep Assist works behind the scenes, ready to gently redirect us into our lane if we should stray. Fortunately, we’re keenly alert.

 

Switch into Sport mode to watch the CTS-V become a fully clawed mountain lion.

Halfway is little New Cuyama (pop. 517 on a busy day). Just over the coastal mountains, it’s as low-key as a scene from The Last Picture Show, 180 degrees from the tony vibe of our starting point on the coast. Here the road changes from scything to straight-as-an-arrow across the Cuyama Valley, letting the CTS-V finally stretch its legs, settling into the 8-speed(!) transmission’s top gear and the engine’s V4 mode to effortlessly inhale the miles. Lane Keep Assist works behind the scenes, ready to gently redirect us into our lane if we should stray. Fortunately, we’re keenly alert.

 

The final leg is a turn back toward the coast, after which we ascend Pine Mountain Summit at 5,160 feet before dropping into artsy Ojai. The pavement is magnificent here, and the road sweeps beneath the long shadows of Jeffrey pines with the gracefulness of a Bach harpsichord concerto. More hazards emerge—including snow-melt running across the road—but the CTS-V cares not, remaining composed on its fat 19-inch Michelins. And while steep climbs at altitude bring many cars to their knees, the CTS-V, thanks to its supercharger, pulls like a demon to the summit, before gliding in silent luxury down to a glorious sunset on the coast.

Turns out, this isn’t a car after all. It’s performing arts at their best.

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