“I was sitting at the stoplight and I plunked it into second gear, got on it, kicked the clutch to get the revs up and had this thing on full opposite lock, totally crossed up, pouring smoke off the tires, a massive drift coming out of Infineon Raceway's main gate. It was shocking! That, to me, is the epitome of what a true-blue American hot rod should be able to do.”
That's Panther Racing/National Guard IndyCar driver JR Hildebrand describing a recent automotive experience. He must be talking about the '66 Chevelle that Panther CEO John Barnes presented him for his second-place finish at the Indianapolis 500. Or maybe a Corvette. Possibly even the new Mustang Boss 302.
No, it's a Cadillac. A 2011 CTS-V coupe. That's 556hp from a supercharged V8 wrapped in a wedge-shaped luxurious package. And Hildebrand loves it.
“It's the first new car I've driven that I've thought, after driving around for a couple of days, that if I had the money I would buy this car. It's everything that a modern-day muscle car should be – but it's much nicer.”
Hildebrand concedes that he would likely choose the sedan or wagon variants of the CTS-V for the space – the idea of massive horsepower, brilliant handling and more creature comforts than he knows what to do with, plus space to throw his mountain bike in the back? That might be too much to resist. And since BMW, Volvo and even Audi – whose S-model Avants were once the most badass wagons you could get this side of the Atlantic – have forsaken the high-powered/extended-roof/five-door concept, the CTS-V is now the only game in (American) towns when it comes to performance wagons.
Both coupe and wagon styles are new to the CTS line with the current generation, and it was the coupe that Hildebrand drove from Southern California to his old stomping grounds near San Francisco and the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Infineon Raceway near Sonoma. On the route, he experienced the Interstate-devouring capabilities and backroads-carving proclivities of the CTS-V, which is now Cadillac's flagship.
“There are so many cars that look fast and sound fast, but there aren't that many that are fast, that have the raw power you'd be looking for in a muscle car or even a sports sedan. In my mind, until I drove this car, the sports sedan category was reserved for [BMW] M5s and [Mercedes-Benz] AMGs. I have a fairly high standard for what I feel an American sports car should be all about, and this car absolutely exceeded every expectation I had.