Driven: Not your grandaddy's Caddy

Cadillac is moving away from its ‘golf club’ image with its turbocharged V-Series. We went to Yas Marina Circuit to find out more.

Steve Chalmers May 25, 2016

Cadillac doesn’t like the word old; it gives them uncomfortable thoughts of mid 80s Fleetwood Broughams, with their custard suspension, ‘landau’ vinyl roofs and buttoned dralon bench seats.

But Cadillac is old, really old. Created in 1902 and named after Detroit’s founder Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac – the Cadillac badge is Mr Antoine’s coat of arms – the car brand is the second oldest in the world.

Understandably, they want to move away from the ‘Grandpappy’ image into something a little younger, fresher and completely un-Cadillac. The 2016 V-Series, comprising of the 464bhp ATS-V and its big brother the 640bhp CTS-V have done that. 

These two Vees are not shy, not at all. Both are force inducted; the ATS-V running a twin turbo 3.6-litre V6, with the big CTS-V squeezing extra air into its big 6.2-litre V8, courtesy of a supercharger.

The pair are serious bits of kit and as we strap ourselves into the seat of the ATS-V Coupe (there’s a 4-door option too), with Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina’s North Circuit stretching out in front of us, you just know this is going to be a very different kind of Cadillac test.

At the wheel is ex-World Rally Championship driver Nick Edwards, a pleasant and thoughtful chap who's probably nice to animals. But, at this moment in time, he's powering into the North Circuit’s first left-hander with the ATS-V set to 'Track' mode (Tour and Sport are the less aggressive options). 

Three little white cones ahead mark the turn in point, the corner's apex and the exit point. However, Nick has no intention of taking the perfect line. Instead, at over 100km/h, he executes a perfect 'Scandinavian flick', flicking the steering wheel right and then immediately left as we enter the bend completely sideways; the howl of the rear tyres just about drowning out those of the passenger.

From the left, we transition - still sideways - to a right, and then up a small straight where again Nick throws the ATS-V into the last long left-hander and holds a 200-foot smoky drift. Hugely impressive, especially for a factory-spec model with an auto trans and no ‘drift’ handbrake. Even more so considering it's a Cadillac. 

Just to solidify the fact that Cadillac has been a repressed muscle car brand for the last 114 years, we end the day at Yas Circuit in the 640bhp CTS-V. That's six hundred and forty, supercharged horsepower. Crazy numbers, putting the big saloon firmly in supercar territory and as you can imagine, the CTS-V can be an angry machine, if you want it to be.

Styling wise, it’s long and menacing, with subtle and not so subtle hints giving away its intentions as a supersaloon. At the front, a bonnet scoop indicates as to what’s underneath. At the rear, four large tailpipes in the diffuser emit some loud, but not antisocial, V8 grumbles. 

Side on, the huge Brembo disc brakes and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres (especially tuned for the CTS-V) give the game away and as we head down Yas Circuit’s long main straight, we’re very grateful for them.

It’s our first lap in the big Caddy and we’ve yet to find out its limits, so we hit the brakes nice and early, making sure we get the line into the left-hander correct.

Already we’re thinking like racing drivers; quickly off the stoppers, turn in, power on. It’s fluid, refined and with the supercharger providing immediate grunt, excellent fun, at least, in a teeth gritting type way. Even with traction control on (we’re mad, but not THAT mad), the CTS-V is showing how it can eat up the tarmac safely and very quickly.

Even so, we’re now throwing the big saloon into the bends to see if we can upset it. Over cook it and the CTS-V understeers until you regain your marbles. It’s safe at the limit and we’re talking speeds that you would never get near on the road. 

The CTS-V is understandably not as nimble in the tight corners as its smaller ATS-V brother, but give it a sniff of open track and it roars forward, propelled by a seemingly never-ending wall of V8 supercharged torque.

All too soon, we head back to the pits and as the sun sets over Yas, we’re left with a bizarre vision of a crash helmet, shimmering on the Cadillac’s roof.

The reinvented brand has retained its core of luxury, but brought in this over the top, maximum attack, turbo/supercharged edge, that would impress any serious petrol head. Just make sure the traction control’s on when you lend it to your granddad.