SAN DIEGO — A few years ago, I went on an epic road trip. I’ve been on a few epic road trips, but this one was right there at the top.
First, I flew into Paris, which isn’t too bad at any time of year but was particularly lovely in mid-June. I drove south to Le Mans for the world’s most famous 24-hour endurance race, then headed north to the Bugatti atelier in Molsheim. Finally, I turned west to Calais and took the Chunnel train to England before ending my trip at the famed Brands Hatch circuit for a day on the track.
It was ridiculously wonderful — and making it more ridiculously wonderful was the car I was driving: the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V, a big American sedan with an even bigger engine fitted to it. Cadillac engineers took the 640-horsepower 6.2-liter supercharged V8 straight out of a Corvette and stuffed it under the hood of their biggest sedan. It roared and launched and slid sideways and was generally glorious.
At the slightest provocation, it would chirp the rear wheels before they hooked up and launched the car forward at an impossibly prodigious speeds thanks to 630 lb-ft of torque. It’s more than a little bonkers to put a 640-horsepower engine in a big executive sedan, but it just worked in the CTS-V — and the Europeans loved it. I didn’t love the apocalyptically bad fuel economy from the (premium-required) V8, especially with Europe fuel prices, but that’s what happens when you’re generating more horsepower than a Lamborghini Huracan.
Perhaps the best thing about it was that it appeared to be a totally normal Cadillac at first glance: just another four-door sedan. But look closer and you’d spot the enormous quad-exhausts, carbon fiber rear spoiler and — oh my — a hood covered in hood vents and more carbon fiber bits suggesting there was much more to this sleeper than meets the eye.
It’s not a car one sees very often in France or (especially) England. Or anywhere, sadly. The CTS-V isn’t exactly rare here in the US, but there aren’t a ton of them floating around. That’s a shame, but we’ll always have Paris.
All this was in my mind when I slipped behind the wheel of another Cadillac V-Series, the 2020 CT4-V. It’s much smaller than the CTS that I drove, more akin to a BMW 3-series or Mercedes C-Class. Like that old CTS, it looks excellent on the outside. Cadillac’s design language for the past decade or so has been heavy on sharp angles, and it’s instantly recognizable as a Cadillac.
There are extra aero bits front and rear, with a tasteful rear spoiler and a modest rear diffuser around the quad-barreled exhaust pipes. It looks muscular and ready to race.
But the insanity of the CTS-V is gone. While its predecessor ATS-V sported 464 horsepower from a twin-turbo V6, the CT4-V has a turbocharged four-cylinder with just 325 horsepower. Yes, that’s a good chunk of power, but it’s not mind-blowing — the CT4-V is just fast.
It’s got the look, but it doesn’t have the speed to back it up. That might be enough for most buyers to be honest, but after my adventures in the CTS-V I wanted more. It does drive nicely, with firm steering and a sport-focused ride, and I suspect most folks looking for a sporty sedan would be rather pleased.
The interior was standard GM fare, with nicer leather and other touch points because it’s a Cadillac. It felt a bit tight on the inside (which seems to be a Cadillac trend these days), especially the side bolstering, and the gear shift is mildly annoying (push forward to reverse and back to go forward).
But the real disappointment is in the lack of preposterous power for a luxury sedan that was in the V-Series sedans that came before it. Don’t get me wrong — the CT4-V is a lovely car, and it makes plenty of power. It’ll run from 0-to-60 mph in 4.5 seconds after all, which used to be supercar territory — but it doesn’t have that rip-your-face-off-if-you-don’t-pay-attention insanity that I loved so much in the CTS-V.
There is another CT4-V coming though — a special, even-crazier “Blackwing” model that will bring back the twin-turbo V6 and even a manual transmission. I just wonder why they needed a special designator for it when it could have just been the CT4-V, keeping that -V as a signifier for those in the know. This is just a sporty Cadillac instead of being The Sporty Cadillac.
I can’t wait to try that Blackwing though and the name is cool as hell — and, if I’m honest, it’ll probably be the V to get.