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Cadillac CTS-V: A swing and a miss

By Ron Amadon,

DARNESTOWN, Md. (CBS MW) -- General Motors is trying hard to remake Cadillac into something directly opposite of the finned gas guzzlers popular with the white-bucks-and-plaid-pants crowd.

The latest example is the CTS-V. This is a very powerful, very fine-handling car. It makes all the right sounds that an American-made V8 packing 400 horsepower should make. And it handles flat and true.

While it carries a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax and gets 15-23 miles per gallon, the 5.7-liter V8 -- out of the Corvette ZO6 -- has huge amounts of get up and go from virtually any point on the tach. The throaty sounds are perfect from an engine that also presents a pretty picture when you open the hood. (See slide show.) It had a lumpy idle, which may delight some and offend others.

The braking and handling are like nothing Cadillac would have dreamed of a few years ago. Brembo brakes with 14-inch vented rotors are all you need to know. Cornering is just fine for the kind of car this one aspires to be -- flat and predictable -- and it clearly shows that GM (GM) tested extensively on the challenging Nurburgring. Nearly 50-50 weight distribution helps keep this Caddy on track through the corners. So to this point we have one sweet, sweet car. Flying in the face of other reviews, we think the CTS-V falls down when it comes to the interior. The six-speed manual transmission was not in keeping with the performance standard set by the rest of the car. The throws are too far apart, the feeling is rubbery at best, and at times it felt like something out of a Chevy truck with dual wheels on the back. A good GM automatic would be preferable.

The interior of our test model was all black, with nothing to break it up. And there were design flaws that, while minor, do stick out at this price point. The glove box (which is letter-box small), was placed so it would only open fully when no passenger was present. The auxiliary power outlet was placed in such a way as to make the shift into fifth gear a challenge. The cup holders also interfered with shifting. For heavens sake, this is a big car -- put them somewhere else! There's no standard sunroof, and performance cars don't have a foot-activated emergency brake.

The bottom line is $51,295.

There is undoubtedly an audience for this kind of performance and handling. But we just could not get past the shifter and the somber "funeral hearse" interior that felt and looked like it belonged in a much less expensive model. And we often thought while driving the CTS-V that perhaps GM would have been better served by giving these cars their own name and lineup.

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