Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 2, 2017
Dodging gloomy forecasts of high winds and torrential rain, we made it to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario to test drive Cadillac’s fleet of V Series vehicles as part of the Ron Fellows Driving Experience. As part of this program, corporate groups or individuals get first hand track experience with GM’s cream of the crop, everything from the Corvette to the Camaro.
However, we’re here to sample Cadillac’s V Series fleet, namely the ATS-V and CTS-V, both extremely high-powered muscle cars that can somehow turn corners exceptionally well. We started off with some classroom instruction and safety procedures, and then settled into our racing gear and headed off into the paddock.
Awaiting us was a colourful fleet of Cadillacs. This posed as one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in the past week: to choose the keys to the ATS-V or CTS-V? Turns out, it was neither. I snuck myself into the tamer CTS V-Sport for a warm-up lap and to acquaint myself with the Grand Prix Circuit. Got to set the bar low, ya know?
Not that the V-Sport is anything to scoff at. Under the hood is pretty much the same engine as the ATS-V: a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 producing 420 hp and 430 lb-ft. Even as I escaped the paddock and creeped onto the track, its bellowing exhaust drowned out my ears, and that’s already with my helmet on.
We started off with slower paced lead-follow laps with an instructor up front, and I found myself chasing an ATS-V and CTS-V down the main straightaway. What surprised me most was how well the V-Sport kept up with its higher powered brethren. It’s weight didn’t slow it down either. The chassis felt bolted down and rigid, even when soaring up to triple digit speeds.
After a few warm-up laps to get the lay of the land, I hopped into the CTS-V, enjoying the fact that I’d able to compare it back-to-back with the V Sport on the track. As soon as I fired up the 6.2-litre supercharged V8, the muscular wail tugged at my heartstrings. This was a good sounding motor. It’s the same engine found in the Corvette Z06 but slightly detuned to produce 640 hp instead of the full 650 hp. In essence then, the CTS-V is a four-door Corvette.
And boy, did it handle like one too. During this session we picked up the pace, though still doing lead-follow. But the three of us had a CTS-V, so we kept up nose-to-nose and devoured the tarmac as we aimed for each apex and followed the racing line. The CTS-V handled like a dream. It’s chassis was surprisingly playful, lithe, and it turned corners like no four-door should. I think that’s what surprised me the most - the impressive Magnetic Ride Control dampers and chassis. Forget about the Corvette engine, all the money and investment went into tuning the suspension and for that, I give it two thumbs up. There’s no other mid-size luxury four-door on the market that carves corners with such panache as this CTS-V.
But the power. The power was relentless down the main straight. I reached up to 210 km/h before chickening out and slamming on the brakes, which were just as impressive as the powertrain. Lap after lap, the Brembo brakes never showed any sign of fade, and traction from the Michelin Super Sport tires was immense. One sore spot was the 8-speed transmission. If left in automatic, the gearbox will constantly hunt for gears, randomly swapping cogs mid-corner and sometimes a little too late. However, even when manual mode is selected via the big “M” button on the shifter, they aren’t as lightning quick as you’d expect. I found myself having to “prep” for a shift and hit the paddles a half second earlier when I wanted a gear change.
For my final track outing of the day, I opted for the ATS-V Sedan with the automatic transmission. After driving nothing but the larger CTS models all day, it felt like an entirely different world with the shorter wheelbase ATS. Suddenly, my turning radius shrank, the chassis felt ten times more lively and playful, and the steering became twitchier and more reactive. It’s only when you get to drive cars back-to-back do you really discover the difference between each vehicle’s tuning, and driving the CTS-V only made me appreciate the ATS-V even more. This is the V to get.
For a blown V6, this ATS-V has got guts. Nevermind its howling exhaust, the ATS-V handles corners and eats up tarmac even better than the CTS-V. It’s like Cadillac engineers took the CTS-V, shrunk it and condensed it into a package the size of a BMW M3. The ATS-V moves with grace, reacts to your driver input without fail, and made it the best and most rewarding dancing partner of the night.
Being able to track drive the ATS-V and CTS-V was a wonderful and more importantly, eye-opening experience. These are road cars with magnificent underpinnings and monstrous engines, but being able to take them onto the track where you can drive them like they were meant to, truly lets you admire their full potential. The guys and gals at the Ron Fellows Driving Experience know that, and now want it to share it with the world.