A Sleek Screamer

IN RECENT YEARS, Cadillac has moved away from the shrinking “land yacht-sized,” 4-door sedan market. Witness the Cadillac Escalade for the ultimate in oversized, flashy SUV and, more importantly, the less expensive CTS.

When the first CTS 4-door hit the market in 2002, with its cutting edge styling, it was a hit. Besides the competitive price, the CTS was, like its competitors, rear drive with an independent suspension. Fast forward to present day, and Cadillac has spun off two more models-a wagon version and a more sporty (and attractive) coupe. All the current editions start with a 304 horsepower V-6-plenty of pep for most drivers.

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But for those seeking rocket launchers that might propel them down whatever asphault-laden locales they can find, check the V option on your order form and your engine compartment will be bursting at the seams with a 556-horsepower powerplant. This V-8 is not only large (6.2 liters), but it is topped off with a supercharger. Sixspeed automatic or stick transmission provides the gears. Zero to 60 time is a mere 4 seconds.

While corners are gracefully handled with shocks that adjust to conditions in milliseconds, Brembo four-wheel disc brakes and Michelin sport tires have you turning (or stopping) on a well-spent dime. Furthermore, the driver can adjust the suspension by choosing either “Tour” or “Sport” with the ease of a button.

To boot, the already distinctive exterior of the coupe receives some changes with the V choice. Massive dual exhaust pipes centered on the rear bumper are prominent and striking. On the front, a much larger grill and lower valence is presented in contrast with the basic CTS.

Optional is a dynamite paint scheme called the “Black Diamond Edition.” Essentially, it looks like shiny metal flakes in black-colored glass-truly unique.

On the road, the ride can be both quiet and civilized. But if performance is desired, roll down the window and welcome the thunder of the V-8. As one can imagine, acceleration is instantaneous in any gear.

Carried over to the interior is the racing and sport motif. Special Recaro seats with super high side bolsters and contrasting colors are optional. Like all Cadillacs, luxury features are not left out. As with many high-end vehicles, simply approach the CTS with the key in pocket and the door unlocks. There are no door handles-at least, not visable ones. Simply press a small button under a concealed flap and the door opens. Likewise on exit, push a small round button and the door pops open. No key is needed for starting-just turn a small handle and pull the electronic parking brake lever and off you go.

Every possible navigation, telephone, control function and information feature is found in the brilliantly designed video screen in the center of the dash. Why is it brilliant? Unlike most video screens, it is not fixed. When you do not need navigation or the information center, only a small portion of the screen is shown. But push a button and the full screen rises from the dash. Likewise, if you place the transmission in reverse, the screen pops up to show what is behind the car.

Only two passengers can be accommodated in the back seat, but the trunk space is ample. By dropping the back of the rear seat, large or bulky items can be stowed.

With this new CTS-V lineup, Cadillac has wiped out any contention that this vehicle is a sedate cruiser. In fact, Honolulu residents commented favorably on the sharp-edged styling of the coupe. With performance that is nothing less than astonishing, great looks and many luxury features, this Cadillac is on the right track.

CADILLAC CTS-V COUPE:

Engine: 556 hp, 6.2 liter, supercharged V-8
Acceleration: 0-60: 4.0 seconds
Brakes: Brembo 4 wheel disc brakes with 6 piston front discs, 4 piston rear discs
Sound system: Bose 5.1 surround sound system, 10 speakers, with 40GB hard drive for music storage.
Price: $63,660 base price. Options-Black Diamond Edition $4,850, Recaro seats $3,400.

Luxury Asides

CONTRADICTION: LUXURY SEDAN HATCHBACKS

Not many years ago the possibility of a luxury sedan with a hatchback was unthinkable. After all, only small, cheap compacts had a fifth door instead of a trunk. But all bets were off when Mercedes introduced the CLS-a four-door high-end luxury sedan that looks like a coupe with a steeply slanted roofline (yet still maintaining a standard trunk).

With the proverbial door now open, the next step was the luxury hatchback. Porsche stepped to the plate with its four-door sports sedan based on the classic 911 look, and a rear utility hatch- the Panamera was born. Others have followed suit: BMW added the 5 series Grand Turismo four-door, Acura recently introduced the ZDX hatchback to its repertoire, and Audi just brought out a brand new model, the A7, which is truly a hatchback looker.

Just don’t expect Rolls Royce to junk its trunk for the now ubiquitous rear fifth door.

AFFORDABLE SUV LUXURY

For those interested in luxury SUVs at quite reasonable prices, Mercedes offers a compact variety with the GLK. Starting in the $36,000 range, this SUV offers plenty of umph (in the form of a 268 horsepower V-6 connected to a seven- speed automatic) with an all-independent suspension to boot. With its lightweight, zero to 60 mph time, it is the fastest to class with 6.5 seconds ticked off the stop- watch. For the off-road types, all-wheel drive is offered as an option.

For those who (or those wishing to) spend the majority of their behind-the-wheel time in adverse conditions or mountainous terrain, the relatively new Land Rover LR4 offers standard all-wheel drive. Merely spin the dial to match the terrain from desert to snow, and the power will be sent to appropriate wheels to keep you on the up and up (and moving forward). The tall LR4 has seating for seven and the ability to lower seat backs to carry nearly anything. Power comes from a 5.0-liter V-8 with a six-speed automatic transmission. Leather dominates the interior along with many sumptuous features. Pricing is in the high $40,000 range.

CRAZY CAR APPS

With hundreds of apps for everything under the sun, one should not be surprised by some wild car apps for smartphones.

With CarEngines, you touch the screen of your favorite car, pick a model and the engine starts to rumble and rev. Good for bar games and quieting the most boisterous gear heads.

On the slightly more practical side, Dynolicious has one-upped standard GPS programs by telling you your 0-60 time down the hundredth of a second. Want to know how well a car handles? Click the skid pad option and your G force handling capabilities are graphed and explained. The list goes on…