Between the Lines: AutoWeek on the Cadillac STS-V

What is it with AutoWeek and Cadillac? After giving the new DTS a free pass, the weekly car mag French kisses Cadillac s performance-tuned luxobarge, the STS-V. Promises Kept the cover headline proudly proclaims. For years GM said it would battle BMW s Best. Now it Does. The eagle-eyed lawyerly-types amongst you will notice that the copy doesn t say anything about the STS-V beating Bimmer s best. The fact that the issue also includes a review of the new BMW M5 might have something to do with it. Or not. Who knows what editorial disconnect creates AutoWeek s unintentional irony. But it sure is painful to read.

The hucksterism continues inside, where the headline again holds forth the tantalizing prospect of a killer Caddy — if not the actual fact. American Dream Come True the editors declare. Performance STS-V May be Cadillac s best . You ve got to wonder how a word like May creeps into a car mag s vocabulary. Either the STS-V is the GM division s best effort, or it isn t. And if Autoweek isn t in a position to make that call, who is?

Once again, scribe Bob Gritzinger is charged with the task of explaining away the discrepancy between hopeless hype and prosaic reality. To his credit, he feels obliged to get it over with right from the git-go.

General Motors Performance Division engineers will tell you that their pride and joy, the 2006 Cadillac STS-V, is more of an autobahn rocket than a hyperactive track star.
Grizinger s lead immediately surrenders the territory claimed for Caddy on AutoWeek s front cover; any performance sedan that s Bimmer battling must be both an autobahn burner AND a track star (i.e. a car that can corner). Bobby G s use of the word hyperactive signals the author s clear intention to carve out a category for the STS-V so it can claim supremacy, somehow, on some level. (There s another word for that kind of spin: cheating.)
Unlike its race-bred sibling, the CTS-V, this latest model in Cadillac s performance lineup is not intended for hard cornering, hard braking, hard accelerating or hard anything. That s not to say the car can t handle hard charging, or that it won t match up well against the luxury performance competition; it s just not going to beat anyone up, including, most importantly, the person behind the wheel or the passengers.
Clearly, Gritzinger is confused. Why else would he assert that the STS-V isn t intended for hard anything and then immediately state (using a double negative) that it can handle hard charging . By suggesting that the STS-V s competition is the automotive equivalent of an unpleasant roller coaster ride, Gritzinger is, again, stacking the deck.

In the next graph, Bobby G starts backpedaling furiously. First, he allows GM engineer John Heinricy to set the bar, painting the STS-V as a four-door version of a base C6 Corvette. Then, finally, Gritzinger cuts bait and runs.

For those looking for a BMW M5 in Cadillac clothing, that may not be enough. But for those seeking Corvette performance in a well-mannered, full-size rear-wheel drive American luxury sedan, STS-V is a dream come true.

So much for Bimmer battling. So much for Cadillac. So much for GM. And so much for AutoWeek. The General and the mainstream automotive press are in such shit shape for the exact same reason: they're both in the excuse-making business.

Cadillac s mission should be making the world s best cars, period. If they think it s OK to create vehicles that can barely best Chevrolet s best, instead of the whipping the foreign competition, they are doomed, doomed, doomed. By the same token, if AutoWeek thinks it s OK to co-spin, instead of faithfully reporting the truth, they are condemning themselves to editorial irrelevance and financial oblivion.

Make no mistake: These high-zoot Caddys are all fairly exclusive. Where CTS sells in the range of 70,000 cars per year and the STS about 35,000, only about 4000 CTS-V s go out the door a year- at a selling price in excess of $50,000 each. STS-V will likely half that number, selling just 2000 copies a year to an exclusive clientele capable of handling over more than $77,000. (For those keeping score, Cadillac plans to sell about 1000 of its $100,000-plus XLR-V s annually.)
Make no mistake: AutoWeek is GM s bitch. Why else would Gritzinger be so willing to dress-up Caddy s lackluster CTS-V sales, and prospect of more/less of the same for the STS-V, as some kind of intentional exclusivity ? [Note to AutoWeek : these are not limited edition cars.] Besides, for those of us keeping score, Cadillac s projections are inherently suspect; the brand s sales fell off a cliff in October. A little digging on AutoWeek s part would also reveal that customers for even the normal XLR are currently lined-up none deep.

At some point, of course, AutoWeek s Driving Impressions take on the STS-V will have to knuckle down and give us, well, driving impressions. After three techie graphs, paragraph 14 finally provides a little insight into the nature of the beast. It s quiet. Near-Lexus quiet, in fact. (You can almost hear Toyota sighing with relief.) Needless to say, in Gritzinger s world, it s a good bad thing.

For some of our testers the refinement may go too far- they don t think the engine feels quite as dramatic as 469 hp ought to feel. But all agree there is more than enough scoot under boot to make this unpretentious Caddy a sleeper on the street.

And, dare I say it, on the showroom floor as well. Anyway, our Between the Lines radar lights-up like a nicotine addict when Bobby G, self-effacing yet spirited manual driver that he is, tries to signal us that the Caddy s six-speed slushbox is a tad sluggish.

We d like the transmission to be a little quicker in its shift response, especially when pushing the limit, but then we re used to driving cars with manual gearboxes. For most drivers this gearbox will be more than responsive
Nice try. A $77k high performance sports sedan with a dim-witted gearbox isn t good for anyone- save the competition. Nor, we suspect, is the STS-V s handling. The base car is a wallowing luxobarge. While Gritzinger s second paragraph warned us not to think of the STS-V as a hard cornering car, we still want to know if John Heinricy s handiwork is a total disaster through the curves. Denied. Gritzinger gives us a rundown on the chassis upgrades and that s it.

As is the case in most of these half-assed "reviews", Gritzinger ends his piece by throwing a bone to a vehicle that can t live up to either his magazine s or the manufacturer s propaganda. He begins the STS-V s soft landing by reiterating the damned by faint praise idea that it s possibly the best car the division has produced. And then this:

Given that, the buying decision ought to come down to whether you prefer STS-V s elegant performance formula or the more rugged, racier edge found in more expensive competitors like the M5 (opposite page) and the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG. Isn t it nice to have choices for a change?

Yes, it certainly is.

RF

[Jalopnik s Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, and the media that covers it, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]

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