America is many things: Freedom. Food. Quality. The freedom to eat food lacking in quality. And Cadillacs. I took a 556-hp, rear-wheel-drive Cadillac into fast-food America, stuffing myself silly in search of truth and excess. This is what I found.
First things first: This is not a road test. We have driven the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V coupe before, and it is a hell of a car. If you want to know more about it, about what it's like to drive, you should click here. You will learn things about the V coupe in this post, but it is by no means a standard review.
As I've mentioned before, my wife and I are spending the summer working in New York City. This means that I've spent most of the season not driving, as the Five Boroughs are pretty much the worst place on earth to own a car. We walk places. It is alternately nice (no traffic!) and boring (no speed!). Because of this, it's often necessary to get the hell out.
A few weeks ago, Jalopnik contributor and The Onion editor John Krewson and I took a Cadillac CTS-V coupe into the wilds of New York state. We went in search of burnouts and rolling asphalt, but we also went looking for America. If, we figured, the V coupe represents what Detroit does best (blissfully self-conscious excess), then we would spend a day focusing on one of the things that America does best (blissfully bad food, consumed to excess).
One day. Several hundred miles of hoonage. At least eight full meals' worth of food and enough liquid grease to refloat the Titanic. I ate and drove until I didn't know my own name. This is what happened.
Warning: This is a long one, so it's probably best to go grab a cup of coffee and wait for all the images to load.
This is John Krewson. John is a man among men, a quiet, thoughtful, intelligent dude from Wisconsin who just happens to love cars and live in a city that hates them. He likes the CTS-V. I picked him up in New York just as a rainstorm moved in, and we inched our way out of town. An hour later, we parked in the middle of nowhere and did burnouts. Then we drove up into Bear Mountain state park in search of empty pavement.
Shortly before the burnouts, we hit up a Dunkin' Donuts just outside of Nyack. John erred on the side of discretion and bought one donut. I had already eaten breakfast, so I purchased a dozen jelly-filed and ate half of them in the parking lot before cooking a few on the Cadillac's engine cover. Neither of these things ended well.
This is me sitting in the parking lot, attempting to show John how to properly take a picture, eat a donut, hold a box of donuts, and spill sugar everywhere at the same time. I failed in everything — picture (this was the only shot out of ten that worked), eating (most of the jelly went on my shirt), and holding (donut box ended up on my feet). John rolled his eyes. We headed west, away from Nyack.
A brief word about the CTS-V coupe's supercharged, 556-hp, 551-lb-ft, 6.2-liter V-8: It is the kind of unholy device you do not screw with. It leaps toward the rev limiter with such fury that, were you the type of person to have a pile of donuts in your lap while driving, most of those donuts would end up on your shirt. It is quiet; from the cabin, all you hear is a subdued growl and no supercharger whine whatsoever. Then the earth opens up, swallows you, and spits you back out. When you wake up, you are on the other side of the planet.
John is a subdued man. The CTS-V coupe is the kind of machine that can turn a subdued individual into something else. Stab pedal, things happen. This photo: before.
This one: after. Warning: Do not do this while eating. Or on one of New York state's scenic parkways. Or with an open box of donuts and a moderately expensive camera in your lap. I'm still picking crystallized sugar and lens-cap remnants out from behind my ears.
This is the machine responsible. Yes, that aluminum strut-tower brace is stock. No, that is not a jelly-donut stain on the engine cover. Of course not. Trick of the light.
This is connected to a Tremec TR6060 six-speed. A Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic is also available. Predictably, Cadillac expects the majority of CTS-V coupes to be delivered with automatic transmissions. Note the piano-black trim on the center console. Note the recessed grid pattern on the shift lever. Jalopnik Helpful Household Tip™: If you have eaten a dozen jelly donuts and have hands covered in sugar goop and Dunkin' love, one of these things will not be easy to clean.
After leaving Dunkin' Donuts, we got off the highway and did burnouts. The Cadillac is good at it.
Shortly after the burnouts, we hit up the tiny town of Newburgh, New York. Newburgh is a depressed river town, the kind of hollow, been-there joint that looks like it belongs in deepest Ohio or Pennsylvania. The car seems out of place, as if it wants to be somewhere else. We stumble onto Pete's Hot Dogs, on William and Robinson. This painting hung on the wall. I can only presume this is (was?) Pete.
This is the inside of Pete's Hot Dogs. I looked at Krewson, Krewson ordered something sane, and I rattled off the top half of the menu. The three people in front of us appeared to be standing in line. After about five minutes, one of them looked at me and said, "oh, did you want to order? We're just here hanging out."
Krewson cautiously eyeing his prize. The half-dozen donuts in my stomach protested. I ate anyway. The CTS-V, which had previously appeared a bit porcine and ostentatious, grew more appealing. Or maybe that was just the haze of porkfeetfatglaze descending over my eyeballs.
You know, after I ate these. Krewson on the car: "Although I generally favor two-doors, this is not a good-looking two-door. There's nothing necessarily wrong with it, but it doesn't look that great, either. But at least Cadillac is making a statement — doing something bold."
And then I ate this. The camera disguises its size and strange color. There are six countries in Asia where this hot dog is illegal. Fear this hot dog. It mocked me.
This is the Dairy Cone. It is approximately three blocks from Pete's Hot Dogs. We went there five minutes after leaving Pete's Hot Dogs, largely because we could. CTS-V: Comfortable, refined, responsive, somewhat lardy. Krewson: Restraint, cautious optimism. Me: Hallucinating from the lard, but still interested in…
…this. I would tell you what this tasted like, but I couldn't bring myself to order it. The donuts and hot dogs were already staging a counterattack.
I left Krewson at the window, tossed over a couple of twenties, and told him to order half the menu. (The menu offers everything from fried mushrooms to something called a "super burger" — a towering cornucopia of meat hate that, at $5.29, costs three times as much as a single burger.) I then went outside to take a picture. When I returned, Krewson informed me that he hadn't understood more than a few words of what the server said, her voice being drowned out by fryer noise. ("I just said yes to everything.")
No, no I haven't. It sounds good, but it might make the donuts mad. (Everything make the donuts mad.)
Me: "Are we out of donuts? I don't want any more donuts." Krewson: "This is diminishing me as a person. But only spiritually."
The food kept coming. Random CTS coupe fact: Although it shares a wheelbase with the sedan, the coupe is two inches shorter (different bumper covers, presumably) and roughly one inch wider (wheel offset). You cannot see any of this in this shot. You can only see meat.
I hate meat.
The CTS-V's rear seat. It capably holds both donuts and people. The massive C-pillars and tall flanks ensure limited visibility. Optional Recaro front seats — they're badged as such, right next to the electric adjustment controls — have stout bolsters and headrests. They are comfortable and supportive.
America, I understand you. And I do not want any more fried mushrooms. For the rest of my life.
The CTS-V's instrument cluster. Automatics are equipped with a 3.23 rear axle and a 0.67:1 sixth gear; manuals come with a 0.63:1 sixth and a 3.73 diff. The dash is an odd mix of hard, shiny plastic and soft-touch, matte-finish pieces. Most of these are easily covered in mushroom grease.
After leaving the Dairy Cone, we wandered around Newburgh in a cholesterol-induced haze while looking for the highway. My eyes began to lose focus. I ate another donut, felt the dough latching onto my spleen, melting, and dripping down the insides of my legs. Krewson began talking about writing or music or something. He decided he wanted to visit something called the Red Rooster, a world-famous burger stand in the tiny town of Brewster. I drifted between lanes, the Cadillac flirting with super-illegal speeds, and vowed to never eat or drive again. Then I had another donut.
Excess is a bitch. I wanted more. Mostly.
This seemed like a bad idea.
Nice girls. They spoke to me. I don't remember what they said. A sign on the wall informed us that the 2001 Zagat survey called the Red Rooster the "number one bang for your buck" in the Connecticut and southern New York area. Jeffrey Tennyson, in his book Hamburger Heaven, called it "an oasis, time warp, like stepping into 1964."
I ordered something. I don't remember what it was. Krewson was still coherent. Pansy.
The Red Rooster as reflected in the CTS-V's window.
The Standard of the World wants you to know that it is perfectly fine with tastefully overdoing it.
(Now I'm just stalling, trying to remember what the burger tasted like.)
Krewson: "The last time I saw a brake light like this, it was on Voltron's head."
(Random trivia: This is the largest third brake light that Cadillac has ever produced. Is that an honor? I took this while waiting for my burger. I did not want my burger. I did not want my Cadillac. I just wanted to go home and die.)
Burger! It was… Oh, who am I kidding? I don't remember most of the afternoon. A word of advice: If you're going to eat more than 10,000 calories in the space of a few hours, you should probably exercise restraint when it comes to food selection and/or timing. Just like Cadillac exercised restraint in setting supercharger boost on the 6.2-liter V-8 under the CTS-V's hood. (See how I did that? And you thought I wasn't going to mention the car again! Also, mini golf!)
That was it. I was done. I could barely talk, I couldn't speak, I was beginning to hallucinate. I made Krewson drive us back to the city, but before that, my disease-addled brain thought it would be a good idea to take some panning shots in the parking lot of the Red Rooster. This was a horrible idea. Who cares about panning shots in a parking lot? What did I know? It was 98 degrees outside and I was having long, drawn-out conversations with the Cadillac's fender vents. I took 42 pictures. This is the only one in focus. I'm pretty sure I was legally dead at one point.
But hey! The CTS-V sounds cool from the outside. Cool!
A short, circular road trip with nothing but burnouts and food? I know what you're thinking: This was the dumbest idea ever. You're wrong. It was a fantastic idea. A truckload of meat, a sweaty afternoon, greasy road meals: This is America. This is the Cadillac CTS-V. More on that in a second. First…
Hm. Big Cadillac logo, no? That crest in the center just happens to be about as large as a jelly donut. Wouldn't you like to know how the rest of the car measures up? You would? Well, hell — you're in luck! Let's take a look!
Rear wheel well to C-pillar base: 4.5 jelly donuts. Sweet flanks, Motown!
Trunk lid height from bumper: 5.0 jelly donuts. Remember kids, atomized carbon is not an FDA-approved flavor!
Front splitter to ground: 2.0 jelly donuts. ("Mommy, why is that man eating donuts off the ground?" "Hush, honey. Get in the car. Now.")
What have we learned from all this? First, as we discovered earlier but spent most of this story ignoring, the Cadillac CTS-V coupe is the best kind of excess. It's fast, refined, and comfortable. The steering is feelsome and responsive, the chassis possessed of nimble reflexes that belie the car's weight. The seats are comfortable, the interior decently — if not impeccably — crafted. Like the CTS-V sedan upon which it is based, the V coupe is ferociously quick and endowed with oodles of charm.
In short, if America is a nation defined by its relationship with the phrase "too much," then the CTS-V represents the best of that relationship. This is a car for the ages. This is a car to remember. This is a car that probably didn't need to be taken on a day trip into the wilds of the American deep-fryer, but it certainly fit the purpose. Few machines would have been more appropriate. Too much of something in the name of self-satisfaction? I'm American. I realize there's something wrong with that, but I also can't help but applaud it.
Also, you know, we learned that you should know when to stop. This was the last donut. Half of what you see on my skin is sweat from the day's heat; the other half is flop sweat produced from the exertion required to digest most of the eastern seaboard. The Cadillac, predictably, was unfazed. Me, I spent the next twelve hours in bed.