Recently I got to take Cadillac’s CTS-V all over some of my favorite Texas Hill Country roads. It was great, but that was only part of the story. The real reason I was driving the CTS-V was to test out the $1,600 optional Performance Data Recording system that Cosworth developed for Cadillac. They not only use this in the CTS-V and ATS-V cars you can buy at your local dealer, but they also use this exact software for the IMSA Cadillac Dpi-V.R cars, mind you with slightly fewer telemetry points. This may come as a surprise to many of you.
(Full Disclosure: Cadillac wanted me to play with this PDR system so much that they took me out to dinner in Detroit while I was there covering an IMSA race weekend, fed me a five course meal, had two engineers from Cosworth show me the ins and outs of the software and its downloadable interface, and then insisted on sending me a 2017 CTS-V with said PDR option followed by the suggestion I thoroughly test it on a track. To be sure it works, I took the CTS-V to two tracks. A huge thank you to Circuit of The Americas and Harris Hill Raceway for allowing me to take the CTS-V on track to test this out.)
For several years, I have been a track instructor, and have worked with any skill level from the most novice to very advanced. There’s only so much information I can collect from the right seat and only so much feedback I can give to improve a driver without having some sort of software and data to back it up. When using other products for timing and data, there isn’t a system that isn’t an ugly installation, has cumbersome hardware, and includes software that isn’t the most user-friendly.
When you buy a new V Series Cadillac, it’s likely the dealer ordered it with the Performance Data Recorder option. For $1,600 you get a fully integrated system which has a front-facing camera mounted into the rear-view mirror, an SD card slot in the glove box for quick access and downloading of your data, playback with four different overlays (which can be watched and managed in the car’s center screen), and access to download Cosworth’s Toolbox software for your Windows machine. All you need to download the software is to provide your name, email address, and your VIN, and Cosworth will shoot over a download link.
My only wish is that Cosworth would also make an Apple-friendly version of their Toolbox for me to play with. I felt dirty running Windows via a Parallels install on my MacBook Pro. Maybe also get Google Maps as the GPS partner, so that you aren’t showing overviews of pastures instead of race tracks.
The Performance Data Recorder is simple to set up and use. All you do is access the “PDR” button in the Cue home screen of apps, and you’re in. You can choose to have the system overlay four different options, including timing for 0-60, 0-100, 1/4 mile, and top speed. For this exercise, I stuck with the “track” selection, as I was focused on showing how to analyze your laps and find ways to improve.
Cadillac’s Performance Traction Management system, which gives any driver ways to dial in the perfect setting for any skill level or road condition, really comes in handy when you go between different tracks and surfaces. Being able to adjust the suspension to soften up to a more Sport mode level to accommodate this, while still getting the throttle response from the Track mode was awesome. That and if you want to turn off all the nannies, you have to make a few tweaks. Want to have a little slip while not ending up in a wall? This system lets you find that sweet spot.
If you’ve not driven around your selected track before, you do need to quickly define the finish line. From there, tell the system to start recording, and the car’s GPS system will log your lap, and know the corners.
Once you’re done with your session, simply hit the “stop recording” button on your screen, and the car will start to compile your recording and sort out the data. Pull the SD card out of the glovebox slot, plug it into your computer, and open up the Cosworth Toolbox. You’ll be asked to import a recording, and it only takes a moment for the software to sort it all out for easy access and education. Video playback is created and stored in an .mp4 format.
My first day of testing was at Harris Hill Road, in San Marcos, Texas. It’s a club track with 11 turns over 1.8 hilly and bumpy miles. While many of you aren’t familiar with this track, it’s a good test for a wide variety of cars, and offers plenty of on- and off-camber tests in corners while having one good straight before going up a hill into a double right-hander (when using their clockwise configuration). You definitely feel the 4140-lb Caddy under you on this course, which is more suited to the lighter, more nimble track cars.
Cadillac’s Performance Data Recorder hooks in perfectly to Cosworth’s Toolbox to let you look at lap times, throttle and brake input, steering angle, Gs, distance covered, and top speeds. How detailed you want your data is up to you.
Should you want to watch your laps while seeing your speed, throttle position, and brake pedal use, that’s only a couple quick clicks away. How about just the quick analysis of your lap times, speeds, and distance? No problem. Tire data and overall vehicle health - with tire temps and pressure, oil and water temperatures, and oil and water pressure are also available.
To really put the 640-hp supercharged 6.2L V8 in the CTS-V to the test, I had to take it to Circuit of The Americas. Shit job, but someone’s gotta do it. At 3.4 miles in length, and one of the most challenging tracks on the planet, COTA is definitely better suited to the Cadillac. It has longer sweeping turns and a pair of massive straightaways where you can truly stretch your car’s legs. With 20 turns to go with those long straights, you’re definitely going to benefit from the analysis available in the Performance Data Recorder.
To get more technical, you can break down your laps corner by corner or even in sections. A quick slide of the timing and track position gives you that flexibility. Want to see how you’ve done in a corner lap to lap? That’s an easy selection too. You’ll see how long you left your foot on the gas or brake, how much speed you had at the apex and exit, and can assess where improvements can be made.
Cadillac makes a damn fine sports sedan, and the Performance Data Recorder system paired with the Cosworth Toolbox is a massive advantage they possess. While the ordinary non-Jalopnik driver may see it as a toy, they may appreciate its function and ability to work on their skills. Instructors and drivers alike can benefit from this platform, and Cosworth should find a way to get this in front of more manufacturers. Nothing else in a showroom car offers this level of track data and assessment, and more drivers should be putting it to good use.