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Auto Test Drives

Cadillac STS-v Displays its True Sporting Mettle in Autocross Mode
By Andrew Gardner; photos by the author
Dec 17, 2006, 22:32 PST
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Our road test of the STS-v was a very enjoyable experience. There was plenty of sport and luxury built into this high perofmrnace sedan, such that it was a very comfortable and accomodating everyday car that could turn into an enjoyable weekend sporting car. It embodies the spirit of grand touring well, getting you thruogh your long distance journey as comfortably as business class and fster than the train will get you there. And you will enjoy the drive. With a sport-tuned suspension and a supercharged V8, there are relatively few people this car wouldn't satisfy.

There were some frustrations, some with itnerior fitment and some with electronics interfering with your fun drive. We took the STS-v out onto a large autocross course to test this Caddy's mettle in a controlled, medium speed environment. The inhibition o traction control remains with the traction control on, but in just StabiliTrak mode (traction control off) the STS-v became more friendly with the passing laps. Smoothness and a more accurate cornering speed limit the onset of fuel cutoff or computer controlled brake actuation. The STS-v's computer really doesn't tolerate understeer, but when you are really familiar with the corner and take it right, you can work the front tires a bit more. This is a good learning mode because it forces you to focus on smoothness and shows you where the limits are without you losing control.

In Competitive Mode, however, you get to play. understeer is allowed with all accompanying front tire wailing. Oversteer is allowed, with all accompanying driver grinning.

The chassis felt pretty good, but the suspenion was too soft for the autocross course. Surprised? It's a grand touring car, a luxury sedan tuned for sport but not for race. With that in mind, The car is best enjoyed pushed hard but not approaching excess understeer on corner entry because it's soft suspension does not lend it well to being tossed in hard, and it won't dive in aggressively. The STS-v does respond to good driving, and it does respond well to excess throttle in the middle of the corner.

The steering and transmission get in the way of smoothly achieving oversteer until you have had much practce. The steering ratio is wide, which gets you crossed up in tight corners when drivign hand-over-hand like you would drive a sedan on the street. The English shuffle is well applied here as you really crank around on the wheel to get the front end to come way around. When you are ready to begin acceleration, not being in the right gear hurts. Either you will suffer the delay of kick-down, which takes a second or more to initiate and then more to complete, at which time you may be too deep in the throttle trying to force the kickdown and you'll get more torque than you wanted, thus snapping out the rear a bit too much and upsetting your balance, or you go to manual selection of the lower gear. Manual selection is fine except that you have to be predictive, and the benefit of an auto tranny on an autocross is that with the very short time between turns you wouldn't have to remove your hands from the wheel, thus improving your position on the track before, during and after each turn. So that goes out the window. And this is not such a big deal after enough laps, but it is frustratign to get to that point where you really have your rhythm. Whether that matters depends on the balance of where the owner drives the car and what time they want to invest in it. Most likely this proper gear selection/ computer downshift delay issue will be a minor annoyance because this won't be anybody's track car. The shift algorithms could be more aggressive for street driving, but they are fine.

So, rhtyhm and flow attained, the STS-v lends itself to some fun and quick laps, back and kicked out at the exit of slower corners and good grip leading to quick traversal of wider corners. This is a very fun car. Pushing it to beyond a street-environment driving level we really see what this car is made of, and find that it is of course tuned for street use. That's proper. It is designed to tear down the straight with American V8 howl with accompanying roots-type superfcharger whine, and to turn without much delay and hold a good line and just generally go fast. The STS-v embodies the inner child of a wealthy upper-middle class person that needs a nice, sensible car that can handle business but wants also to be able to really enjoy driving. To (STS-)v or not to v? This isn't the be all, end all sports luxury sedan, but: To v.


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