How I Spent My Saturday: Wasting Taxpayer Money, Polluting, and Loving it

As was repeated a few times during the afternoon — and here I paraphrase — throwing over-powered cars owned by someone else around a racetrack, using gas paid for by someone else, who can complain?

That in fact perfectly coincides with my personal beliefs: If someone’s inviting me to toss around some high-priced car, with gas someone else is paying for, on track or on street, I’m there.

And so I was at the Monticello Motor Club Saturday 21 August to get intimate and play with a bunch of Cadillac CTS/CTS-Vs, at an event thrown by GM, which is to say, essentially, by us taxpayers.

What we did:

  • Got reasonably but overly well-fed.
  • Saw some guy vomit as soon as he pulled up from his laps. Not a good omen, it seemed, but it ended up auguring nothing.
  • Heard from some head of marketing as well as the guy who was essentially the head engineer of developing the car. The latter also drove an automatic CTS-V sedan prototype around the Nurburing in a record-breaking time. (It was said, and I believe it, that the transmission was so good the guy could just focus on steering and handling and completely ignore anything shifting-related.)
  • Learned to floor a CTS-V sedan, slam the brakes and speed through a slalom. (Mine was a manual with a pleasant shifter and a clutch that made stall every time I tried to get into 1st gear, on both manuals I drove.) And a CTS wagon with a manual would also be kind of attractive.
  • Was taught cursorily (well, much we were taught about driving was cursory, as opposed to the talks from Brembo and Michelin salesmen and the instructor who talked about ABS and stability control — which he delivered, in a sense, as a GM salesman so maybe he wasn’t really an exception) about hand/eye coordination in driving (you tend to go where you’re looking); apexes, turn-ins, etc.; ABS/stability controls; brakes; and tires.
  • Did a couple of laps around a shortened track in a CTS-V 6-speed coupe. Much better than two years ago when I drove an XKR coupe once around a longer configuration of the MMC track. That time, too much track to learn and no opportunity anyway. This time, pretty much the opposite and, I would say, drove much better, and by better of course I mean faster, but better too. Good enough that it was quite nearly addictive.
  • Floored a CTS coupe a couple of times then slammed the brakes (never quite hard enough; always took a second or two to much the aged foot down). On each such run, there was a straight run and one involving stopping in a turn. I must say the stability control system was awesome — probably what I liked best about the car.
  • Got a goody bag with a travel mug.

And yes, about the damn cars: The V was reasonably sweet but excessive: 556 HP, 551 lb/ft of torque; lousy mileage; tires that only last 10-20,000 miles. Ugh. Too wasteful.

Found the rear passenger area of the sedan to be awfully cheap — think Accord, Subaru Legacy, Chevy; maybe a little cheaper. Too cheap for a luxury car. Stunk of Chevy. Hated the instrument panel; simply couldn’t figure out what it was trying to tell me and where the message would be anyway. And never figured out where the gear indicator was for the automatic transmission. And didn’t love the seats — but maybe that was me.

But the “base” coupe — that was love. When I win lotto, I’ll seriously consider one. For the stability control system and looks if nothing (much) else.

P.S.: Video of my laps to follow in a couple of days.

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