At first, the excitement makes you tuck a grin discreetly behind your lips — but when approaching the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe for a drive, nervous pangs in the stomach are the more likely reaction.

Numbers flash across the brain as driver’s finger the keyfob and zero in on their door handle. Eight cylinders, one supercharger, six gears and a colossal 556 horsepower. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in four seconds or less. Shortly after, the likelihood of a ticket with numerous demerit points grows exponentially.

But while making yourself at home inside the CTS-V Coupe, it’s almost easy to forget all of that.

The leather and wood-trimmed dashboard, suede seats and high-class materials all seem to say “classy cruiser” — not “holy hell, this thing is twisted-quick.”

There’s even chrome accenting to dress things up, and all of the well-minded, high-tech features you might expect. Hard drive audio storage, an intelligent key, heated and chilled seats and navigation are all on board.

OnStar, too. How oddly, inappropriately sensible.

There are a few clues inside that break the cabin’s air of luxury and give a hint towards the CTS-V’s “other” side, though. The chunky suede steering wheel is one. The hefty six-speed shifter is another. There’s even a little boost gauge for the supercharger tucked away in the gauge cluster.

Get that gauge rotating clockwise, and the CTS-V charges ahead like it’s about to go airborne.

Jam the throttle, and it feels like you’ve stomped one end of a pulley system that connects the front of the car with the horizon ahead. With the siren-like whine of the blower overlapping the thundering V8 snort, the CTS-V delivers a full-throttle rampage of acceleration in all-American high-definition surround.

Powerful brakes with decent feel and a sharp and eager steering back this up. You’ll need a track to get anywhere close to this car’s limits — but a very lenient traction control system helps do this safely. There’s even a switch to dial up some additional suspension firmness when required.

When it’s not, the CTS-V pulls off a modest cruising-around-town attitude. Though the clutch, shifter and steering are heavy enough to pull drivers into the experience, they’re light enough to use without wearing oneself down during a day of errands. The engine pulls things along effortlessly in traffic, the ride is relatively calm, and the relaxing cabin can even be used to unwind when drivers stay out of the sauce.

It’s all part of that delightful split personality that defines so many great performance cars.
Gripes? Sure — there are several.

Visibility is nasty, the ride can be harsh on some surfaces, and in the hands of a lead-footed driver, the CTS-V will burn up fuel more quickly than a refinery fire.

Given the tremendous power-per-dollar ratio at work, it can easily be forgiven.

It’s a Cadillac, and a “V”— and as such, this slick new coupe should clearly tell the world of pricey performance coupes that America is up for a brawl.

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