The Detroit Newspapers's view

Cadillac hates to call the CTS sedan the brand’s flagship.

That name lacks the prestige it once held. Flagships nowadays are more than the biggest and most expensive cars in any brand’s lineup. They are the spirit of a brand, which is not always tied to the highest sticker price.

Cadillac refers to the CTS sedan as its centerpiece vehicle, which is probably more appropriate.

It’s the center for Cadillac design, the center for a litany of CTS off shoots, such as the CTS Wagon, the CTS-V, the CTS Coupe and now the CTS Performance Collection — the sporty one between the base sedan and the mega-powerful supercharged CTS-V.

So what is the Performance Collection? My guess is that it’s a kind of new trim level for future Cadillacs and it premiers on the 2010 Cadillac CTS. Cadillac hasn’t admitted as much just yet (give it time).

They should, though, because the CTS Performance Collection creates a sport-centric Cadillac that focuses on mountain-curves fun, always tipping the scales toward performance. Ready to launch

This CTS starts with a 3.6-liter direct injection V-6 and the 304 horsepower it creates. The rear-wheel drive only version (other CTS sedans include an all-wheel drive options) stays true to performance cars.

Strap yourself into the Recaro high performance seats, press down on the metal accelerator and launch. NASA couldn’t do it better.

The acceleration is direct and quick. The 19-inch performance summer-only tires grab the road and won’t let go. The sport suspension keeps the body stiff through cornering but pliant and comfortable on open roads. It’s a good combination that will leave the daily commuter relaxed and the boy racer satisfied.

While I’m not a fan of paddle shifters in general, I found myself using them on this CTS when accelerating because I liked pressing the six-speed automatic transmission and holding gears a little longer than the car would let me under normal driving conditions. On the highway, I could drop to fifth and quickly pass someone before putting it back into overdrive and slowing down a little on Interstate 75 to avoid the watchful radar of state troopers near the Eureka Road exit.

This particular CTS also includes performance brakes and a performance cooling system to handle extra wear and tear.

Have a seat

Prior to the Performance Collection, buyers could get the Recaro seats only if they purchased a car with more than 500 horsepower — the V Series. The seats are now available in a car that won’t cost tens of thousands of dollars more.

The seats themselves are incredibly comfortable, holding driver and passenger snugly. With adjustable bolsters, you can actually sit down and hug yourself by adjusting the amount of air inside them. (There are 14 adjustable points on these seats and you can spend 30 minutes in the driveway trying to get exactly the right position.) These seats may cost $2,800, but they are worth every penny.

For real racers, the seats are designed to keep their bodies from flopping around as they push through corners on the race track. In the CTS, it puts you in the perfect position to respond to whatever’s in front of you.

Easy to use

There were other features in my $52,000 test vehicle that I also enjoyed. They include the Bose 5.1 surround sound stereo and the navigation system. The CTS is well laid out with the driver in mind. The pop-up navigation system, which lifts out of the dash, is also ingenious. The graphics are clean and easy to read, and the stereo’s interaction with an iPod, which allows you to operate your music device through the touch screen, remains one of the best in the business.

For 2010, all CTS vehicles will include the under the hood strut brace to add rigidity to the body as well as a cool look when you lift the hood. (There’s also an appearance package under the hood to clean up the ugly wires and things other engines show off.)

And the performance CTS maintains its sharp looks — the angular exterior, crisp headlights and tall tail lamps. It’s distinctive and stands out.

The CTS sedan is the lifeblood of Cadillac. Its face can be seen on nearly every vehicle in the brand’s lineup. This version is just another take on the popular sedan.

Just don’t call it a flagship. Cadillac hates that. (313) 223-3217

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