"Luxury car, eh? You want silver? You want gray?"
"The fastest one you got, amigo." I responded.
The rental agent at the counter had made an offer I couldnt refuse. "Our luxury vehicle is only thirty dollars more than the Impala. May we upgrade you?"
It sounded like offering fries with the meal. But why not? I had a long way to go. Comfort would be a factor.
A cool wind nipped at me as I moved from the office and ducked behind the Plexiglas shelter in the rental yard. The swirl of the airport kept a cacophony playing at my head. Jet wash thundered through the sky. More rental vehicles moved in and out of the secured lot. The shuttle bus pulled up. Its brakes hissed its arrival. I pondered my journey: eight hundred miles to Olympia, Washington, eight hundred miles back. Then down the aisle of cars, I saw the gaping, hammerhead fascia of the 2009 Cadillac CTS approach.
I had read of these cars. The General Motors Corporation had staked much of its future on this edgy, chiseled design, inspired from the days of the stealth fighter. The four-door, rear-wheel drive sedan had global implications, and this second generation kept the overall dimensions of the first, but I looked at a car that had been in the gym. The fenders bulged muscularly; the front grill had been widened and stretched. The stance had a rake. It looked tough as it rolled up and stopped just before me. I passed the eighteen in wheels and Michelin tires as I walked around the back. The exhaust gave a throaty pulse that suggested the CTS was more than a stylish package. It spoke of potential.
The car jockey opened the door. I saw a leather interior.
"Enjoy," he said.
With the slam of the door, I entered another world, a world of quiet, of elegance, of functionality. With just a whiff of leather, conditioned air caressed me. The dash arced gently before me. A host of bright, clear, and well-crafted gauges displayed the health of the engine. To the right, a center console held some kind of a video screen, controls for the satellite radio, and below those were the controls for the climate control, featuring pictograms to label their function. A classic, analogue clock in the immediate center of the panel bestowed a certain sense of elegance to the interior. Like the other gauges, the clock looked like it might have come in a blue box from Tiffany's. The seat felt simply wonderful, firm but supple, supportive, and infinitely adjustable, just the thing for four days at speed. The wood accents on the steering wheel and shifter had a mirror polish, and their dimensions felt fitted to my hands.
With a light tug, the shifter engaged the six-speed transmission. The car eased forward. The throttle felt soft, like stepping on a roll of ultra-quilted toilet tissue, and suggested a drive-by-wire technology. At about 3800 pounds, the CTS reflected its mass at initial launch, expected with the 3.6, direct-injection, V-6, twenty-four valve engine under the hood, but with some momentum and the engine winding up, it had plenty of pep. GM engineers had played a neat trick with this injection system, using the fuel to cool the combustion chamber, which produced two big results. They could bump the compression ratio up to 11:1, meaning more efficiently and more power, and it ran well on regular pump gas. With an advertised rating of just over 300 hundred horse power and 276 foot-pounds of torque, the multi-valve engine would prefer higher revs to show its stuff. Proving time would come soon enough.