With 829 horsepower at the rear wheels Darnell Settles’ 2011 CTS-V earns its name
Words And Photos: Brandon Flannery
For many years, the epitome of a luxury car was one of comfort. Cadillac set the “Standard of the World” over 100 years ago with uncompromising innovation and quality and rose to become America’s ultimate statement of luxury.
As time and technology have progressed, that element of luxury also includes superior performance. Like the sleek, long-nosed roadsters of the 1920s that were built to outrun less expensive models, today’s luxury cars have shelved the over-stuffed “couch barge” notions and returned to their roots.
To compete with the likes of Europe’s finest, the folks at Cadillac added some very special cars to their lineup. While the CTS coupes and sedans were nice cars, the CTS-V versions take it to the next level. The first generation ran from 2004 to 2007, and the second from 2009 to 2014. These cars feature a revolutionary new suspension utilizing BWI Group’s MagneRide Technology, where the dampeners of the coil spring suspension contain a magnetorheological fluid, or a “smart fluid” of particles suspended in another. This fluid is surrounded by sensors and is magnetically adjusted once every millisecond by a computer. Aiding this seemingly magical suspension are heavy-duty sway bars, special 19-inch wheels, and 6-piston Brembo brakes with 15- and 14-inch rotors front and rear, respectively.
Fresh from the showroom floor these supercharged rockets cranked out 0-60 times in four seconds and 11-second quarter-miles thanks to a 556-horsepower LSA (a slightly detuned version of the LS9 found in Corvettes). With a production run of only 3,224 coupes for 2011, this one is a bit of a rare sight.
Owner Darnell Settles grew up in a car-oriented family. Throughout his childhood his mother owned Corvettes and a Monte Carlo SS. One day his father returned home with a Porsche 928 that really opened his eyes to owning something special. Darnell says his first “really fast” car was actually a truck, a Ford Lightning pickup that fostered his appreciation of owning something supercharged that people didn’t expect to be fast.
Ironically, Darnell says he didn’t like the CTS when he first saw one in traffic.
“Initially I was behind one, and I actually thought it was kind of ugly,” he says. “But then I began to notice them more, and after my friend Josh let me take his for a spin I knew that was my next car.”
He began making the rounds at the dealerships and, in February of 2012, he purchased this all-black 2011 coupe.
He really liked it. It was quick and agile, yet refined enough to take dates out to dinner in and comfortable enough for long road trips. After driving it around, he felt that it was faster than he’d ever need. That is until he raced against a friend’s Mustang.
“It was a modified 5.0, and he just kept steadily pulling away from me,” he says. “I was blown away… speechless. I was on the phone with Dynospeed Racing before I made it home.”
Like all things fast, “too much” is “almost enough,” and the quest for more power began innocently enough with a Stage 1 upgrade of a pulley, a new tune, and some bigger injectors. This was soon followed with a shot of nitrous and a camshaft upgrade, which eventually progressed up to Dynospeed’s Stage 5 package and 829 horsepower at the wheels . . . in a Cadillac! Let that sink in.
Of course, that level of horsepower didn’t come easily. Oil starvation damaged the first engine block, and a failed intercooler brick caused its share of problems. Texas Speed Racing prepped a new LSA block with a forged steel crank, fresh pistons, and Trick Flow Gen V heads. A Stage 2.5 camshaft from GP Tuning was ground by COMP Cams and added. Dynospeed worked their magic on the intake side of things, adding their own 4.5 intake and heat exchanger. They ported the stock 1.9L supercharger and added a 2.5 / 8.6 upper and lower pulley combo, Injector Dynamics 850cc injectors, and a 102mm throttle body from Nick Williams.
To keep the intake charge cool a Norcal SS Icebox reservoir was added, along with a trick Alkycontrol Methanol Injection setup. The 125-shot of nitrous is handled with a Nitrous Express S.A.F.E. fuel cell located in the trunk, and spray bars installed in the modified supercharger lid make for a tidy presentation. Alan Lindgren crafted a custom nitrous switch panel for the console that looks like a factory part.
With things like a heavy-duty suspension and factory 14-way adjustable Recaro seats, the only other modifications to the car have been a set of headers from American Racing. Darnell says he really enjoys high speed “roll racing” events like the Texas Invitational and Runway Rivalry, both of which he has competed in, and if he has any other plans it might be to get it to also run on E-85 for just a little more power. Again, it’s never enough, is it?
As for the name King Kong? Darnell says that they call the Nissan GTR cars Godzilla, so he thought it would be awesome to take a swing at them with his mighty 1000-horsepower Cadillac both on and off the track. We think it’s perfect.