At first glance, most passersby will figure out two things about the Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe and the Cadillac CTS 3.6 Coupe: They are built in America and their purpose is as much entertainment as transportation.
The Shelby GT500 is a direct descendant of the original Mustangs that defined the American muscle car, and the Cadillac CTS could have carried the Caped Crusader through Gotham City under the light of the Bat Beacon.
In other words, both cars were designed to appeal to the little boy (or tomboy) in all of us, and we responded positively to them. Although neither car would be particularly practical for mundane tasks like running errands to the nursery or chauffeuring friends to the theater, they made us feel good when we were tooling around town or cruising in the hills.
We should be perfectly clear here. These cars from General Motors (Cadillac) and Ford (Shelby) are not comparable, and they definitely live in different parts of the toy box.
The Shelby GT500 is the most expensive model in the Mustang line ($48,645 base price). It’s designed to be as effective on the track as it is eye-catching on a cruise night. Several respected auto magazines suggest this may be the best Mustang Ford has ever built. However, the stiff suspension and lack of usable backseat make it impractical for long trips.
The Cadillac CTS 3.6, though nearly identical to its evil twin, the 510-horsepower CTS-V, is actually a comfortable boulevard cruiser with an attractive interior and neat detailing, but it’s a little too soft and underpowered to challenge anyone to hot laps at the track. On the other hand, it would be a nice choice for a couple for a long getaway trip to, say, Santa Fe for the holidays.
What we liked: In the Mustang, the burbling exhaust was as close as you could get on four wheels to a Harley-Davidson, and the power and handling on tap made good on the promises offered by the looks and sound. Running the car up through the notchy gears in the manual transmission is particularly satisfying (an automatic is not available on the Shelby), and the Ford Sync system is the best audio/cell-phone system on the market.
In the Cadillac, we liked the understated elegance of the interior, contrasting with the brash Batmobile looks of the exterior, and the ride was pleasant and responsive. The build quality was excellent, like the Cadillacs of old, but even with the tall taillights that looked like the fins of the 1960s, no one would mistake this for one of those stodgy old land yachts.
What we didn’t like: The styling of the Mustang looks a little fat (or maybe that’s “phat”), and the heavy clutch that comes with that manual transmission could turn any daily commute into pure torture.
The Cadillac ($47,010 base price) definitely sacrifices rearview visibility and headroom to the highly styled rear end, though good mirrors and a backup camera compensate. We’d definitely choose a model without the sunroof if we were over 6 feet tall.
Bottom line: Depending on what kind of toy car you’re looking for as relief from your workaday SUV or full-size sedan, one of these made-in-Detroit models would definitely put a smile on your face if you found it in your toy box.