Editor’s Note: We’re visiting the top driving schools in the country to get a feel for what each has to offer the enthusiast driver; our hope is to encourage more owners to understand driving at the limit and have fun doing it. Look for more write-ups in the coming months and check out our complete listing of U.S. high-performance driving schools.
Who knew driving a luxury car on a racetrack could be this much fun? The Cadillac V-Performance Academy at Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club takes the performance driving school to all-new heights of luxury and professionalism. The two-day program is taught by the truly top-notch instructors at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School and designed for drivers of all experience levels.
With 640 hp in the CTS-V and 464 hp in the ATS-V, these cars have plenty of muscle to sling their luxury cabins and refined looks around a racetrack, or down your local back road, at impressive speed. The key to these cars is that they are not only quick, but extremely fun to drive. With the computer aids off, they are great to flick around and very controllable. With the computers turned on, it’s impressive the traction these cars will find in even the wettest, most extreme conditions.
I had the pleasure of driving the ATS-V with both auto and manual transmissions, but I honestly enjoyed the CTS-V the most. Sure, it’s a big car with plenty of weight, but the impressive power, composed chassis and eight-speed paddle shift gearbox make it a blast on the track. As a relative newcomer to on-track performance driving, I also found that the paddle shift gearbox allowed me to focus on other driving skills besides manual shifting, which allowed me to maximize my overall takeaway from the two-day program.
While this program is designed for all experience levels, it’s sure to challenge everyone. Classroom sessions are short and informative, optimizing your time behind the wheel while getting you the info you need to improve and minimizing driver fatigue on the track. This all adds up to more learning and fewer mistakes, which could be costly in a luxury car spun off-track into the desert at speed.
Day one is full of drills designed to get you familiar with the cars while learning basic skills, which translates to all vehicles. These drills range from wet skid-pad figure eights to high- and low-speed slalom courses, with drivers getting to experience these drills with the cars’ nanny controls both on and off. My favorite drill from day one was a visual scanning exercise that required negotiating a wide slalom course at slow speeds, while the windshield was blocked with a sun visor. This drill really made you scan out both sides of the car, focus on car placement and be extremely smooth and consistent with your inputs.
Day two is where the course gets really fun, as you spend the entire day on the challenging 1.5-mile Spring Mountain West Track. This track takes about one-and-a-half minutes to negotiate, as it is made up of mostly complex corners. Here we had to learn the track, while applying all we learned on day one. It’s challenging but sure to plaster a perma-grin across your face. After experiencing a handful of laps, mostly in small groups in lead/follow format, the day finished with launch control runs down the back straight.
Classroom sizes are small at the Cadillac V-Performance Academy.
With class sizes limited to 12 students — broken down further into two main groups during the program, with even smaller groups based on on-track speed and control — you get amazing personal instruction. Included is also an SD card with professional laps from the Performance Data Recorder system, to which you add your own on-track experiences. This is a great evaluation tool and a cool way to share your fun with friends and family when you get home.
Probably the biggest difference between this program and other performance driving schools, besides the obvious Cadillac V-Performance cars, is that nearly everything is included. You’ll need to buy your own airfare and probably a meal or two, but otherwise you’ll be fully taken care of during the program. You’ll be picked up at the airport and transported to the track, where you’ll get a loaner Cadillac for the duration of your stay; check into luxury on-track suite-style accommodations; enjoy breakfasts, lunches and a dinner at the on-site clubhouse and get a ride back to the airport after the program; and walk away with some quality Cadillac swag. The on-site amenities are plentiful as well, with an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, outdoor pool and hot tub, racquetball court and fitness facility.
Spring Mountain’s West Track is 1.5 miles long.
PRICE: $2,470, but complimentary with every new Cadillac V-Series vehicle purchase
DATES: Dates available throughout the year
LOCATION: Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club, Pahrump, Nevada
CAR: School-supplied Cadillac CTS-V and/or ATS-V
CONTACT: https://www.springmountainmotorsports.com/driving-school/cadillac-v-series-academy; 855-556-2878
PROS: There is no better place on the planet to learn about everything performance that Cadillac has to offer. On top of learning a ton about the cars, you’ll also learn a lot about control, making you a faster and safer driver. The world-class luxury experience throughout your stay at Spring Mountain is the cherry on top.
CONS: Post-instruction costs. If you don’t already own a V-Performance car, you’re sure to consider one after this program. If you do own a V-Performance car, you’re sure to push it much closer to its limits, both on and off the track, which is sure to cost you in brakes, tires and fuel.
THINGS TO KNOW:
-Included in the experience: airport transfer to and from the track, a loaner Cadillac while on site, 2 nights on-track luxury condo style lodging, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner and some quality Cadillac swag (jacket, hat & framed completion certificate)
-You can expect the following to be provided in the classroom: helmet, head sock, SD Card (for PDR system), drinks and snacks
-Bring sunglasses! It is bright in the Nevada desert.
-Driving shoes aren’t required, but footwear that allows for good pedal feel will make a difference.
-Be prompt: They run a tight on-schedule program.
-While it’s very tempting to stay up late and hit up the local casinos and nightclubs, doing so is sure to negatively impact your focus and performance on the track.
-The closest restaurant to the track is Pahrump Valley Winery, which is WELL worth a visit. Not inexpensive, but you are sure to have an amazing meal and enjoy some quality libations.
-While it’s easy to get caught up in the competitive spirit on the track, remember that you there to learn performance-driving skills, not race your classmates.
Finally, if Cadillacs just aren’t your thing, you might want to also check out the Corvette Programs at Spring Mountain Motor Resort & Country Club.