In the late '70s, the United States was in a national funk, in part because of escalating gas prices, a stagnant economy, and a crisis of confidence about America's role in the world. It was time for a bold statement from one of the country's greatest brands, so Cadillac went to work. Unfortunately, in 1981 it delivered the Cimarron, a Cavalier in Caddy's clothing that would go on to become Car Talk's eighth Worst Car of the Millennium. Well, the times they have a-changed.

The 2004 CTS-V is Cadillac's hot-rod version of the 2002 sedan, but this version has staggering power -- the better for laying scorch marks across U.S. interstates while leaving its European comrades to swallow dust.

Sticker price: $49,995; $51,000 with the sunroof, the sole option.

Available: Now.

Vital stats: The CTS-V has a 5.7-liter, 400-hp V-8 (which originated in the Corvette Z06 fleet), a six-speed manual transmission, and a 180-mph speedometer. GM claims it goes 0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds.

Nice touches: 18-inch wheels; leather and suede interior plus aluminum trim on the steering wheel; DVD navigation system; XM satellite radio and a six-CD changer; and a push-button stability control system that lets you decide how much you want to let it all hang out this summer.

Drawbacks: If you can't drive stick, learn.

What you think it says about you: "Who needs the BMW M Series or a Mercedes AMG? I have taste, style, unbridled power, and apple pie."

What it really says about you: "I've taken out a third mortgage to cover my speeding tickets."

Second opinion: "This is not a cosmetic image car, but rather a true BMW basher," says Trisha Hessinger, host of Car Care & Repair on the DIY Network. "Performance in every sense of the word."