Auto makers covet few things more than brand identity. Highly elusive but desperately fundamental, a strong brand identity creates tremendous value in the eyes of the consumer.

Executed consistently through design, engineering, manufacturing and advertising, a strong brand identity moves a vehicle from a collection of leather, cloth and steel to an object of desire.

The Cadillac CTS-V wins special recognition for “Best Brand Expression” in the 2009 Interior of the Year competition for successfully aligning the stars.

The wickedly fast sedan builds on the elegance of the tamer '08 CTS by combining heritage cues with upscale, racing-oriented materials for Cadillac's ultimate blend of luxury and performance.

Ward's editors gush over the Recaro performance seats and matching suede-like microfiber covering the steering wheel and shifter. Along with carbon-fiber accents, the combination is nothing short of stunning.

It would be inaccurate, however, to call the car perfect.

An array of buttons on the center stack for navigation, entertainment and climate control require some familiarity, and the accessories load may have led to a dead battery during testing. Plus, a flimsy second-row ash tray appears out of place in a $69,000 vehicle.

Yet in the end, the sum of its parts takes the prize. From the air vents that hint at the car's stacked taillamps to the tiny “V” chevrons in the seats, the car is unmistakably Cadillac.

Most of all, this Cadillac is comfortable in its own skin. Its interior ranks right alongside the best “M” and “S” executions from BMW and Audi, but it doesn't stumble by pretending to be anything more than uniquely American.

And that might be its greatest quality of all.