Early in the new century/millennium, GM’s luxury flagship division, Cadillac, celebrated its 100th anniversary; yet even with this lofty achievement, most GM faithful knew the great moniker had been in decline for some time. Apparent to the General/Cadillac as well, an upgrading of the entire Wreath-and-Crest line was seen as imperative. The idea wasn’t only to revive Cadillac’s century-old “Standard of the World” mantra with industry-leading style, power and technology, but to develop a high-performance niche division within the division to take on the world’s best at every level of automotive endeavor and “V”anquish them.
The primary targets of this unofficial declaration of vehicular war were Germany’s Teutonic trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz, and not just Stuttgart and Bavaria’s standard marks, but those donning their own letter designations like AMG, M and RS.
Now after 14 model years and a third generation of Cadillac’s V-cars unleashed, LSX Magazine takes a detailed look at what has become America’s, and one of the world’s, premiere luxury-high-performance brands. Although our name and mainstay derive from those GM machines blessed with LS/LT motors, no V-series history is complete without mention of the incredible “V”ariants equipped with alternate powerplants, so we will cover them as well.
We will also speak with two “V”-series founding fathers, the great “Maximum” Bob Lutz, who was a proponent early on and the esteemed and accomplished John “Heinrocket” Heinricy, who was invaluable in the development and testing of Cadillac’s V1/V2 weapon systems.
And, as for the bombardment of V-word alliteration, please humor your author, I couldn’t resist.
OPENING “V”OLLEY: 2004 CTS-V
For 2003, Caddy’s new rear-drive Sigma-platform CTS sedan appeared and with it, a forward-thinking design theme known as “Art & Science”. Actually started in the late ‘90s, Art & Science sought not to reinvent Cadillac, but to reinvigorate it through edgy, aggressive styling and high-tech features. This harkening to Caddy’s heyday was the first shot fired in a deliberate effort to strike back at the forces from Europe and Japan.
As for the V-series, its march to war was the culmination of planning from many influential officers in the General’s services, like then CTS/Sigma-platform Vehicle Line Exec and soon to be Caddy General Manager – Jim Taylor, Corvette/Camaro/Firebird engineer/SCCA/IMSA champion racer and soon head of High Performance Vehicle Operations (HPVO) John “Heinrocket” Heinricy, GM Performance Division founder/head Mark Reuss and Bob Lutz among others. All involved knew a high-performance version was key, not only to take on the competition and display Cadillac’s resurgence but also to draw attention to the division, attracting a younger clientele.
From the outset, it was obvious that the General/Cadillac were serious as s**t. Eager to flaunt their new Sigma platform, the CTS was ripe for super-sedan status and after a little inter-service fisticuffs, they [GM/Caddy] played an already winning hand by choosing the pushrod powerplant from the premiere edition of America’s sports car – the Z06. This Corvette connection would continue, providing the highest performance engines/drivetrains in the General’s arsenal, adding what Bob Lutz would soon coin as a definition for the “V”-designation-Velocity.
Under the experienced and enthusiastic auspices of the 140 personnel-strong HPVO unit, the CTS-V was designed as a complete package with maximum performance always the end goal. With the rules of engagement clear, all components/upgrades were added to work with and optimize the output of the LS6, creating a well-balanced machine.
The CTS-V quickly shed Caddy’s yawn-inducing reputation, accentuating its enthusiast vibe by offering the T56 six-speed exclusively for shifting duties. Teamed with off-the-line friendly 3.73 gears, this setup left piles of rubber and little doubt as to the V-weapon’s primary directive and reinforced hydroformed front/rear cradles ensured the mighty LS6 operated with minimal chassis vibrations, allowing for extreme performance while retaining the luxury moniker’s comfortable ride.
Tuned and tweaked behind enemy lines on the straights/twists of Germany’s Nurburgring, the CTS-V’s suspension was up-gunned with beefier front/rear stabilizer bars, heavy-duty front shocks, and Novimat load-leveling rear dampers. Elastomeric performance ride bushings and stiffer coils, with definitely not your dad’s spring rates, complete the potent package.
Perched behind seven-spoke 18-inch rollers wrapped by Goodyear 245/45R18 F1 run flat rubber, world-class braking in the form of mammoth four-piston Brembo calipers clenching 14+-inch ventilated rotors reside at each corner, all assisted by a four-channel/driver-select-mode StabiliTrak system with four-wheel ABS/Traction control.
A dual mass flywheel, steel strut tower brace, heavy-duty driveshaft/CV-joints, performance-tuned speed-sensitive steering, strengthened rear diff, aerodynamic front belly pan, tunable shifter, unique high-flow intake/exhaust manifolds, performance-tuned PCM, deeper sump oil pan and a unique water pump, are all part of the V’s performance weaponry.
For those with an enthusiast’s eye, more aggressive front/rear fascias with air-gulping wire-mesh front grilles, a lower stance with deeper side rockers, dual tailpipes and side and hind “V”-flag badges, delineate the CTS-V as tastefully subtle, yet supremely special.
And inside the cockpit, Cadillac luxury meets German purpose with well-bolstered leather/suede-inserted sport-style seats, a telescoping steering wheel, a “V”-tagged gauge cluster and just about every accouterment Caddy offers as standard, save an optional sun door.
Doing the math isn’t rocket science, with the 5.7L/346-cid LS6 putting out 400 hp/395 lb-ft, the 3800-pound and 54/46 weight-distributed CTS-V sprints to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and completes the quarter-mile in the low 13s at around 110 mph, on the way to a 160+-mph top speed. These stats, with the LS6 or the upcoming LS2, were neck and neck or better than the BMW M3, C55 AMG Benz and Audi S4 Quattro of the day – not too shabby, a baptism of fire.
For 2006-’07, the CTS-V was refitted with the Gen IV 6.0L/364-cid LS2 motor, standard issue from the C6 Vette. Power numbers were the same, but with the larger bore LS2 came higher 10.9:1 compression, compared to 10.5:1 (LS6), providing greater pull through the torque range. The ‘06/’07s got a stronger rear diff/half shafts and additional dealer-installed goodies were available, like crossed-drilled brake rotors, forged wheels, a lightweight carbon fiber strut tower brace/under hood appearance kit and more hardcore shocks (FG2).
However you slice it, the CTS-V hadn’t only opened eyes across two oceans, but also here at home. It showed what GM/Cadillac was really capable of and that the end product wasn’t just hype, but world class at every level. In its first tour of duty, the CTS-V had definitely brought the fight and gained valuable victories in the luxury/performance car war, but the arms race had just begun.
“V”ALIDATION: 2006-’09 XLR-V/STS-V
Reinforcing the CTS-V, the XLR-V roadster and full-size STS-V joined the fray for ’06. Based heavily on the 1999 Evoq concept, the XLR was the epitome of Art & Science, depicting razor-sharp lines indicative of a stealth fighter. The new convertible “Cadu” was fitted with an aluminum/magnesium power-retractable hardtop developed by the same weapons manufacturer used by Benz/Porsche and featured a myriad of high-technology, like heads-up display (HUD), StabiliTrak, Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Honored as the only other GM models to be built at the Bowling Green Kentucky plant, the XLR/XLR-V utilize the same hydroformed perimeter frame rails and rear transaxle architecture a la Y-platform C6 Corvette and shares it’s near 50/50 weight distribution.
The XLR was fitted with a revised version of Cadillac’s (DOHC) 4.6L Northstar V8, the first with longitudinal mounting for RWD/AWD use and featuring continuously variable valve timing (VVT). Up-gunning for the V included a smaller 4.4L bore to sturdy the block for the rush induced by a high-twist, twin-rotor, intercooled roots-type supercharger. The top-mounted blower made 12 psi and enhanced the 9.0:1-compressed Northstar V8 SC to the tune of 443 hp/414 lb-ft, making it one of the most powerful V8s of its day.
For shifting, the XLR-V uses the 6-speed 6L80 Hydra-Matic automatic with Driver Shift Control (DSC), for manual-like operation, equating to performance on par with the CTS-V, of 4.6 seconds to 60 mph, low 13s in the quarter-mile and a top speed of 155 mph.
On top of the blown V8, Nurburgring tuned suspension, big Z51 Corvette brakes, V-specific 19-inch 10-spoke wheels, V-bodywork/badging and enough leather-wrapped/kinetic aluminum trimmed, high-tech/luxury to satisfy President Trump-needless to say, if you had the XLR-V’s $100,000 MSRP, you were the man with GM’s master plan.
Completing Cadillac’s V-1 hat trick was the Seville Touring Sedan or STS-V. Sigma-platformed like the CTS, it was 6-inches longer with a 3-inch wider wheelbase, depicting a more full-size look. It’s exterior V characteristics include aggressive front/rear fascias with stainless steel mesh grilles and front intake ducts to cool the big Brembos, a more pronounced deck lid wing and the now tell-tale power-domed hood.
Equipped with basically the same non-magnetic suspension/underpinnings as the CTS-V, the STS-V shares its hand-assembled and boosted Northstar V8 (LC3) and 6-speed auto trans with the XLR-V. The big V carries a greater bomb load, however, with 469-hp/439 lb-ft, the result of better intake-flow/exhaust-routing and revised tuning. The smooth Seville also has a staggered wheel/tire package, with 18×8.5-inch Pirelli run flat-wrapped 10-spokes up front and 19×9.5s out back, ZF Servotronic II speed-sensitive steering, Performance Algorithm Shifting and every Caddy feature save for a kitchen sink.
Even with the heftiest shipping weight of the three Vs at a tad over two-tons, the STS-V’s most-powerful-Caddy-ever (at the time) status produced just about the same performance numbers as its V siblings and with insurmountable luxury.
The V1s definitely proved without a shadow of a doubt, that GM/Cadillac wasn’t just challenging Germany’s supremacy, but was looking to supplant it. Whether with Corvette power or the supercharged swan songs of the Northstar V8, the V1s had hurled Cadillac/GM back to the forefront of the world’s best and the second wave would be even better.
By 2009, the V-series was in flux, with the XLR-V/STS-V in their final run, a new more lethal CTS-V was advancing to take sole ownership of Caddy’s ultra-high-performance badge. As awesome as the V1 cars were, the V2s were a leap forward in every category. In literary terms, if the CTS-V1 was the Hobbit, then the V2s were The Lord Of The Rings and then some. Once again, a marriage of Corvette power with Cadillac design and high technology produced a machine with astounding capabilities and was accurately titled as the fastest/most powerful V8 production sedan in the world.
For this round, the supreme ‘Vette’s motor was emulated if not directly transplanted and not the C6 Z06 with its measly 505 horse naturally-huffing 427-cid mill, but the new ZR1’s ultimate weapon – the supercharged LS9. With lessons learned from the V1s and more extensive trashing and dashing on Germany’s famed “’Ring”, the second-iteration CTS-V was a fine-tuned weapon ready for battle. Formed around the upgraded Sigma II platform, it was a tad longer, wider, taller and 400 pounds heavier, but with a motor like that; the extra heft just added stability.
Although the ZR1’s LS9 was the template for the new super sedan, Cadillac’s luxury parameters required, and deserved, some refinement. Designated as the LSA, the CTS-V’s 6.2L/376-cid motor wasn’t hand-assembled or stuffed with titanium pieces like the former, but it shared the deck-honed/strengthened aluminum block and has a forged crank/ high-pressure forged powder-metal connecting rods, hypereutectic oil spray-cooled aluminum pistons and Roto-cast cylinder heads, with a blower-anticipated 9.1:1 compression ratio.
Where the ’04-’07 CTS-V1s impressed with 400-naturally-aspirated horses, an Eaton 1.9L (TVS) twin four-lobe rotor supercharger with an integrated top-mounted intercooler making 9 psi of boost pushes the CTS-V2 into supercar status with 556 hp/551 lb-ft. Encased by an attractive “V”-branded engine cover and gracefully-bowed shock tower brace, the LSA was developed for unbreakable, smooth and quiet operation at maximum output and the ability to sustain it indefinitely; mission accomplished.
To wield this forced-induced assault, Caddy provided two 6-speed trannys, the upgraded Tremec dual-disc clutch TR-6060 with a short throw shifter and stout 3.73 gears, or for those now wanting to strap-in and hold-on, the Hydra-Matic 6L90 automatic with electronically-controlled Performance Algorithm Shifting, steering wheel-mounted trigger-shifters and 3.23s. Either way, most testers had little problem duplicating Caddy’s stated performance figures of 3.9 seconds to 60 mph and low 12s in the quarter-mile, with some talented pilots even breaking into the high 11s. As for top speed, 191 mph was achieved by Car and Driver with the stick and a redline-maxed 178 mph in fifth gear with the electronic shifter; holy moly.
As integral as its forward-mounted weaponry, the V2’s underpinnings are battle-ready, with GM/Cadillac’s next-generation dual-mode (Tour/Sport) Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) dampers, revised coil springs and standard StabiliTrak system, enabling track-ready agility when summoned and the expected comfy Caddy ride during peacetime maneuvers. The V2 also employs a beefier driveshaft and rear-end diff section with a stiffer offset passenger-side half shaft, completely eliminating the power-hop issues that were present on the CTS-V1.
Braking is equally formidable, with ABS/traction-controlled, 15-inch-front/14.7-inch-rear ventilated rotors gripped by 1/2-dozen-piston front Brembo binders and four-piston units out back. Meeting terra firma, gorgeous forged aluminum open-faced 10-spoke wheels depicting a 5-“V” pattern, 19x9s in front/19×9.5s out back are wrapped in serious Michelin PS2 rubber, 255/40ZR19 fronts /285/35ZR19 rears – specifically developed for the V Caddy. Hyper silver is the standard wheel/caliper hue, with optional satin graphite or high-polished finishes with red or yellow calipers available on later models. Also optional, the Track Package includes metal-covered pedals, two-piece rotors and red Brembo calipers.
Inside precision and luxury greet lucky operators, via a trio of deep gauge pods with an integrated g-force readout, a tuxedo black center console, hand-stitched interior panels and leather/suede-inserted sport seats and just about every high-tech feature as standard. 14-way adjustable Recaro seats, microfiber-covered steering wheel/shifter and a sunroof are optional.
Exterior wise, the CTS-V2 presents an all-American muscular stance that’s as menacing as it is conservative. From its carved body lines and angry front fascia with “Terminator”-like Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL) headlamps, to the huge air-drawing jewelry-grade grilles, signature power dome hood and military-esque “V”-badges-you’ll never mistake it for a Bimmer, Benz or Audi and that’s the idea.
As for the competition from Deutschland, and without quibbling about a tenth here or a mph there, just know this, when first activated, the CTS-V2 was more powerful, faster and handled better than just about everything, BMW M5 and E63 AMG included and can still spank many of Europe’s latest and greatest machines costing tens of thousands more. You need look no further than the record-breaking May 2008 Nurburgring Nordschleife run, where John Heinricy negotiated the famed track in 7:59.32 in an automatic-equipped, pre-production ‘09 CTS-V sedan on street-spec tires with the computer doing the shifting. At the time, it was the quickest time ever for a V8 production sedan and still holds a place at the top of the list.
TRI-“V”ECTA: 2011-‘15 CTS-V COUPE/ SPORT WAGON
Following closely in the sedan’s burnt Michelins, a coupe and 5-door Sport wagon – yes that’s right – were proudly presented during the 2010 International Auto Show circuit. Slated as 2011 models and equipped with all the same weaponry as the sedan, the coupe and wagon showed how versatile V power could be.
Pushing the design envelope even further than it’s sedan sibling, the two-door is the definition of sleek and aggressive. With a 2-degree faster rake on the windshield and a sloped roofline, 3-inches shaved off the rear end and a 2-inch broader rear track with wider 10-inch rollers, (9.5-inches sedan/wagon)-it’s the most nimble V2. Also unique to the coupe are ‘Vette-like keyless-entry door handles and dual-.50 caliber tail gun exhaust tips center-mounted beneath its specific rear armor and the faux-suede-covered steering wheel/shifter are standard-issue.
Giving revived meaning to the term “haulin’ ass” and every family man’s favorite, the CTS-V Sport Wagon is the rarest and most endeared of the V-clan. Built on the same Sigma II platform as its siblings, the wagon’s specific vertical-lift-access rear clip allows for 25-cubic-ft of storage with the rear seats up and 60-ft when folded. Although weighing about 200 pounds more than the sedan/coupe, the sport wagon still rips off mid-4-second 0-60 mph launches – definitely needed for those quick trips to the supermarket.
There can be no argument, that with the CTS-V2s, Cadillac had produced three of the greatest cars ever in its long history. With supercar performance, aggressive styling and advanced technologies, the V2’s accomplished Caddy’s goal of world recognition and complete dominance over the lion’s share of rivals with all three stunning variants attainable for under $70K fully-armed.
Even with the economic downturn/bailout of 2008-’09, the dismantling of the HPVO unit and the subsequent retirements of such integral “V”-proponents as John Heinricy and Bob Lutz, the die was cast and Cadillac’s “V”-cars were here to stay. With the enemy now on their heels, Cadillac was planning a new offensive and as incredibly-astounding a bang-for-the-buck the V2s proved to be, the upcoming third-generation promised an even bigger explosion.
With the V2s still serving honorably, Cadillac was eager to top itself and unveil a successor for the 2016 MY. Built on the new Alpha platform, the CTS-V3 is GM/Cadillac’s most advanced machine ever and after turning the tide with the V1s and kicking-ass and taking names with the V2s, ultimate victory was now in sight.
Harkening the CTS-V1, the CTS-V3 harnesses atomic power from the Z06 (C7) and claims the title as the most powerful Cadillac to date. Designated the LT4, the Gen V 6.2L motor is supercharged by a 1.74L Eaton 4-lobe blower to the melodic tune of 640 hp/630 lb-ft, just shy of the Vette’s 650 hp – but let’s face it, it’s the same engine. Feeding the 640-horse-strong cavalry, the CTS-V3’s LT4 employs a trio of high-tech acronyms like, (DI) Direct-Injection, (VVT) Variable Valve Timing and (AFM) Active Fuel Management, matching its incredible power with the highest efficiency.
Even the exhaust note is tuned via electronic valves that open and shut per driver select mode, with Tour/Snow/Ice modes featuring a more sedate tone compared to Sport/Track’s primal war cry.
Deeming it wise to have both hands on the steering wheel at all times, the standard and only transmission available is the 8L90 8-speed automatic with g-force-induced Performance Algorithm Shifting and F1-style tap paddles for more even more control.
Excelling and graduating from Nurburgring Academy like all V-alumni, the V3s lightweight and 25 percent stiffer chassis and 40 times faster damping response third-generation Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) shocks give the big V sports car-nimble handling characteristics while retaining Caddy’s signature smooth ride.
Additional driver-control technology is part of the V3’s standard four-mode (Tour, Snow/Ice, Sport, Track) Performance Traction Management system and integrated launch control, allowing for race-ready consistency off the line and track-proven maneuverability.
Stopping all this “V”-performance, the CTS-V3 retains massive Brembo six-piston front/four-piston rear binders but gets larger 15.4-inch front rotors, all-coated by an exclusive Ferritic Nitro-Carburizing process that ensures corrosion-free braking surfaces for just about forever. New 10-spoke V-forged 19-inch wheels (available in three finishes) are wrapped in extra-wide Michelin Pilot Super Sport tri-compound rubber, 265/35R19s in front and 295/30R19s out back.
With deceiving dimensions, the CTS-V3 is 6-inches longer than the V2 sedan and a tad shorter from the roofline to the street with an inch wider wheelbase yet weighs 105 pounds less at 4,145 and is a pinch narrower.
At the forefront of the CTS-V3’s dominating performance is its aggressive design. With the entire front of the car sculpted for maximum airflow, every vent and edge has a purpose. Starting with larger and wider signature mesh grilles, sporting the new wreathless crest emblem and flanked by gaping air ducts to flush the brakes and engine bay with rushing air, a standard carbon fiber hood with a functional triple-slat air extractor not only saves weight but further cools the blown LT4 and reduces underhood lift at V-speeds. Further enhancing the V3’s stealthy wind-cheating shape, a front aero splitter slices through the wind, forcing the V-car’s nose to stay planted, while the rear spoiler and diffuser work in unison, providing confidence-inducing downforce and increased aerodynamic stability.
Adding to the V3’s already impressive armament, the optional Carbon Fiber Package applies the exposed weave race-bred material to the front splitter, hood extractor and rear diffuser, coupled with a taller rear spoiler for even more enhanced form and function.
Keeping cool under the stresses of battle, multiple heat exchangers, a large-capacity radiator, and coolers for every fluid including the electronic Limited-Slip-Differential (eLSD) ensure endurance race-level competency on the road and track.
And as per usual, the CTS-V3’s cockpit is lavished with Caddy’s finest high-tech fare including, Bluetooth/Navi, heated/ventilated 20-way adjustable Leather performance seats with signature microfiber suede inserts, carbon fiber trim accents and standard heads-up display (HUD). Recaro seats, a Z06-sourced Performance Data Recorder, suede-wrapped steering wheel and a sunroof are available options.
With performance figures of 3.7 seconds to 60 mph, 11.7 in the quarter-mile and a top speed of – wait for it – 200-mph, the CTS-V3 isn’t just more dominant than it’s predecessors in claiming its deserved place on the short list of the most powerful production cars ever produced; it is the much-anticipated war winner Cadillac had envisioned 14 years ago.
“V”ALOR: SPECIAL EDITIONS
More than proud of its V3 flagships, two limited edition variants are available. The Glacier Metallic Edition CTS-V-celebrates Caddy’s 115th Birthday with exclusive exterior paint by the same name and all-in options including the carbon fiber/luxury packages, Recaros, Data Recorder, sunroof and red Brembos teamed with silver-pocketed/polished 19-inch wheels. Only 115 will be made.
And the recently announced Championship Edition – for both the CTS-V/ATS-V –coupe/sedan, commemorating Cadillac’s 2017 IMSA Daytona Prototype International (DPi) driver, team, manufacturer and overall endurance championship. Available in Black Raven or Crystal White exterior hues, highlights include a specific black chrome grille, DPi Racing graphics, red-capped side mirrors, the carbon fiber package, 19-inch V-wheels with midnight pockets/red Brembos, (18-inchers on ATS-V) Recaros with Morello Red stitching/accents and a standard Performance Data Recorder, rear camera, Caddy user experience (CUE) a sunroof and more.
Prior to the DPi-V.R’s 2017 endurance championship, the 2004-’07 V1 sedan, 2011-’14 V2 coupe and 2015-’17 ATS-V.R, all running in GT/GT3 class in the Pirelli World Challenge Sprint-format, amassed 25 poles, 121 podium finishes and 33 race wins, including five manufacturers and six drivers championships for Caddy’s V-series racers.
“V”IBRANT THINGS: 2016 ATS-V SEDAN/COUPE
The smaller of GM’s Alpha dogs, the ATS-V is the most unique V machine to date. It’s the first V-series variant not powered by a naturally-breathing or blown V8, but rather a dual hairdryer boosted V6.
With a starting MSRP of around $62K, the ATS-V sports much the same weaponry as its larger Alpha brother, like it’s stiffened/lightweight chassis, carbon fiber hood, an available 8-speed automatic, standard MRC shocks, Brembos, Performance Traction Management, a functional rear spoiler, multiple coolers, hood slats, front splitter, etc, etc, but the (LF4) 3.6L Twin-Turbocharged V6 really sets it apart. Mated to the standard Tremec 6-speed stick with no-lift shifting and Active Rev-Matching, the ATS-V is a sniper rifle as compared to the heavy artillery CTS-V. According to chief engineer Tony Roma, who was interviewed quite extensively leading up to the ATS-V’s launch, although a V8 would have fit just fine, the twin-turbo LF4 was meant to differentiate the ATS-V from the CTS-V in both character and pricing. While the CTS-V3’s primary objective was to engage the larger Benz E AMGs and BMW M5, the ATS-V was built to take on long-standing arch nemesis-BMW M3/M4, that presently, as in the past (E36/E46), are powered by an “M”assaged straight-six-now twin-turbocharged as well (F80).
That said, the ATS-V’s performance numbers are superior to BMW’s potent panzer despite being about 300 pounds heavier. With 464 hp/445 lb-ft, the coupe/sedan soars to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, achieves the quarter-mile in the low 12s and tops out at an amazing 189 mph. Let’s not forget that the ATS is only five model years old and yet the young “V” has bested it’s 30-year-old rival on the road and track and in the wallet as well.
“V”ISIONARY: INTERVIEW WITH BOB LUTZ
Bob Lutz: “Well at first it wasn’t happening forever, the discussion focused on Caddy wanting to use a DOHC turbocharged or supercharged V6, giving it some European flair and they wanted the 400-hp number, but that technology was still a ways down the line. We said let’s use the pushrod LS6 V8 from the ZO6 – who cares how you get 400-horses?”
LSX: What about the significance of High-Performance Vehicle Operations?
BL: “It was all about them as far as development goes, along with input from Mark Reuss at GM Performance Division.”
LSX: Did your tenure at BMW influence the goals set for the V-series Caddy’s?
BL: “Yes, we (GM Performance/HPVO) knew that we needed to equal or surpass the performance of BMW’s M cars and the Mercedes AMGs to get the support of the automotive press and those were the cars to beat.”
LSX: Was the CTS-V slated to be the V-flagship in a conscious effort to return Cadillac to the top of the high-end luxury-performance car market?
BL: “It was, the V1/V2s were set up to be nicer than the M5 or AMG E63 and HPVO felt we could provide better performance at a lower cost.”
LSX: What about the Corvette connection?
BL: “GM/Caddy originally said ‘we can’t use a Chevy engine’ and Chevrolet felt it was wrong, but soon after Mark Reuss and I agreed and they saw you could equal the output of the M5 and AMG Mercedes, they realized there were no negatives and the results weren’t too shabby either.”
LSX: In reference to the STS-V/XLR-V, the latter of which was built on the C6 Corvette chassis at the Bowling Green Kentucky facility, was there a thought to fit either car with the LS2 at the time – why did they go with the supercharged Northstar for those Vs?
BL: “At the time, it was believed that the top Cadillacs (XLR/STS) should have the premium four-cam Northstar engine and besides, that’s what was already in there, all that had to be added was supercharging. A supercharged small-block would have made for a better car though.”
LSX: Finally and not to put to fine a point on it, but what does the “V” stand for?
BL: “They hired people for this and did research and such. We, of course, wanted to stay away from M, A, G, R or S and felt that “V” was a unique and elegant letter. There’s definitely a credible claim to say that it stands for velocity, with the later models being described as visceral.”
LSX Magazine: Hello Mr. Heinricy and thank you in advance for your input. When did you begin work on the V-series and what was the goal for Cadillac?
John Heinricy: “It was around 2000 when we started thinking about it. Jim Taylor-CTS/Sigma-Platform Vehicle Line Executive at the time was very excited about the CTS. He came to me and said ‘for the CTS to be really credible, we need a high-performance version, one that can make 400 hp and take on the M BMWs and Mercedes AMGs.’ So even before I was head of HPVO, I started to pick engineering and thermal experts for the project, but during the initial brainstorming process, we were thinking of going out of house, using an outside firm, like what ASC/SLP had done with the F-bodies and the GNX/’89 Turbo TA, where the engine/drivetrain would be GM/Cadillac, while the firm would handle packaging/assembly etc. We spent six months on this and also wanted to use a turbo V6, but couldn’t make the 400-hp number, or the DOHC Northstar with which we had serious fitment issues.”
LSX: What parameters/specs did you personally insist on and when was the ultimate decision finally made to go with Corvette power?
JH: “Once HPVO was given the job, I knew we had to get this car done quickly and I knew for this to work, we had to focus on the powertrain, the soul of the car, the secret sauce, so to speak. We already had the LS6 making the desired 400 hp, so it came down to a kind of “come to Jesus” meeting with Caddy, HPVO and GM Powertrain. I informed everyone at the meeting that a CTS powered by the LS6 would easily out-perform the Camaro SS of the day – definitely the wrong thing to say with Caddy there, but they all eventually got it and were on board.”
LSX: As we asked Mr. Lutz, why not fit the XLR-V/STS-V with an LS engine?
JH: “Those cars were looked at as being more gentleman’s hot rods, so they didn’t need the LS. And not that it was easy to adapt the DOHC motor for supercharging, but Caddy wanted to stay with the higher-tech Northstar.”
LSX: Pertaining to the CTS-V2s, why was the LSA developed instead of just installing the LS9?
JH: “Cadillac wanted to offer an automatic transmission on the V2s to broaden the CTS-V’s appeal. The ZR1 never had an auto trans and there really wasn’t one that could handle the 650 hp range of the LS9, so the LSA was developed.”
LSX: Is there anything you would have done differently or changed on the V1s/V2s?
JH: “Well, the long-standing bur in my saddle on the first CTS-V was the power-hop problem that we had as a result of the driveline and suspension design and the shifter that we adapted from the CTS wasn’t really up to the task.”
LSX: What do you feel are the greatest achievements of the V-series Cadillac’s?
JH: “I always looked at it this way: that GM is like the big battleship, with its big guns and so-on, while the HPVO unit was like the Navy Seals, a special forces team to carry out special operations and that’s what we did. I’m really proud of the technical accomplishments we made while working on the Vs. After the great start the V1s had, we improved everything for the V2s, like better Magnetic Ride Control, and really what I consider the best part, vastly improved steering. We also went back and forth for a while, finally developing a new half-shaft design that eliminated the wheel hop problem, this stiffer short-side design can be found on many other GM cars as well. Overall, I’m most proud of the V2s, their improved MRC really complimented the chassis and that level of horsepower, providing a great balance of ride and performance. And our achievements can really be seen throughout GM, since after the 2009 break up of HPVO, most of the team members were spread into other departments, this benefited all the divisions and their vehicles.”
LSX: One last thing, what’s your favorite “V”?
JH: “You’ve probably heard this before, but the V2 Wagons are great, I really like those.”
Although not a war of blood and land in the conventional sense, the V-series fight for supremacy was a war none-the-less. And even with the end of hostilities now 73 years post, the parallels between America’s struggle in WWII and Cadillac’s efforts to reclaim its dominance cannot be overlooked. Once again, the Germans were the foe, not on the battlefield, but on the roads and tracks of the world where their long revered and superior machines ruled with refined might, and once again America, GM/Cadillac mobilized their best and brightest for the conflict.
Conceived and developed by a great cadre of GM/Caddy officers and specialists, (GM Performance Division/HPVO), the V-series became the ultimate weapons and utilizing the General’s most potent engines with ever-increasing firepower, like the V1’s LS6/LS2 and supercharged DOHC Northstar SC, the V2’s LSA and the V3’s LT4 and new LF4 twin-turbo V6, the long-entrenched enemy reeled from the ceaseless onslaught and began to retreat.
Against a constantly strengthened opposing arsenal, nothing was left to chance, as great technologies were brought to bear and the V cars were exhaustively improved and fitted with the most advanced systems available; like Magnetic Ride Control (MRC), Stabili Trak stability control, Performance Traction Management, speed-sensitive steering and Performance Algorithm Shifting. Super-strong, weight-saving materials with race-derived components like specifically developed tires, brakes, cooling and aero applications all added a level of lethality, shocking and awing the enemy and leaving little doubt as to the final outcome.
After 14 years of hard fighting and three generations of V-weaponry, Cadillac has reclaimed its Standard Of The World status and is no longer absent form the conversation of best luxury performance cars in the world, but is now the main subject of the discussion. With that, and in the proud opinion of this author, we must not take anything for granted and should be grateful to GM/Cadillac for their efforts and sacrifice. History will record both accurately and deservedly that in the great car conflagration known as World War-“V”, Cadillac and it’s V-series machines were “V”ictorious.