A History of The Cadillac V-Series

The CTS-V was just the beginning for Cadillac's performance lineup.

With the new 2016 Cadillac CTS-V debuting this week at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, we thought we'd take a look back at the history of Cadillac's V-Series performance sub-brand. So kick back, pop open a Fresca, and enjoy.


If you've got an ounce of high-octane blood in your veins, odds are good you're familiar with Cadillac's CTS-V. The 2009-2015 model was what the American car industry needed in a time of darkness: a 556 horsepower supercharged V8, a choice of six-speed stick or automatic, and a front end scary enough to shock the mane off a mule. It was stupidly fast, handled incredibly well, and plenty luxurious —all while still costing a good chunk less than the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, BMW M5, or any of the other high-powered four-doors it competed against.


The second-generation CTS-V, indeed, changed the game in the sport sedan world. But the V-Series story goes a lot deeper.


2004 Cadillac CTS-V: Start of a Dynasty




When the CTS first showed up in 2003, it was part of a sea change for Cadillac. It was small, it was rear-wheel-drive, it came with a stick shift—this at a time when Cadillac was still selling a Seville introduced before Bill Clinton's impeachment. If Cadillac had left things there, it still would have been impressive...but they didn't. 


Instead, they beefed up the suspension and chassis, slapped on hefty Brembo brakes, and dropped in the C5 Corvette Z06's 400 horsepower, 5.7 liter LS6 V8 and a Tremec T56 six-speed manual (which would go on to be replaced with the more modern 6.2 liter LS2 V8 from the C6 Corvette later on). The result? 0-60 in the high fours to low fives, a quarter-mile time in the 13s, 0.90g on the skidpad...and a whole bunch of wary German sport sedans.


2006 Cadillac STS-V: The Sleeper You Forgot About




Cadillac's first STS replaced the staid, front-wheel-drive Seville with a sportier, rear-wheel-drive four-door. The old one was aimed at the Lincoln Continental; the new one put BMW and Mercedes-Benz on notice.


And then Cadillac dropped a supercharged 4.4 liter Northstar V8 under the hood. A new six-speed automatic (at a time when five speeds were the norm). Brembo brakes. Bigger wheels and tires. Stiffened springs and anti-roll bars. Quicker steering. And tougher-looking front and rear ends.


It all added up to a full-size luxury sedan that had plenty of room for four people, but still could crack off a sub-five second 0-60 time. And at less than $75,000, it was almost a bargain.


2006 Cadillac XLR-V: Like a Corvette, But Less Fun 




The first CTS-V found performance (and success) in large part by picking, choosing and tweaking from the best bits in the Corvette parts bin and adding them to their existing models. The V-Series's second model, though, took it in the other direction—they took a Corvette and added on the best bits in Cadillac's cabinets. 


It did not work so well. 


Admittely, the XLR was a bit of a compromised proposition to begin with. It looked the tits—it was basically a Xerox of the Cadillac Evoq concept car—but beneath the skin was a C5 Corvette chassis with a few hundred pounds of luxury features moulded onto it...and a less-powerful engine than the C5. 


For V-Series duty, Cadillac plugged in a supercharged 4.4 liter Northstar V8 that pumped up the power to 443 horses, added in a six-speed automatic in lieu of the regular XLR's five-speed slushbox, and a sportier suspension setup...then hiked the price up to north of $100,000. Which was a lot, back in 2006. Hell, it's still a lot.


2009 Cadillac CTS-V: Shit Just Got Real




The first few V-Series cars were a noticeable bump over their base models, but they were evolutionary, not revolutionary. You couldn't say that about the second-gen CTS-V—not with 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque beneath that bulging hood. 


The second iteration of the CTS was already a big improvement over the first version of the car, but the 2009 CTS-V blew its predecessor—and pretty much every competing sports sedan—clean out of the water like a Bikini Atoll A-bomb test. The supercharged 6.2 liter V8 was called LSA, a close derivative of the LS9 V8 in the new Corvette ZR1—Cadillac claimed 556 horsepower, but considering the exact same motor went on to make 580 horses in the Camaro ZL1, that number was probably low. 




The second-gen CTS-V could shred tires or fire off four-second 0-60 runs in equal measure—the six-speed automatic was actually a little quicker off the line, but the stick shift was still the best choice—but thanks to its magnetorhelogical dampers, coil springs and front control arm/rear independent multi-link suspension, it could ride like a luxury car or tear up corners like a sports car. Honkin' Brembos hauled the car back to zero velocity in no time. And optional Recaro seats were available to hug you tight in the turns.


cadillac cts-v wagon


If Cadillac had simply released this car as a sedan, its place in automotive history would have still been guaranteed. But they also released it as a wedge-shaped coupe—the sexiest doorstop in history—and, more impressively, as a station wagon. If you can find a CTS-V wagon with a stick shift, take out a second mortgage and buy it. Then never part with it.


2015 Cadillac ATS-V: Hunting For Legends




Cadillac's ATS-V hasn't even hit the streets yet—it'll do so later this year—but once it arrives, expect to see a bunch of them with vanity plates like "M3KILLR." This car couldn't be any more directly aimed at BMW's M3/M4 duo if GM installed a gun sight on the instrument binnacle and painted a blue-and-white propeller on the lens.




Like the BMW M3 and M4, the ATS-V will come in a choice of coupe or sedan, manual or automatic (the Caddy gets a torque converter instead of the Bimmer's dual-clutch, but it should work just as well). Like the M3/M4, it uses a turbocharged six-cylinder; the ATS-V's 3.6 liter engine makes around 455 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. And like the M3/M4, it's rear-wheel-drive and ready to attack the track. Oh, and it looks awesome.


2016 Cadillac CTS-V: Gods Will Tremble




But the ATS-V's nothing next to the new 2016 Cadillac CTS-V. A tweaked version of the 2015 Corvette Z06's supercharged 6.2 liter V8—called LT4 here—makes a stunning 640 horsepower and 630 lb-ft, all of which is channeled to the rear tires through GM's 8L90 eight-speed automatic. (A manual is unlikely, considering how good this new transmission is—just try a 2015 Corvette for a taste of it. But we can still hope and pray.)


The 2016 CTS-V has seven heat exchangers, optional Recaro seats, an electronic limited-slip diff, a Magnetic Ride Control suspension that adjusts at 1000Hz (that's one thousand times per second, FWIW), two-piece six-piston 15.3-in Brembo brakes up front and four-piston 14.3-in Brembos in back, a Performance Traction Management system to help modulate all that power, and standard Y-rated Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires—265/35/19 up front, 295/30/19 in back.




0-60 comes in a claimed 3.7 seconds. Top speed? An even 200 miles per hour. Lateral acceleration? North of 1g.


When asked if there'll be an optional track package a la BMW's M5/M6, Cadillac said, in effect, "This car IS the track package." They then reportedly dropped the mike and left the building.

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