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What happens when you cross a Corvette with a Cadillac? The answer will be revealed at the New York Auto Show this week when General Motors’ flagship division lifts the covers off its eagerly awaited CTSv sedan.
2005 Cadillac CTSvThat’s “V,” as in “velocity,” explains
GM “car czar” Bob Lutz. But if all goes according to plan, it could also prove
the first step towards victory in Caddy’s effort to revive itself after several
decades of decline.
2005 Cadillac CTSvEnlarge Photo
With a 400-horsepower version of the Vette’s LS6 V-8 under the hood, the CTSv is a critical piece in Caddy’s four-step turnaround, explains the division’s general manager, Mark LaNeve.
“We’re still carrying excess baggage,” he says, referring to “that image of a Cadillac as a floaty boat.” With the debut of the CTSv, LaNeve says confidently, “We will re-establish our history of (providing) explosive power.”
Power alone isn’t enough, of course. Virtually every automaker seems to be rolling out a car with big numbers. What Cadillac has desperately needed, analysts suggest, is a performance car that doest everything well.
To see what that means, just take a look at the likes of the BMW M series or Mercedes-Benz’s AMG lineup. These vehicles are certainly fast off the line, but even the biggest sedans can maneuver tight corners like a sports car. And they deliver the levels of refinement that have, until now, been missing from domestic luxury vehicles.
“We think the ‘V’ is essential, not optional,” declares CTSv platform chief Jim Taylor. “It is a must” if Cadillac expects to be taken seriously by those who’d otherwise opt for one of the luxury imports.
The CTSv is just the first in what will likely be an extensive “brand-within-a-brand,” and eventually, there’s likely to be a V-badged version of just about everything in the Cadillac lineup, sources tell TheCarConnection.
The CTS is the obvious place to begin – not just because it’s the automaker’s newest passenger car, but because it may be one of its best ever, at least in term of on-road manners. The sedan is extraordinarily stiff and hugs the highway as if, to retread an overworked cliché, it were on rails.
To get the “V” designation, Caddy engineers have stiffened it up even more, tweaking the suspension and adding a cross-brace under the hood. It’s more than cosmetic. There’s a lot of power to manage here. The LS6 puts out 400 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.
2005 Cadillac CTSvThe CTS really wasn’t designed for an
engine that big, so there’ve been a variety of changes made to both the sedan
and the small-block V-8 in order to marry them up. The LS6’s accessory drive had
to be relocated, as did the engine’s exhaust manifold and oil pan. Even the
dipstick was modified.
2005 Cadillac CTSvEnlarge Photo
Many of the changes were meant to improve ride and handling. A dual mass flywheel helps eliminate gear rattle, especially in idle. A new shifter is claimed to improve shift feel and to reduce the noise and vibration that might otherwise have been passed through.
To handle the added torque, Caddy engineers switched to a larger prop shaft and added supports to the rear suspension. Even the rear axle has been replaced.
And, of course, there’s a lot more brakes. Brembos, it seems, have become the price of entry in the high-power segment, even the new “performance” Volvo signing onto the Italian supplier’s list of customers.
A critical goal of Cadillac’s development team was to put the pieces together seamlessly. They didn’t want to follow the route taken by many prior niche spin-offs, handing assembly over to an outside tuner. In production, CTSv will roll down the same Lansing, Mich., assembly line as the base CTS.
When that sedan was introduced, little more than a year ago, it ushered in Cadillac’s edgy new Art & Science design theme, one of the few times Caddy had gone out on a styling limb since the days of big fins. At first blush, the “V” version maintains the knife-sharp CTS lines, but there’ve been some subtle, yet significant alterations made. “Appearance, as well (as performance), had to fit into the club,” stresses chief designer Kip Wasenko.
The CTSv gets a large air intake under the front bumper. Indeed, the entire front fascia is unique, with a functional air splitter and ducts to channel cooling air to those Brembo brakes. New rocker panels enhance the performance look, as do the stylish sill plates that pop into view when you open the doors.
A special V-badge will adorn the front quarter panels, while in back, the oversized license plate insert is now body color-coded, a much-needed change, several insiders concede.
Lifting a cue from the competition, CTSv gets a wire mesh grille – visual shorthand, it seems, for performance these days.
To plant all that power on the road, the car will be shod with low-profile, 18-inch tires, an all-new breed of Goodyear Eagle Run Flats carrying a supercar rating. They will be dedicated summer tires, rather than compromised all-season rubber. The CTSv gets an all-new and unique seven-spoke alloy wheel, by the way.
Interior changes are modest, centering around the all new, white-on-black gauge cluster. There are two new driver information centers where, with the touch of a button, you can learn such things as how many Gs you achieved during the last hard corner.
And bottom line, this car is all about performance. Weighing in at an estimated 3850 pounds, or roughly 270 pounds over the current V-6, the power-to-weight ratio is enormous. Look for a top speed “safely over” 155 mph, and 0-60 times of “less than” five seconds, Cadillac officials promise.
A variety of details have yet to be finalized, including the model-year designation the car will carry. According to Taylor, the “intent” is to validate the CTSv as a 2005 model, though the first cars may come out as 2004s. Whatever the number, look for production to begin around Thanksgiving, with the formal launch campaign set to kick off with the Super Bowl next January.
How many does Caddy intend to produce? Company officials admit they’re not quite sure of that one, either, and will probably have to flex with market demand, at least initially. But there’s no question that the demand for this type of product has been rising rapidly in recent years. If Caddy pulls it off, Taylor believes the marque should be able to move “a few thousand,” at the very least, each year.
“The volume’s going to be there,” predicts Jim Hall, a consultant with California-based AutoPacific, Inc., if for nothing else than pent-up demand for an American car like this. Hall says he’s reasonably impressed with what Cadillac has accomplished. The real question, he quickly adds, is what will the GM division do next?
“They have to show they can come back” with more of the same, Hall stresses, and not just pull off a one-shot wonder.