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2005 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/8/2005)

There was a time, not all that long ago, when skeptics were ready to write off General Motors’ flagship division. After all, Cadillac sales had been on a steady, decade-long decline, as European and Asian imports steadily took control of the luxury market.

Then came Caddy’s CTS. With its hard-edged design and a chassis that just begs to be driven, the sedan shifted the equation, sending Cadillac sales soaring. The 2005 STS sedan showed that the luxury brand’s comeback wasn’t a one-shot wonder. And the launch of the upcoming STS-v is meant to prove that Caddy has not only real staying power, but world-class potential.

This is the second offering in the brand-within-a-brand known as the V-series. That’s V as in “velocity,” according to GM’s car czar, Bob Lutz. The first entry was the CTS-v, a 400-horsepower version of that mid-size sedan boasting a modified Corvette V-8 under its hood.

A different path to power

2006 Cadillac STS-v

2006 Cadillac STS-v

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The new STS-v goes a different route, drawing its power from an upgraded, supercharged version of Caddy’s time-tested Northstar engine.

GM engineers did more than just bolt on a blower. According to Tom Stephens, head of the company’s powertrain operations, “We redesigned over half the engine.” The modified Northstar features piston oil cooling, four-cam variable timing, and significant intake and exhaust enhancements.

The payoff is significant. The normally-aspirated version of the V-8 makes a reasonably solid 320 horsepower. The fire-breather under the hood of the STS-v snorts out 440 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. That makes it one of the most powerful engines, relative to displacement, on the road.

It’s enough to launch the big sedan from 0-60 in less than five seconds and easily approach a top speed of 165 mph, Cadillac claims, adding proudly that prototypes were logging lap times on the legendary German Nuerburgring race track to match comparable German offerings.

The powertrain is mated to a new six-speed, high-torque automatic transmission.

Of course, the imports are more than just muscle cars, and Caddy general manager Jim Taylor is quick to acknowledge, “Performance can’t come at the expense of everyday driving pleasure or comfort.”

Along with the added power, Caddy has attempted to make significant improvement in the handling of the STS-v, along with a number of design upgrades.

The goal was to make the new sedan’s styling express both elegance and performance, explains Cadillac chief designer Kip Wasenko. That starts with a taller, wider and more aggressive version of the base car’s grille done, on the V, in chrome mesh. The front fascia has been modified to provide better breathing and cooling for both the engine and the STS-v’s bigger, Brembo brakes. There’s also a new front splitter for improved downforce. The hood literally ripples, a centerline crease crafted to cover the supercharger.

Front 18-inch wheels are complemented with larger 19-inch rubber in the rear.

The back end features a new spoiler for enhanced downforce.

The base STS took a little heat for softening the knife-sharp lines of the CTS. The STS-v is more aggressive and in keeping with Cadillac’s new “Art and Science” design theme. “This is the one I was saving the edge for,” insists Wasenko.

The enhancements extend inside, starting with the striking V-Series sill plates. The new car is GM’s first with a leather-wrapped center console. The car uses distinctive olive burl wood, contrasted by what Wasenko dubs “kinetic metal” accents.

With the launch of the STS-v next autumn, Taylor is betting Cadillac will begin appealing to “a whole new customer group for us.” Whether the brand can really win over buyers who’d otherwise opt for a Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG or BMW M5 remains to be seen, though Taylor admits Caddy still doesn’t have the bona fides to match the price of its German competitors. That means it’s likely to come in with a significant price advantage.

But the STS-v, nonetheless aims to enhance the U.S. automaker’s image and show that it really can keep up with the best the luxury segment has to offer.

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