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Cadillac, You’ve come a long way, Baby!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 5:53 pm

If you’ve been to any of the major car shows these last few years you might just wonder “What the heck is going on at Cadillac"? Even their TV commercials are aggressive and feature Led Zepplin tunes. I mean, Cadillac is an old man’s car, right?.

Well, times do change, and so has Cadillac. At the 1999 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Cadillac introduced the Evoc show car and in 2002 the Cien supercar concept to a stunned automotive press. British designer Simon Cox, inspired by the F-117 Stealth Fighter, penned the Cien to embody the new Art & Science design language of Cadillac. A 750 hp 7.5-liter mid-engined Northstar XV12 gave the look some real grunt.

Cadillac Cien
Cien Show Car - LA Auto Show 2003 - photo: ABDesign

The Evoc foreshadowed the XLR production vehicle, which has been on the streets for a year. XLR, a production sibling of the C6 Corvette, shares the hydroformed frame of the new Vette along with its aluminum honeycomb composite floors, touch to open door latches, and magnetic shock absorber systems, all which debuted on the Caddy.

Cadillac Cien
XLR Production Model - LA Auto Show 2005 - photo: ABDesign

Now Cadillac has launched its “V” series of production performance vehicles. Beginning with the CTS-V, the STS-V will join the fray this fall followed by the XLR-V. Cadillac V-series is much the same as AMG is to Mercedes or “M” is to BMW. “V"-Series models were created for Cadillac to showcase its performance models and parts. The CTS-V was given the LS-6 Vette engine that delivers 400 horsepower and a tire-spinning 395 pound-feet of torque! The new STS-V will feature a supercharged Northstar V8 with 440 hp and 430 lb/ft of torque and a 0-60 time of less than 5 sec. Truly world class performance numbers.

Cadillac Cien
STS-V Performance Model - LA Auto Show 2005 - photo: ABDesign

Acceleration is cool you say, but what about handling? That’s the most important development at Cadillac, as far as I am concerned. Since the development of the Sigma platform from which the CTS was the first production model, each Cadillac, the CTS, XRS, XLR and the STS have all had their final ride and handling packages evaluated and perfected at Germany’s Nürburgring. Road & Track Magazine weighs in thusly:

The importance of Germany’s Nürburgring in Cadillac’s renaissance cannot be overstated. It is the one place where all the major manufacturers test, where the stopwatch separates the poseurs from the real deal.

Jim Taylor, who was the vehicle line executive involved in the Sigma platform before becoming Cadillac’s current general manager, used his experience and connections at Opel to test the original CTS at the Ring. To him, testing at the track is the critical element that differentiates the merely good from the truly great.

“You look at the hardware kings, which are the Germans. How do they get there differently?” Taylor says. “They may have some actual parts that are different, but you can buy that stuff. The real difference lies in the black magic in developing a car, finalizing its handling in a truly demanding test environment.” The 14-plus miles and more than 175 turns of the Nürburgring is that environment.

“Any glitches or shortcomings of the car in handling, cooling or brake feeling come to the fore very quickly and by quite a large margin at the Nürburgring,” says John Heinricy, GM’s director of high-performance vehicle operations. “If you make a car competent here, there’s no place it can’t handle.”

Indeed, the powers that be at GM were so taken with the development potential of the Nürburgring that they created the Milford Road Course, which incorporates part of the “Ring” into its 20 turn handling loop design and can be configured in a multiple of ways. With an elevation change of over 100 feet, initial development can be done at the MRC, with final evaluation and “street cred” runs done at the actual Nürburgring itself. In R&T Jim Taylor continues:

There are certain elements of sustained high-speed running at that track we can’t replicate here. And also, there is an element of being in the performance club…it’s not just how quickly you can go around a turn, it’s the lap time around the whole Ring. Doing it in 8 to 8 1/2 minutes puts you into the club.”

So if anyone is actually wondering, this is why Cadillac is featuring a performance theme in its advertising, and why the 0-60 acceleration time of a new Cadillac is important. They really do want to be “The Standard of the World” again. They are not there yet, but are certainly on the right track! If you are a real, concerned American and are shopping for a beautifully designed performance vehicle, you owe it to yourself and to your country to consider a Cadillac. It sure feels good to be able to say that again! (db)

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