Cadillac: A History of Performance

April 17th, 2020 by

A closeup is shown of a gray 2020 Cadillac CT4-V grille from a Cadillac dealer near me, which is in a parking lot in Fort Worth, TX.

Cadillac is typically a name associated with good taste, luxury, and the finest offering in its niche. If that is the type of vehicle you want and you’re searching “Cadillac dealer near me,” you’re in luck. Frank Kent Cadillac in Fort Worth, TX, is here to help you find that luxury. The good taste transcends the automobile market- how often have you heard of something referred to as “the Cadillac?” for example, “The Cadillac of potato peelers.” In looking closer at that comparison, there’s more to it than just luxury. A huge component of Cadillac’s success is the performance of the vehicles it has produced since the brand’s launch in 1902.

Most people associate high horsepower and torque ratings with either heavy-duty work vehicles or high-performance speed vehicles. You might think of a work truck, pulling a livestock trailer. You might also think of a race car, ripping around the track at top speeds. But did you know that Cadillac engineered a motor so powerful, they based a racecar on it? Did you further know that this engine was available to the public as a coupe, sedan, and sports wagon? It turns out that the brand we typically associate with luxury is more than just a pretty face. Looking at some of the vehicles throughout Cadillac’s recent years is a study in the history of performance.

CTS-V.R Racecar

The CTS-V.R rolled out to the tracks in 2004, debuting at the SCCA World Challenge GT Championship. Based on the popular CTS-V coupe (more about that in a moment), expectations were all over the place. On the one hand, the first collaboration between GM Racing and the newly established GM Performance Division seems like a slam-dunk. On the other hand, how well would a Cadillac do on the speed courses?

Before retiring in 2007, the first version of the CTS-V.R won the 2005 Manufacturer Championship, The 2005 Driver Championship, a total of 12 overall wins, seven pole position starts, and made thirty-six trips to the podium. Overall, it was a definite success.

The all-aluminum, 5.7L overhead valve V8 engine was the real guiding force behind this monster. Producing over 500 hp, it topped 165 miles per hour, with a maximum RPM of 7600. This engine was the brainchild of Katech Engine Development, who had previously lent their talents to vehicles such as the Corvette C6 R GT1. In fact, the Corvette featured a Katech engine paired with a Pratt & Miller- a formula for speed that was replicated with the Cadillac


This was not, of course, Cadillac’s first trip to the track. Two Cadillacs entered the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans race- one of which was an aerodynamic prototype nicknamed “Le Monstre.” Another prototype, the LMP, zipped around tracks in 2000, powered by a 4.0L Northstar Twin Turbo V8. Furthermore, Cadillac returned to the racing scene after the CTS-V.R’s success in 2011, with two GT-series coupes. Today, a Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype is making the rounds, having swept its debut at the Rolex 24. It seems Cadillac racing is something to keep an eye on!

CTS-V Coupe, Sedan, and Sport Wagon

The CTS-V Coupe, Sedan, and Sport Wagon are a trio of vehicles with specs that might make you think you see a typo. The Coupe and Sport Wagon featured a 6.2L supercharged V8 engine that offered 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque. The Sedan featured a similar engine, which produced 640 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque.

The Sport Wagon was discontinued in 2014, the Coupe in 2015, and the Sedan in 2019, but if your family vehicle needs include a top speed of 200 mph, surely a few will turn up in the used lot at a Cadillac dealer near you.

In addition to a blazing fast engine, the Coupe included Magnetic Ride Control, which gauges the road and adjusts the suspension according to the terrain, as well as racecar-worthy Brembo brakes that feature red calipers.

The Sport Wagon also featured race-inspired Brembo brakes and dual-mode Magnetic Ride Control but is also equipped with 58 cu.ft of cargo space, making it wicked fast and super useful for hauling large loads across town.

The Sedan version was equipped not just as a town-legal racer, but as a luxury family vehicle, as well. Available with rear-wheel drive and only with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Sedan also included 19-inch wheels, an electronic limited-slip differential, and a host of elite equipment within the cabin. Drivers could enjoy automatic dual climate control, heated leather seats and steering wheel, power-adjustable memory foam seats, and a 13 speaker Bose premium sound system.

It seems the CTS-V series were designed with equal parts full comfort luxury and sheer velocity, which makes it a pleasure to drive in every way.


The XLR-V was an exotic open-air roadster that harkened back to the days when driving was a fun, all-day event, rather than a dull, ordinary commute. Everything about this two-seat beauty oozed luxury, from its sleek and sophisticated exterior styling to the interior Zingana wood accents.

The real star of the show is the power that lies under the hood. Like all Cadillacs lucky enough to wear the V performance badge of honor, the XLR-V featured a mighty engine. In this case, drivers were able to go from zero to 60mph in just 4.6 seconds, thanks to a hand-built 4.4L Northstar supercharged V8 engine. This engine produced 443 hp and 414 lb-ft of torque, pushing it into almost-track-worthy territory.

Inside, the comfort level matched the power. Not only did the hardtop retract quickly and efficiently to transform the XLR-V into a cruise-worthy convertible, but it also featured a nine-speaker Bose stereo system, OnStar assistance, Bluetooth connectivity, and heated and ventilated leather seats. Plus, there were safety features that still hadn’t yet hit the mainstream, such as adaptive cruise control and a heads-up display.

Though discontinued in 2009, the XLR-V was a vehicle ahead of its time. Though not a practical family vehicle, due to having only two seats, it might be worth the thrill of tracking one down for a test drive!

ATS-V Coupe and Sedan

The ATS-V coupe and sedan became legends in their own right due to impeccable handling, a simple yet luxuriously comfortable interior, and of course, loads of power. Though they were only produced from 2013-2019, critics and drivers alike applauded its accurate steering and balance, and overall performance.

The ATS-V was powered by a 3.6L twin-turbocharged V6 engine that boasted 464 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. Available in rear-wheel drive only, drivers had a choice between a six-speed manual transmission with rev-match downshift capabilities or an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. As a result, drivers could warp from 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds, making a trip to the grocery store much more exciting.

The ATS-V was only offered in one trim level in its final year of production, so it was created to be completely impressive. Features included Magnetic Ride Control suspension, a carbon fiber hood, Brembo brakes, parking sensors at the front and rear, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, and even a split-folding rear seat, allowing for a higher volume of cargo.

With nearly 120 years of luxury automobile production under their belt, Cadillac has produced some truly impressive engines. These are just a few examples of the mighty motors that have propelled Cadillac into the heart of performance-loving Americans in the past several years. This high level of hp, combined with certain indulgent features and interiors, makes it easy to see why the brand perseveres.

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