What Were The Coolest, Weirdest, And Best Cadillac V-Series Cars Of The Past 20 Years?

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And the worst. Never forget the worst.

It's hard to believe the Cadillac V-Series performance sub-brand will soon be 20 years old. It was launched at Sebring International Raceway in March of 2004, and Cadillac plans to spend the next year commemorating its V cars right up until its big birthday in 2024. The V series opened with the CTS-V.R race car winning the 2004 SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge GT race Sebring, but it hasn't been all plain sailing. However, the relationship between Cadillac's road cars and motorsports program has produced some spectacular results that have challenged and occasionally outperformed, the benchmark of race-related road cars - those made by BMW's M division.


"Nearly 20 years ago, Cadillac made a bold move with V-Series that continues to resonate," said Global Vice President of Cadillac Rory Harvey. "From the racetrack to the road, V-Series has transformed Cadillac and helped redefine performance luxury for thousands of enthusiasts. Over the next 12 months we will celebrate V-Series with a number of significant moments."

Part of that celebration will be Cadillac's return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time in over twenty years. However, we're interested in looking back mainly at road cars. There have been 13 across four generations, and we've gone in depth before, but now is the perfect time for a recap.


First And Coolest: CTS-V and CTS-V Wagon

The CTS-V was born out of wanting to compete with BMW and Mercedes at a performance level as well as in the premium space. The V nomenclature comes as a callback to post-WWII Cadillac's V-shaped ornament under the wreath logo. The CTS-V took the CTS sedan and replaced the V6 with GM's 5.7-liter LS6 V8 engine making 400 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque. The suspension was tuned, the brakes upgraded, and it was a beast of a car.


However, perhaps the coolest and definitely the rarest of the V family is the second-generation CTS-V Sport Wagon that debuted in 2010. It featured the second-gen supercharged LSA V8 based on the C6 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1's LS9 V8. It made the same 556 hp as the sedan and coupe, used the same Magnetic Ride Control suspension and Brembo brakes, but could carry furniture home from Ikea as well as run the Nurburgring's Nordschleife track in just under eight minutes.

Alan Vanderkaay

Worst Cadillac V Car: STS-V

Many will point to the XLR-V as the worst of the V cars, but at least Cadillac's attempt at a luxury Corvette was interesting. Those people pointing at the XLR-V are forgetting how boring the STS-V really was. It was fitted with a supercharged version of Cadillac's 4.4-liter Northstar V8 making 440 hp, which was less than its German rivals. However, Cadillac only sold it with an automatic transmission, which was death to an enthusiast's car in the mid-2000s. Even BMW hadn't figured out how to make an automatic transmission compelling in manual mode in its performance cars, and they had been trying for a few years.


Most Underrated: ATS-V

The third generation CTS-V was a belter, but the ATS-V was its downsized sibling, appearing in 2016 and coming in compact form with a V6 engine. However, that V6 was twin-turbocharged, so it made 464 hp and could out-sprint BMW's M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C63. MotorTrend put all three to the test at Willow Springs Race track, and the ATS-V outperformed both in lap times. If you come across one for a good price with the Recaro front seats optioned, take a second look, as it's an awesome American car that caught the Germans off-guard.


Weirdest Decisions Made: Cadillac XLR-V

The XLR-V isn't a great car, but there's a uniqueness and history to it, and it packs a supercharged 4.4-liter V8 making 443 horsepower. The XLR was supposed to be a premium roadster take on the Corvette (it was built on the same line at the same factory as the Corvette) but lacked the handling prowess. This was a problem as, whether Cadillac wanted it to be or not, the V version was compared to the BMW M6 and the Mercedes-Benz AMG SL-Class. Inevitably, it didn't fare well and only lasted a single generation with 15,460 built. As a used car, we love it, but it's not as cheap as you might expect, with low mileage versions going for anywhere north of $65,000.


Best So Far: CT5-V Blackwing

Currently, if you have around a hundred grand to spend on a larger premium sports sedan, the obvious choice is the BMW M5, but the CT5-V Blackwing is the more interesting and maybe even more entertaining choice. The supercharged V8 pounds out 668 hp to the rear wheels, and it comes with a six-speed manual transmission (yes, we know you can option a 10-speed automatic, but no). It's a car that explodes into action and entertains at all times. It's cheaper than an M5 and dare we say it out loud? No, we don't, but we would opt for the CT5-V Blackwing. The engine and chassis are that good.

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