Cadillac was built on big engines – from the V-16s of the art deco era to the big V-8s of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. But within a year, for the first time in living memory, Cadillac will no longer have a regular passenger car in its lineup with a V-8 under the hood.
Technically, there will still be two V-8 powered Cadillacs left: The CTS-V and, of course, the Escalade. But the CTS-V is a low-production ultra-performance exotic and the Escalade is a big truck. Both are powered by Chevy-sourced V-8s, too.
These models aside, after this year’s final roundup a few weeks from now, Cadillac will, for all practical purposes, be out of the V-8 bidness.
Today’s Cadillacs all use “GM corporate” engines – including the 3.6 liter V-6 that will power the ’13 XTS. This engine is also found in everything from Chevy Camaros to Buick Enclaves. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. But the reality is that Cadillac’s transition to corporate is now complete. It was the last of GM’s divisions to retain its own, brand-specific engines. And it was the last GM division to sell V-8 powered big sedans.
It’s a fork in the road.
Lincoln – Cadillac’s main domestic rival – is going down the same path. After 2011, the iconic Town Car will be retired away, accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth among limo drivers. And people who just like big, plush, safe, six-passenger rollers.
The Town Car’s passing means there will no longer be a single king-sized, V-8 powered rear-wheel-drive car left on the market that’s not also a $60,000 and up car. Scratch that. A $100k and up car. To get size-equivalent, you’d have to step up to something along the lines of a BMW 750Li or Lexus LS600h L – and these cars start around $106,000.
A relative cheapie like the Benz S-Class V-8 starts around $94k.
Base price for the ’11 Town car is an almost Blue Lite Special $47,225. A loaded extended wheelbase signature L is just $52,895.The DTS is a deal, too. Only $46,680 to start.
An STS lists for $47,280.
And very soon, they’ll all be gone.
A fixture of the once-rising middle class – a big sedan with a big V-8 in the garage – will be a piece of history, just like the single-earner household.
But don’t blame the car companies. GM and Ford (Lincoln) are ditching V-8s in moderately priced, mass-produced cars for the simple reason that V-8s aren’t going to make the cut, CAFE-wise. “CAFE” being the government’s fuel-efficiency mandates. Notice that all the future big Kahunas – top of the line models like the pending Cadillac XTS and the current Lexus LS600h – feature (or offer) some sort of gas-electric powertrain. It’s not economic to do this, of course. But people who buy six-figure cars aren’t going to sweat that. But car companies have to sweat CAFE rules that severely penalize them for building cars that – soon – don’t average at least 35 MPG. Big V-8s can’t do that, but V-6s/hybrid combos can.
Or at least, they can get close.
The ’12 Lexus LS600h, for example, manages 19 city, 23 highway. The current DTS is a 15 MPG’er. The Signature L Town Car’s about the same. It seems like a small difference – and it is. But we’re talking economies of scale here and while it’s one thing (CAFE-wise) to produce a relative handful of six-figure hybrid V-6 powered uber-luxury sedans that average about 20 MPG, it is quite another to mass-produce $40,000 V-8s that do worse than that, even if only by a few MPGs. Because it adds up. CAFE penalizes fleet averages – and the more “gas hogs” a manufacturer builds, the greater the CAFE penalties – all of which, of course, get passed on to the purchaser. This still occurs with the six-figure cars, but the six-figure buyers can absorb it The $45k Town Car and DTS buyers can’t.
And that’s why V-8s are being given the heave-ho. It’s not because the market doesn’t want them. Its because the government has de facto outlawed them.
Too bad no one asked us about it.
Throw it in the Woods?