The third generation of Cadillac's CTS-V should put BMW and Mercedes-Benz on notice.
Cadillac, which debuted the new model at the North American International Auto Show last month, is not disclosing the price yet, but the current CTS-V goes for between $71,000 and $75,000, depending on options. The car, which is assembled at General Motors' Lansing Grand River plant in Michigan, will go on sale late next summer as a 2016 model.
Coming in the wake of the ATS-V unveiled this fall in Los Angeles, the new 640-horsepower CTS-V is credible evidence that Cadillac is serious about taking its luxury performance game to a higher level.
Powered by the same supercharged 6.2-liter V8 found in Chevy's Corvette Z06, the CTS-V represents what Cadillac insiders call their kitchen sink car: Nothing was left on the table.
"How can anyone say government regulation on fuel economy is impeding performance?" asked analyst Dave Sullivan of AutoPacific after getting a look at the car.
A little more than two years ago, when the industry signed on to the Obama administration's ambitious corporate average fuel economy standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025, more than a few industry sages were predicting the death of the performance car. The CTS-V will hold off that obituary for the foreseeable future.
Whether it will take sales away from those who have been enraptured by BMW's M5 or M6, or with the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, is an open question.
"A lot of it will come down to pricing," Sullivan said. "The CTS-V certainly looks good on paper."
With a top speed of 200 mph, a 6.2-liter V-8 that can go from 0-to-60 in 3.7 seconds and 630 pound-feet of torque, the 2016 CTS-V is more powerful and about 100 pounds lighter and nimbler than its predecessor. Aluminum cylinder heads, titanium valves, a standard carbon hood and optional carbon fiber vent, front splitter and rear spoiler are the main contributors to that improvement.
Originally introduced in 2004, the first-generation CTS-V and its successor established that Cadillac could attract the performance-obsessed enthusiast market. The third generation is more refined and should earn respect as something of a halo car for a brand that is setting a higher bar for itself.
President Johan de Nysschen, hired in September from Infiniti, wants to double Cadillac's global sales to 500,000 by 2020 and expand its product offerings from six to 12 by the end of the decade, including a new flagship sedan to be unveiled this spring in New York.
The V series of performance models is designed to compete directly with BMW's M models and Mercedes-Benz's AMG cars. They are not high-volume sellers, but they are necessary to validate a luxury automaker's engineering prowess and satisfy well-heeled customers' appetite for the fastest and most sophisticated technology available.
"Our best year was 2011 when we sold about 4,500 of the CTS-V coupe and sedan," said John Kraemer, Cadillac V series marketing manager.
The V series models are a way to attract younger customers. The average Cadillac buyer is a little over 59, according to a study released earlier this year by IHS Automotive. Kraemer said the V series buyer is about seven years younger than the brand's average customer.
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