On the day of Cadillac’s media launch for the all-new ATS-V in Texas, Car and Driver reported that from the looks of things America might see an even more insane version of the car in the near future. According to the report, brand executives announced that “Cadillac is looking at high-performance derivatives beyond its current portfolio” hinting that the 464 horsepower ATS-V and the 640 horsepower CTS-V might not cut the mustard for some drivers when it is time to put the hammer down.
For decades, Cadillac was not considered a powerhouse in the GM line-up, but more as the branch that opted to build large, comfortable cars with uninhibited luxury. In recent years, Cadillac has chosen to stray from the stodgy stereotype that its vehicles are merely designed for people wanting a posh interior and plenty of head room. The launching of a performance line marked a divergence, ushering in a generation of luxury sports cars that came equipped with big brake kits, racing suspension, and aggressive aero. This latest news hints at an even more extreme approach, as Cadillac plans to target Mercedes Benz’s AMG Black Series.
Chief engineer Dave Leone talked with reporters during the launch about the company’s increased interest in a performance line of models, and explained that the dual-clutch box was not an option on the latest ATS-V as it would have been significantly heavier and would not have yielded quicker shifts. An all-wheel-drive system was also eliminated from the equation, for it would have added around 200 pounds to the nose of the car, and would eliminate the tail-happy feel of the rear-wheel-drive system.
With global marketing director Jim Vurpillat claiming that there will be “a V-Series in one or two” of the eight new entries planned for release, we begin to wonder what Cadillac is really up to. It isn’t like people are going to suddenly start flocking to Cadillac dealerships to buy these cars, for this is a pretty pricey product that has been geared toward sports car enthusiasts. There is also some pretty stiff competition standing in Cadillac’s way as BMW proceeds to improve upon its M3 and M4 line, and Lexus continues to offer the RC F Sport. These are not flagship automobiles, they are performance machines designed to thrill and amaze, and we wonder if garnering attention via these extreme luxury cars was Cadillac’s plan all along.
In an interview with Automotive News, Dave Leone highlighted a few angles the all-powerful American monster has over its European and Japanese competition, and the challenges the company faces as a whole. As we previously speculated Leone states that “Cadillac officials are taking a conservative view of the sales potential of the brand’s latest model, the ATS-V high-performance sport sedan” since the car is not designed to be a crowd-pleaser but more of an asphalt abuser.
According to Leone, Cadillac has been known to move its best employees into GM’s various racing programs and then back into production development to give them a competitive advantage. He went on to say that Cadillac needs to feature powertrains that have different power levels, refinement levels, and meaningful technologies, all while keeping Cadillac-exclusive powerplants like the 3.0-liter turbo tucked beneath the bonnet of the CT6. Leone also handed us some exciting news when he said that future engines might see “a couple of added cylinders” to keep everyone interested in the brand.
But not everyone is entirely happy with Cadillac’s new approach as it continues to raise prices across the board. These price hikes are due primarily to Cadillac’s use of more quality materials than ever before, as the auto maker attempts to take the brand from a Tier 2 to a Tier 1 status. The company is also reportedly working on a series of “experiential marketing events” in order to attract a broader range of consumer. But will it be enough to convince buyers to overlook a new M3 and opt for a hulking helping of American muscle instead?
Cadillac is definitely stepping up its game, and has realized that to breakthrough to consumers it needs to offer a completely new level of quality, power, and experience. But what of long-term reliability, depreciating value, and recall headaches? These are all very real threats that could potentially derail Cadillac’s quest to re-brand itself as a luxurious and powerful status symbol. Cadillac is looking to lure buyers away from stereotypical American muscle-cars with a more upscale approach, but they must do so very carefully for fear of cannibalizing GM’s other torque-rich offerings. “The cars have to be experienced” Leone says. “We need to get more people in seats. If we get people in seats and give them a chance to drive one, they’ll experience and appreciate exactly what they can do.”