Cadillac Says Good-Bye to the V-8

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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.

The STS and DTS sedans are being retired after the end of this model year – and their replacement in the lineup, the 2013 XTS, looks like it will have a V-6 (and V-6/hybrid) powertrain only.

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.

In fact, the last of the Cadillac V-8s was built more than two years ago. The XLR roadster was the final production Cadillac to be powered by a Cadillac-built V-8, the 4.6 liter Northstar.

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.

Big cars – with big V-8s – will become not merely rich men’s cars but silly rich men’s cars.

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.

It’s sad.

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? 

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eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  30 comments for “Cadillac Says Good-Bye to the V-8

  1. BrentP
    December 1, 2011 at 2:07 am

    Guess GM hasn’t learned. It’s other divisions died with their unique engines. Sure they lingered on for decades afterwards but when did they really lose their way? When GM took their engines away.

    The goal of CAFE IMO was always to get the big sedan out of the hands of the american middle class and poor. It is clearly constructed for that purpose. A simple fuel tax would encourage fuel economy. But that’s not what we got, we got CAFE. This is an attack on American preferences.

    So long as the country is relatively free there are few things out of reach of someone of decent means who is willing to save up for it and buy it. If people are willing to save up for it other people will find a way to make it cheaper so they don’t have to do so much saving. So if they passed a fuel tax instead of CAFE.. guess what, people would still save up and buy that big car they want. They might drive it less, but they’ll still get it. So the government aimed to make it unavailable to them.

    The first die off of the big sedans worked almost as planned. By the 1985 CAFE bump most were gone. But the public did something congress never expected. (as always with central planning) They decided if there weren’t going to be affordable big cars they’d buy affordable passenger -trucks-. By 1989 SUVs and pickups were everywhere and that was just the beginning.

    Now all these years later the government has finally succeeded in getting the remaining big cars off the market and the attack is moving towards the trucks. Sad thing is the crown vic et al died from neglect. CAFE meant ford was only going to refresh them until sales dropped below a given point. Look how long that took.

    Perhaps CAFE (and other laws) is ultimately to return the automobile itself back to a rich man’s toy.

    • December 1, 2011 at 10:25 am

      It will be very interesting to see what happens in re trucks.

      It’s one thing to go after an indulgence – big cars. People may not like it, but a smaller, FWD or AWD car gets them around as well as large, RWD car. This is what happened in the mid-’80s.

      But trucks? Farmers, contractors, people who need a work vehicle – etc. They need a vehicle with pulling/towing power, heavy-duty frames, etc. A V-8/RWD configuration is almost essential. At the least, a big V-6.

      But the 35 MPG-plus average CAFE edicts effectively outlaw these vehicles, too.

  2. Brandonjin
    December 1, 2011 at 1:52 am

    This is shameful. Once again, my life is interfered with for the sake of the enviroment.*sigh*

    I made a vow, not too long ago: At some point in my life, I will own a car with a V8!

    Maybe when I’m done with college, in 2015, I’ll be able to afford a 4.6 Mustang or one of the early chrysler 300s!

    Is that an unrealistic goal at this point?

    • dom
      December 1, 2011 at 2:00 am

      Shoot bro, the way things are headed one should be more concerned with even having the freedom of locomotion by the year 2015!

      • BrentP
        December 1, 2011 at 3:22 am

        Pretty much. I figure there will be another push before long to ban all pre-1982 cars again soon.

    • December 1, 2011 at 10:29 am

      Don’t accept the premise! Your life is not being interfered with because of the environment. That’s just the excuse. Did you know that a new V-8 powered car such as a 2011 Town Car produces a fraction of the pollution that a ’70s-era four-cylinder economy car did?

      The “environment” is just the latest shibboleth – an excuse to further impoverish average people and empower the elites – guys like AlGore. Watch his movie sometime. There’s a scene where he’s talking about “saving the planet” … as he drives along in his Cadillac Escalade!

      • Brandonjin
        December 2, 2011 at 3:11 am

        Haha
        I like the humor from you guys.

        @BrentP
        :(

        Global Warming is being taught as fact in my Geography class.
        He says some of the things we could do, RIGHT NOW, to help stop global warming, is to start making all cars acheive an average of 60MPG.

        We can do that right now?

        “Did you know that a new V-8 powered car such as a 2011 Town Car produces a fraction of the pollution that a ’70s-era four-cylinder economy car did?”
        Good to know! ^.^

        And I know Al-Gore’s story. Hypocrite.

        • BrentP
          December 2, 2011 at 4:51 am

          I have found so much I was taught in school as fact was just plain wrong, theory, or opinion. It does not surprise me that global warming is being taught as fact.

          A large ice shelf in Antarctica is getting ready to break off as it does predictably every so many years… when it does… it will be blamed on global warming.

          I am still waiting for the global warming people to explain how planes parked on a greenland glacier in the 1940s ended up under 250+ feet of ice by the 1990s.

        • December 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

          You can have some fun with this guy by pointing out inconvenient facts of your own, such as mentioned by BrentP, for instance. But do it carefully, so as to avoid getting your grades “adjusted.”

  3. Fritz
    December 1, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Well, the automakers haven’t really done much to combat CAFE. And GM(amongst others) went out of their way to “applaud” the new standards. If only it really would lead to their demise.

    • December 1, 2011 at 1:03 am

      I agree with that. Instead of kowtowing to Washington, the car companies ought to be doing whatever it takes to make their customers happy.

      • Don
        December 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm

        Why do they need to please their customers when, if they can’t sell their cars, the gov’t will just take our money and give it to them? Given the moral hazard of the gov’t’s hands in the auto industry it makes perfect sense that they do what they do. And that won’t change until they are expected to stand on their own two feet and turn a profit legititmately.

        • swamprat
          December 4, 2011 at 9:47 am

          That’s very true, but GM was particularly arrogant a long time before Uncle Shithead gave them our money. In 1995, they forced Daytime Running Lights down our throats. In 1995, they also made ABS standard on many of their vehicles. In 2005, they made On-Star standard on many of their cars without out the option of having it removed.

          Neither GM or any of the automakers have resisted the pollution requirements. A friend of mine who used to work there told me that focus groups told them not to oppose pollution requirements. What kind of cretins did they survey, anyway?

          I see a parallel with the airlines in that the airlines are doing nothing to oppose the TSA. They simply tell customers “that’s the way it is.” I tell them “no more of my money.” That’s the way it is.

          • December 4, 2011 at 10:22 am

            If only more people would do that…. tell them, “no more of my money.” But most don’t. They just accept it. Many seem to actually like it. “safety” or “security” – Onstar and DRLs… and Gate Rape and the TSA.

          • Boothe
            December 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm

            Swamprat, you make a good point about the auto makers not resisting emissions controls. I once believed it was the wrongheaded adivice given to robbery and rape victims: Don’t resist, you’ll just make the situation worse. But knowing what I now know about coporate-think, I have reason to believe it was profit driven (and not in the free market sense).

            I remember my firts car, a 1969 Toyota Corolla wagon, had a smog pump and a small secondary manifold as part of it emissions control scheme. I guarantee you they made a tidy margin on those extra parts. Every manufacturer along the way turns a profit on the catalytic converter(s) sold on every new vehicle. The same with air bags, OnStar and every other gadget and gizmo we can seemingly no longer live without. It’s government mandated profit. Isn’t fascism great!

          • dom
            December 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm

            IMO Emissions control devices are some of the highest markup items on a car. It’s common for someone to drop a g-banger on a new cat from the dealer. Universal cat from an aftermarket source, less than $200.

          • Brent P
            December 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm

            There is no profit adding mandated equipment to meet regulations. The market drives the price that the vehicle can be sold for. Engineers have to meet the cost targets regardless of the requirements from the feds. Essentially it ends up requiring more manpower to design and implement. It’s something else that also has to be done cheaper than the competition is doing it.

            GM pushing DRLs: GM purchased a DRL supplier and thus wanted to put it in all their cars. Trouble is that drove up cost so they lobbied the government to make it mandatory. This is standard behavior in the economic system we live in.

            Emissions: If we had a proper rights based pollution requirements system I doubt the cars would have never been as dirty as they were in the first place. That aside, people don’t understand that automobiles have been at the point of diminishing returns pollution wise. They are asked if they want cleaner air and who doesn’t? It’s that for the children argument. For instance, child labor laws… if you oppose a minimum wage for a kid to start working the public at large interprets this as sending children down into the coal mines with a pick axe against their will. Same with emissions. If you don’t want to add $1,000 of equipment to every car sold to reduce CO emissions by 0.00000001%, well you favor skies black with pollution and rivers on fire. That’s how the public apparently thinks given how things go in this country.

            The automakers don’t want to appear to be the evil corporations that Nader started casting them as. The average guy on the street doesn’t know that automakers offered airbags in the early 1970s and found problems where they harmed passengers. They don’t know all the research automakers did that showed trying to protect the unbelted average male was a bad idea. The public just thinks the automakers want their customers to die a horrible death so they can make extra money by not installing airbags.

            The public generally understands that automakers can’t change the end price very much and thus they expect that all the added equipment is paid for through profits. Initially it often is, but as each new design hits the market that equipment is accounted for in the cost and price targets. Either the price goes up or something else is cheapened or hopefully just made a better way to compensate.

            • December 5, 2011 at 12:23 am

              Brent, great point about the diminishing returns of emissions equipment. Most people have no clue that when they hear a politician or “public citizen” warbling about reducing tailpipe emissions “by 30 percent” they are talking about 30 percent of the remaining 2 percent or so of the exhaust stream that is other than C02 and H20. In other words, a fractional, infinitesimally minute reduction – typically at very high cost.

              The fact is that cars have been “clean” since the 1980s – and super-ultra clean since the ’90s. We long ago reached the point of diminishing returns – and are now just playing a PR game.

              If Clover reads this, of course, she will squeal that I am defending “polluters” and am against “clean air.”

          • Boothe
            December 5, 2011 at 6:02 am

            BrentP, the point I was trying to make is that the auto makers were not given any choice in the emissions matter so they made the best of the situation. Since everyone in the industry was required to comply, car prices necessarily went up across the board. It’s a government mandated “level playing field”. Car buyers will pay the additional cost, because the car manufacturers will incorporate it into the cost of the finished goods. The same applies to taxes; the costs are ultimately passed on to the consumer or the manufacturer goes under.

            Now I understand that GM and Chrysler did essentially go under, but that is attributable to mismanagement and UAW overreaching as much or more than evironmental regulations. I realize that there is still some price competition, but any company that wants to sell new cars in this country has to comply with the same regulations so the baseline is set for all competitors.

            I understand the public relations aspect of corporations supporting emissions control as well, but the fact is the car companies will use government mandates to their advantage if there is any way possible. When government skews the market, the corporations will adapt and we the consumers will end up paying the price one way or the other.

      • Boothe
        December 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm

        The same thing would apply to electric power utilities as well as automobile manufacturers in a true free market. But despite the much ballyhooed fiction of “deregulation”, power utilities are regulated more now than ever before. So my question is this: Since the whole industry is supposedly under attack by the Sierra Club, the EPA, the state departments of natural resources, et al, why not shut their power off? Just simply refuse to sell these organizations electricity and have them set the “green” and “sustainable” example for the rest of us who are still relying on those ol’ dirt burners and atom crackers. In a free market the Sierra Club and the EPA would be scrambling to produce power with their own flatulence and hot air.

        But that’s not fair according to the Cloverite mentality. You are required by law to provide the necessary resources to your enemies so they can attack you. Which means the utilities go to the state corporation commission with the regulatory compliance costs in hand, ask for “way more” in rate hikes than they need and settle for just the “considerably more” that the state ends up giving them. Since utilities are nothing more than state sanctioned regional monopolies, free market economics very little to do with this market, leaving de facto fascism as the primary motive force. This is a sweetheart arrangement for the agenda driven NGO, the regulators, the tax collectors and the industry itself; because ultimately, the consumer pays for all of it.

  4. SojournerMoon
    December 1, 2011 at 12:30 am

    I had a family member with an ’05 STS. Big V8 power (320hp) and was fast but still typically got 32-34mpg on the highway and around 23 in city (strangely way beyond the EPA estimates and not driven like grandmother, either, at least not by me).

    Part of me will miss V8, but part of me wonders if people said the same thing back in the day when V16s and V12s gave way to more efficient/better V8s capable of producing the same power with fewer components and better gas mileage. I’m not certain this is truly “progress” that would happen without government intervention.

    The main problem I see with this is that even with V6s, we’re going to be spending $60k on aluminum-foil thin cars powered by I4s just to meet the upcoming CAFE gas mileage targets. Just hope you’re not in a wreck. Of course, everyone will be driving around at 5mph, so you could just get out of the car and step aside if a wreck were about to happen. Maybe that’s the plan :(

  5. November 30, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Somehow, this just doesn’t bother me much. If a V-6 can provide excellent performance, who needs a V-8? The numbers that matter to me are horsepower, torque, mpg, 0 to 60, and quarter mile ET.

    • November 30, 2011 at 11:58 pm

      I agree – with some caveats.

      The chief one being a smaller engine is more stressed than a larger engine that produces the same hp/torque. It is also – generally – simpler (and so, less costly) to get a larger engine to make more power than a smaller engine. In certain types of vehicles – large cars, trucks and SUVs – a V-8 can be the better choice and often is the better choice.

    • jay
      December 4, 2011 at 1:05 am

      Also, keep in mind that (for the purposes of a performance car) a V8 produces a power stroke every 90 degrees which means that a new power stroke is starting before the previous one is depleted, providing very smooth power output (a v12 is even better at this). Cadillac is also toying with a 4 cylinder, albeit a pretty powerful one, but no 4 is ever really smooth.

  6. James
    November 30, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    We’re turning a corner, Eric. It was a great ride, while it lasted. The American V-8 engine is functionally a trademark of this great country.

    Your last comment, re: the de facto outlawing of V-8s by government edict, parallels perfectly the pending extinction of the incandescent 100 watt light bulb.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Independence_and_Security_Act_of_2007#Incandescent_lights

    (Apologies if you have a no-link rule for your comments section. If so, please delete this post.)

    • November 30, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      Hi James,

      Yes, indeedy. Depressing. And we could turn it around, if people would only pay attention (instead of worshiping fuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhtttball and gaping at American Idol) and get mad enough to do something about it.

      • James
        November 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm

        You’re suggesting that the American nation be asked to turn off Dancing With The Stars, and get serious?

        Hmm.

        We live in a baseball cap nation. Expecting the proles to exercise critical thinking could be (to use a business term here) a very heavy lift.

      • Gil
        November 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm

        Poor Libertarians can’t find a 100W light bulb and apparently can’t find a 20W+ CFL so they cry themselves to sleep in the dark.

        • December 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

          Clover, Clover, Clover… the Libertarian angle here is simply this: We object to being told we must buy one type of bulb over another. Incandescent bulbs and CFLs each have their relative good and bad points. Why should it be anyone other than the end user’s decision which to buy? Just for instance: We have a dining room fixture designed to use incandescent “skinny” bulbs; the mica shades clip on to the surface of the glass bulb. CFLs do not physically fit this fixture and even if they did make one that did, why on earth would I want to buy a bulb that costs literally 3-4 times what the incandescent does, given that we rarely use the dining room, so the incandescent bulbs last for years and use very little electricity?

          Please, explain it to me.

          And also why you believe you and those who believe as you do have the right to force your personal opinions and subjective value judgments on others.

          • mithrandir
            December 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm

            Here is your explanation: It is for your own good.
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            My sister will not get CFLs since they contain mercury (Hg).

            They should re-label the incandescent bulb as a portable heater. (I cannot remember where I heard it, but it was a funny way to get around the law.)

            I think it depends on your needs and requirements for deciding which bulb is best for you.

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