Performance Tires vs Performance Suspension?

I am hard on tires.  I enjoy driving safely but accelerating briskly from a stop, and not slowing down for corners.    In fact, an ideal passage through a corner is if you hit the apex and just scrub off enough speed to keep the car on track.   That process, scrubbing off enough speed, is part of the problem, because it also tends to means shorter tire life.

As I once mentioned to a friend, if the tires are not squealing as you proceed through the corner, you are not challenging the car.

My current 2005 Cadillac CTS 3.6L has the FE1 (soft) suspension, and the same size wheels and tires all the way around, 225/55R16s.    The car came with Goodyear tires, which I replaced with some take-off OEM Goodyear tires which then were replaced with some Kumho’s and now I have some Continental Touring tires on it.  You begin to see the problem.

Further complicating my planning is that the current performance Cadillacs have staggered wheels/tires, so the rear wheels and tires are larger than the front wheels and tires.  So one cannot rotate the tires front to rear, thus extending the life a bit.

But a key issue is that while the tires on the 2005 Cadillac CTS tend to cost around $110 each, modern high performance tires as used on the V-series tend to run $200-250 each.  Yes, they are great tires.  Yes, they put up great skidpad numbers and help acceleration.  Yes, they are expensive.  And if you are a frequent tire buyer (which I prefer to tire addict) then the expensive part can come up a lot.

Now, I have considered that part of the problem is in fact the FE1 suspension is not designed for the more sporty driving, but is designed for more comfort.  So if I move to a Cadillac that was designed with the expectation of more cornering it perhaps would lead to less tire wear.  I keep trying to find comfort in that line of thought at least.

Meanwhile, I probably need to start saving up for new tires.

Cadillac V-Series Turning it up to 11

At Cadillac, V stands for Velocity.

What happens when Cadillac takes one of their current sports luxury sedans and turns the volume up to 11?  A Cadillac V-Series Model.

What is the Cadillac recipe for the V-Series?

  • More Power — swap in one of the most powerful engines available
  • More Handling — Tune the Suspension &  wheels/tires.  If a ‘normal’ base Cadillac suspension is FE1, Luxury models get an improved, tuned FE2 suspension.  This brings different shock/strut tuning, and sometimes anti-roll bar tuning. Performance models get summer tires and the FE3 suspension.  The V-Series gets FE4 tuning, which tends to be a  road & track setup.
  • More Brakes — rapid, fade-free stopping power.  Most sports cars and sports luxury cars can stop rapidly.  But when are driving at the limit one is on and off the brakes frequently through the corners, and the brakes rapidly heat up, and begin to fade.  The V-Series receive high performance, cooled braking setups for maximum stopping power, lap after lap.
  • Unique branding, markings, and distinction.  This seems trivial, but when you care enough to purchase the best vehicle available, it is nice to have reminders of just what your vehicle is capable of.

Let’s look at the examples Cadillac has accomplished to date:

  • 2004-2007 1st Generation CTS-V:  Added 400 hp LS6 (04/05), then LS2 (06/07) V8 engine.  Tuned sport suspension (FE4), with a track suspension (FG2) available as a dealer-installed option.  Brembo 4-piston caliper brakes front & rear.  Only 6-speed manual transmissions.

    2007 Cadillac CTS-V

  • 2006-2009 STS-V:  Added 469 hp LC3 4.4L Supercharged Northstar engine.  The engine was actually lowered in the chassis in order to give a lower center of gravity when compared with the non-V STS.  Tuned sport suspension (FE4).  Although the MR suspension was available, the Sachs tuned shocks gave just a bit of an edge on the track at the time, and were selected.  Brembo 4-piston caliper brakes front & rear.  New 6-speed Automatic transmission introduced.

    Supercharged Northstar

  • 2006-2009 XLR-V: Added 440 hp LC3 4.4L Supercharged Northstar engine.  Tuned sport suspension (FE4).   Because the XLR already shared the Corvette chassis/platform, sporty handling was already in its DNA.  The XLR-V and the STS-V were both originally specced at 440 hp, but with a bit of additional room under the domed hood the STS-V was tuned just before certification to 469 hp.

    Cadillac XLR-V (left) and STS-V (right)

  • 2009 2nd Generation CTS-V: Added 556 hp LSA 6.2L Supercharged V8.  Tuned sport suspension (FE4). 6-piston Brembo brakes front, and 4-piston in rear. The 2nd Generation CTS-V premiered the newly sport-tuned multi-mode MR Magneto-Rheological Suspension, which can react within 10 milliseconds to changing road conditions.

    2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Overall the Cadillac V-Series has provided the custom coach, high performance livery of this period.  The 2009 CTS-V casually set the world record for sedans on production tires at the Nurburgring of 7:59 min:sec, (since contested by the Porsche Panamera).  The 2006 STS-V had a previous time of 8:15 min:sec.

When your new 2nd Generation production CTS-V has the same or more power than the racing version of the 1st Generation CTS-VR, you know that you are making a serious production vehicle.

What’s next for the V-Series?  This summer we will see the V-Coupe, and the V-Sport Wagon, both with the terrific LSA Supercharged 6.2L engine and the rest of the go-fast CTS-V kit.  Cadillac has said that we will not see a V-Series of every model.  So probably never a V-Series Escalade, or SRX, or XTS.  But other manufacturers have reversed course and offered performance-tuned sport utility vehicles, so we may yet see more diversity.

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon

Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon

What is the best way to show Cadillac you want to see more of these terrific cars?  Buy one.