Cadillac Selecting Luxury AND Performance, Platinum Series and V Series

One of my elevator speeches I took the liberty of arguing sharing with Cadillac’s Nick Twork when we met was Luxury vs Performance.

Cadillac in the mid-90s came out with an SLS variant of the Seville, and a STS variant.   The SLS was for Seville Luxury Sedan, and the STS for Seville Touring Sedan.   The idea was that if you wanted max luxury, soft ride, max options, get the SLS.  If you want max performance, cornering, power get the STS.  Now the reality was that the STS tended to always be better optioned than the SLS, so if you could afford the higher price it was the right option for almost anyone.

Cadillac perhaps did a better separation on the Deville, where the DHS, now for Deville High-Luxury Sedan, and the DTS, Deville Touring Sedan, separated from the base Deville.  In this case, the DHS tended to have the same maximum accessories as the DTS, except where the DTS had extra performance items then the DHS had additional luxury items.

In modern terms, Cadillac has evolved this philosophy as the V-Series, no-holds barred performance, and the Platinum Series, maximum luxury options.

I argue that this is a mistake.

A Cadillac should be both luxury and performance.  Bringing out a model that is marketed as max luxury at the cost of performance, or max performance at the cost of luxury is a compromise.  Cadillac should be about Luxury Performance.  Luxury performance is not about compromises; luxury performance is about plentiful, or “more than adequate”, or breathtaking.

I recognize that some Buyers want a softer ride and more padding beneath softer leather.  Other buyers want a tightly sprung racing Cadillac for the street.  It is good to have options.

However, note that the new MR magnetic suspension suddenly makes a soft ride in town and a track-ready ride available in a single suspension system.

I think the key is to start from a very high standard, and emphasize the additional features.  In other words, the Luxury Version starts from a High Performance Cadillac, and adds even more luxury features.  The V-Series starts from a High Luxury fully equipped Cadillac, and adds track-ready Performance features.  Both models are Luxury and Performance, but in the Platinum the emphasis is on the Luxury end of the spectrum, while in the V-Series the emphasis is on the Performance end.

Instead, Cadillac has in mind to offer Platinum variants of certain models, such as the Escalade, DTS, STS, or XTS once it arrives, but not V-series of those models.  They also offer V-Series of certain models, CTS-V, and hopefully ATS-V the year after it arrives, but not Platinum variants of those models.  The idea I think is models that lend themselves to luxury over performance already, offer the max luxury Platinum Series example.  Models that lend themselves to Performance already, offer the max performance V-Series.  This approach limits Cadillac and limits Buyers.  What my DTS friends often want is a maximum performance DTS; bring all the goodness of the DTS’ room and luxury and more power and handling.  CTS-V fans may want to see the missing luxury items such as premium leather interiors, lane change warning, and blindspot warning systems.

A Customer-aware order sheet would allow the addition of Platinum Series maximum luxury OR V Series Maximum performance to any of the excellent high-standard feature Cadillac platforms.  Luxury AND Performance, per the individual Customer’s tastes.  That is Cadillac.

2008 Cadillac STS-V Test Drive

I regularly monitor Ebay for  any Cadillac V-Series that show up.  The Cadillac V-Series are tuned high-performance luxury models from Cadillac, and are special, limited production models.  The CTS-V, the STS-V, and the XLR-V are the examples released to date.  These are fairly rare automobiles, so I stopped by this morning to meet this local Cadillac STS-V in person.

2008 Cadillac STS-V

I have been shopping for a 2008 Cadillac STS-V.  I would enjoy simply getting a new 2009/2010 Cadillac CTS-V, but they are still more expensive than I care to spend.  The STS-V when new cost around US$79K, but they are depreciating nicely and have almost / not quite come into my targeted price range.

2008 STS-V Back

This example is a nice off-lease STS-V with 22K miles.  It was purchased in Oklahoma, then went to auction and came along to Addison, Texas near Plano.   It appeared to be in good condition, good tires, good interior.

The STS-V has a 469 hp Supercharged 4.4L DOHC VVT direct injected V8 engine. It has Brembo performance brakes, and a tuned suspension using Sachs shocks/struts. It is definitely a runner.  The leather seats have suede inserts to give additional friction for keeping you in the seat.  The steering wheel forgoes the normal Cadillac wood trim for more grippy leather. There are wood trim highlights on the console and doors of course.

2008 STS-V Door wood trim highlight

The STS-V was one of the first examples of the Cadillac cut and sew approach to interior leather. The interior pieces are hand-cut to fit and sewn together, giving a very careful, custom finish to the interior.  An interesting point to me is that the navigation screen actually has a narrow-angle tilt adjustment, I assume to ensure maximum visibility in a variety of lighting situations; I found this a very thoughtful feature.

2008 Cadillac STS-V interior shot

The STS-V uses 18″ wheels in the front, 19″ wheels in the back, with big rubber — P255/45R18 front and P275/40R19 rear, Pirelli, W-rated, EMT, blackwall from the factory.  This one had Bridgestone Turanza Serenity tires on it, so one might assume the originals were replaced.  Due to the staggered wheel sizes, and to save weight, there is no spare tire in the STS-V.  The original equipment tires were run-flat tires.

One can see the 4-piston Brembo brake calipers and 14″ discs in the photo below.  These Cadillacs are the complete package, and go, stop, and turn well.

2008 STS-V wheels

Driving Impressions

I was very interested to see how the STS-V compared with the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V I test drove last weekend.  The CTS-V had the optional Recaro Sport seats, and the STS-V had ‘regular’ seats.  The STS-V seats are comfortable, but I prefer the Recaro seats.

The STS-V has more then adequate pickup of course, with 469 hp on tap.   It gives up a bit to the CTS-V’s 556 hp, but it is hard to say that 469 hp is not enough. The CTS-V has the terrific MR magnetic suspension, while the STS-V shares the 1st generation CTS-V’s tuned Sachs struts/shocks.    Both cars have electronic stability control, traction control, limited slip differentials, and share the same 6 speed automatic transmission with driver shift control.

I was surprised that the STS-V has a bit of supercharger whine.  Nothing to complain about (I like it), but it is there.  The CTS-V made a variety of delightful noises under power, but I did not detect any Supercharger whistle from inside the car, although my friend Jim noted that as I pulled up he could hear the CTS-V Supercharger.

The attraction of the 2008 STS-V is that it is a lot less expensive than the CTS-V, but has a lot of the similar performance traits, and has some features that are not available in the CTS family.  For example, the 2008 STS-V has head’s up display (HUD), lane departure warning, side blind zone alert, and adaptive cruise control.


This test drive further validated my conclusion that the STS-V would be a terrific car to get for my next Cadillac.  With the jewel-like 4.4L Supercharged DOHC VVT Northstar V8, it is a historically important model.  This was not the ‘last’ Northstar, but this series was the peak of Northstar V8 development.  I am a function over form guy, but I recognize that this is a special, hand-built engine performing very well on the platform it was exactly designed to power.  In 2008 this car was the finest sports luxury sedan Cadillac offered.

2008 Cadillac STS-V Supercharged Northstar

Lightly used V-Series

I am constantly car shopping, but here are my current thoughts on narrowing the search for my next Cadillac.

I am excited about the 2006/2007 CTS-V with 400 hp LS2 V8, or the 2007/2008 STS-V with the 469 hp LC3 Supercharged 4.4L V8.  The CTS-V’s tend to be somewhat less expensive due to the year model and original pricing.

Advantages of the 06/07 CTS-V:

  • Easier to modify for more power — throw in a cam and heads
  • Lighter vehicle – 3850 lbs for the Gen 1 CTS-V vs 4233 lbs for the STS-V
  • More visceral / sporty

Advantages of the 07/08 STS-V:

  • More features / Higher standard luxury
  • More room / backseat space
  • More power ‘out of the box’

Both cars are low production and high performance.  Both are ranging near $25-30K based on condition and mileage.

I will be shopping for a model with around 25K miles.  I drive 15K miles a year, so over 5 years I drive 75K miles.  If I purchase at 25K miles, then I can drive a vehicle 5 years and still just be at 100K miles, which is in my experience a bit before higher maintenance/repairs kick in.

Ideal at this point would be a low-mileage 2007 CTS-V with some performance mods already professionally done at a great price.  As the new CTS Coupe and CTS-V Coupe arrives this summer there may be a lot of V Sedans on the market — here’s hoping.