buying Cadillac Is Going Electric—but Its Performance Won't Be Boring
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- Cadillac will stick with performance-minded vehicles even though the company is transitioning away from internal combustion power.
- Simulated development helps in creating the next-generation high-performance Cadillac models, which are already being tested.
- Cadillac Executive Chief Engineer Brandon Vivian says “there will be varying levels of Cadillac performance in the future.”
The crested brand from America’s mitten has come a long way from the days of the. The decades-in-the-making transformation of General Motors’ most premium brand into a performance powerhouse with the luxury chops to take on the best Germans is complete. The signify a high water mark for Cadillac. GM has invested a lot of time, money, and engineering talent in this Caddy turnaround, just in time for the brand to throw most of it in the trash and reinvent itself yet again.
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For two generations of product Cadillac really only offered a single performance variant in the mid-sized. It was decent enough, but competition from overseas offered multiple sizes of performance sedan, and in multiple levels of intensity. Yeah, Audi makes an RS4 and an RS6, but they also build S versions a step below the most hardcore, likewise BMW and Mercedes. In an effort to match wits with its German competitors, Cadillac figured out that it needed to offer more than just the CTS and in its previous generation introduced the ATS-V.
Executive Chief Engineer, Brandon Vivian: “We raced, we’ve always raced. We believe that racing makes our street cars better. [The features on our V-series Blackwing cars are] the same features we have on our . We’re very adamant about two-way transfer. As we’ve matured the V-series brand and you look in the marketplace and you see there are mid-level performance vehicles and ultra-high performance vehicles. And we felt that it was time for us to play and win in both spaces. We don’t produce cars that we don’t believe are winning.”
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With the switch to a second-generation, Cadillac revamped its strategy and naming scheme. CTS and ATS became CT5 and CT4, that’s easy. , however, was given its own chop up. Where it was once the top dog, Cadillac has demoted V to mid-level manager and installed Blackwing as the new big daddy of Caddy. Of course Blackwing was previously the name of a for the before that whole chassis was scrapped and the engine went with it. That’s as clear as mud, right?
Vivian continues, “So the philosophy that we have is not going to just be applied to what we do with ICE vehicles. The mode that powers the vehicle is independent of our philosophy as a brand and how we approach developing the overall vehicle performance envelope. It’s of course a statement for us as General Motors being zero zero zero: zero emissions, zero congestion, zero crashes, that’s our vision as a company. Cadillac is rightfully so at the tip of the spear for that.
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“We believe if you look at the history, Cadillac’s prominence has always been innovation. We’ve always been innovative. Things that we’ve done recently with, performance that’s in these cars, the level of craftsmanship in balance with the level of performance. We showed you . This is the first car that has 3D printed parts in production. That type of approach is what we’re going to use going forward, independent of the fact that we are going electric.”
So now that Cadillac has spent decades and millions to define V and Blackwing as two tiers of American performance luxury, surely these valuable brands will be carried on into the company’s electric future. It would make too much sense for Cadillac to offer a more measured and understandable version of its electric performance goals than. To translate these performance variants to future EVs like the , Cadillac’s V engineers would need to focus on chassis, suspension, and aerodynamic advancements.
“Now electric enables us to meet our vision as a company, and that is the next frontier for innovation and we want to be at the front of that. That doesn’t change the mission of what Cadillac performance will be. There will be varying levels of Cadillac performance in the future,” says Vivian.
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Cadillac takes a holistic approach to the V series cars, and particularly the Blackwing HiPo machines, so which aspects of these current cars are going to make it into the next-generation V and Blackwing electrics? Clearly the performance arm isn’t going anywhere, as evidenced by Vivian’s statements here. Cadillac V can apply what it knows about chassis development, aerodynamics, and cooling to whatever comes next.
Vivian, again; “If you think about the amount of work and the detailed analysis that we did to develop the structure. That same exercise, that same approach that we’re using analytically on how we make the car stiffer in the right areas, not just stiffer to be stiffer, but stiffer in the right areas. If you make the car really stiff, you’re adding mass that the car doesn’t really need. So those techniques, we’ll be using going forward.
“If you look at an electric vehicle, its configuration is different. You’re carrying a lot of mass in the middle of the car down low, and you have the suspension in the front and rear compartments that hang off of that mass. That is different from a floor pan that is typically open. So the structural problems that you’re solving are different, but the techniques of how we apply stiffnesses and where they are are the same. That’s one example.
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“Another example is aerodynamics. We’re doing a lot ofand simulating that. We’re able to deliver a car that is stable at over 200 miles per hour, that also can cool all of the, in this case internal combustion engine, transmission and differential. That same approach can be used to cool batteries, to cool inverters, to figure out the right amount of drag and aero benefit. Those tools and techniques are being used in our electric vehicles.”
It would stand to reason that there is more here that Cadillac knows and isn’t telling us. The company’s new vehicles are dynamically modeled in. Whatever high-performance electric Cadillacs are coming, it would be quite likely that the V engineers have already begun shifting electrons around to develop them. These real-time physics-based models give these folks an ability to tune sway bars and springs, electronic differentials, and other virtual hardware before actually building those parts and putting them into pre-production physical cars. “Our drivers drive the cars at least a year ahead of [these parts] ever getting into a physical car.”
It has become quite obvious over the last decade that electric and performance are hardly mutually exclusive. Cadillac’s Vivian acknowledges the advantages of electric propulsion for the future of V performance. “You don’t need to wait for a turbo to spool up, or the type of magic we have in the CT5’s supercharger. Instantaneous response.” Having maximum available torque at the control of your right foot from one RPM is a huge boon. But that’s not the only major benefit in store for electric performance cars.
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“Because of that response, there comes a level of torque control; where you can send torque, what you can do with that torque. If you design your system right, inherent instant torque vectoring. You can have a system that would take a super expensive and complicated electromechanical device with an internal combustion engine-powered car. What you can do when you put that torque to the ground, depending on how you configure your vehicle, this offers you increased maneuverability throughout the dynamic range of the car if you have, let’s say, a twin motor setup.”
Cadillac knows that battery tech is progressing in a rapid manner. Currently electric cars are burdened by a distinct lack of power density. In spite of a tank of fuel burning at a rate of just under two laps per gallon at VIR, a CT5-V Blackwing’s massive supercharged V8 will still take less time to burn a full tank of fuel than an electric vehicle capable of similar lap times. In the short term, as far as performance cars are concerned, that will be a big trade off. Internally, there is optimism for the future of battery tech, however.
“The battery chemistry that will come in the mid-term will have more capacity and at least what we’re seeing will manage heat better. Operating temperatures will be to the point where you can get a benefit from some of the coolers as you just mentioned. I think mid-term your battery capacity and your thermal capacity will be equivalent in terms of how many laps or in some cases even better range than you have in an internal combustion car.
“The batteries in the short term are pretty large and very heavy, so the mass on everything goes up. If your batteries as a propulsion system, batteries inverters, motors, if those weigh 1.4 times what your internal combustion engine, transmission, and fuel tank weigh, now the brakes need to be bigger, the wheels need to be bigger, the cooling needs to be higher if you want to have that same level of performance. The EVs that don’t need the performance bandwidth that we’re delivering with V-series will be able to get away without as much cooling, just like your base cars today you can’t run them on the track like this.
“Mass begets mass, and mass is the other trade off. As we go forward and the battery technology in the mid-term we see it getting lighter, cheaper, and higher power densities, and less demand for cooling. In the mid-term that will be less of a trade off, but it’s still going to be there.”
The first-generation Cadillac CTS-V was an incredibly American take on the genre, taking big hefty truck parts and a Corvette motor and sticking them in a big comfy sedan. It was a very interesting first effort, but it was half-baked. After several iterations and generations, the current Blackwing-branded Cadillac performance sedans are among the greatest performance sedans to ever make production. The company has managed to totally figure out the market to build the right car at the right time—just in time for it to scrap the whole project and start over.
Here’s hoping that the next generation of Cadillac V will be able to iterate from what the company has learned in this round, rather than punching up at the world from square one. It stands to reason that whatever V does in the future with its electric platforms will be better than what is currently available. Maybe it’ll take a couple generations to be properly track-ready, but if the speed, handling, aero, cooling, and chassis are as solid as a CT4-V Blackwing or CT5-V Blackwing, it’ll be a truly solid start.
What do you think Cadillac's high performance vehicles will be like after they depart internal combustion? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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