Motor Trend reports that Cadillac’s long search for a flagship is over. After debating a number of options, including importing a stretched Chinese-market STS, GM has decided that the “Super Epsilon”-based XTS will be the future range-topper for its luxury brand. The XTS was developed on a stretched version of the platform that underpins GM sedans including the Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Malibu and the forthcoming Buick Regal, and was shown in concept form as the XTS Platinum concept at the Detroit Auto Show. That concept was shown with a theoretical plug-in drivetrain made up of Cadillac’s 3.6 liter DI V6 and the plug-in components from the canceled Vue plug-in, and according to MT, the recent cancellation of the Converj plug-in means “there’s profit and green image to be had in the plug-in XTS.” Until that technology is production-ready, choosing the XTS’s engine options will be an interesting challenge.
Should Cadillac offer the XTS with the stock 3.6 V6? It’s the only engine option that’s ready to go out of the box, but it would also mean the XTS “flagship” will be motivated by the same engine that’s available in the aging CTS. As if the XTS’s CamCord-killer underpinnings weren’t enough of a luxury liability. And it seems that this liability is already being considered. According to MT:
to compete with large German sedans like the Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8 in this category and establish the right image, Cadillac may have to shoehorn a small-block V-8 transversely under the hood.
Cadillac could become a bold leader in engine downsizing and offer the XTS only with V-6s.
According to GM engineering sources, GM is currently working on a twin-turbo 3.0L V6. Development on the new engine is so far along that it has a RPO code of “LF3.” The naturally aspirated 3.0L debuted in several 2010 products with direct injection and has the code “LF1.”
GMI was not able to obtain projected power ratings on the new engine, however output is very application specific under new SAE testing rules. Sources did say to expect the engine to rival Ford’s EcoBoost 3.5L.
The engine’s introduction is expected in late 2011 or early 2012 in the Cadillac XTS. Sources also state that GM is looking to use the engine in the Cadillac ATS and possibly even the next Chevrolet Camaro. Cadillac has historically always debuted new variants of the High-Feature V6 lineup, so it comes as no surprise that the XTS is the likely to pioneer the 3.0L twin-turbo.
Of course, this raises some interesting powertrain strategy questions. The 3.0 clearly lacks the torque needed to lug around larger (er, heavier, anyway) vehicles, but it also gets the same fuel economy numbers as the 3.6. Turbocharging will help with one of those problems, but not necessarily the other. Meanwhile, what happens to the 2.8 turbo V6 (LP9) currently found in the Cadillac SRX? Or, for that matter, GM’s in-house experiments turbocharging the 3.6, which it claimed could make 425 HP in a 2009 SEMA Jay Leno Camaro concept?
Any way you cut it, GM is worrying about the color of lipstick to put on a pig. If the XTS debuted as a plug-in only model, it might offer some brand-halo benefits, but the pricetag would likely keep sales to niche levels at best. On the other end of the scale of options, if GM offers a base model with the stock 3.6 or a shoe-horned small-block V8, it might sell decently to old-school Cadillac buyers and luxury value-hunters, but it would do nothing to take the brand in the upscale direction GM wants it to go. But then that ship probably sailed when GM decided to base its luxury flagship on a beefed-up Buick platform. Which leaves little choice but the derivative middle ground, and developing a new EcoBoost-alike engine.
And where does that leave the XTS? Assuming GM can match the Taurus SHO’s 365 hp EcoBoost output (which isn’t guaranteed), the XTS offers .6 inches of length over the SHO (203.5 inches for XTS Platinum Concept compared to 202.9 for the SHO), but with an inch shorter wheelbase (111.7 inches vs. 112.9 inches). And at 74.8 inches, the XTS will be 1.4 inches narrower than the SHO. In other words, Cadillac’s range-topping flagship will be competing primarily with a $38k Ford (not to mention its Lincoln clone). The Taurus SHO ain’t a bad car, in fact it was almost too luxury-oriented for our “mad” Jack Baruth. But is it the benchmark for a world-class luxury brand flagship? Hardly.