Back in 2013, we were tipped that the impending Cadillac ATS-V was testing with a 6.2L V8 LT1 engine, the very same growler that serves as the beating heart for both the Corvette Stingray, Corvette Grand Sport and Camaro SS. Output varies from 455-460 horsepower and 455-465 lb-ft of torque, depending on the application. Near and far, the LT1 V8 has been praised for its robust power delivered in a naturally-aspirated fashion, compact design, and Americana engine and exhaust notes.
But upon its reveal, the Cadillac ATS-V introduced a twin-turbocharged 3.6L V6 LF4 engine rated at 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. Somewhere along the way, the plot changed.
The LT1 seemed like a safe bet for the ATS-V. As an American car competing in a segment dominated by German rivals, it would have entered the fray with a unique character, as it would have been the only OHV (pushrod) V8 engine in the segment, and one of the only V8 engine offerings in total.
Comparison - Potential Cadillac ATS-V Engines
|Displacement & Layout||3.6L V6 DOHC||6.2L V8 OHV|
|Power (hp / kW @ RPM)||464 / 343.3 @ 5850||455 / 339.3 @ 6000|
|Torque (lb-ft / Nm @ RPM)||445 / 603.3 Nm @ 3500||460 / 621.0 @ 4600|
- LT1 is the engine used in the seventh-gen Corvette Stingray and Grand Sport and sixth-gen Camaro; power/torque figures used are for Corvette
Even more, very few buyers poo-poo the supercharged 6.2L V8 LT4 engine in the $100,000 Cadillac CTS-V. Coincidentally, the LT4 is a direct descendant of the LT1, as both motors are derived from the same GM fifth-generation push-rod block. Maybe that’s because the CTS-V remains the lightest and most engaging car to drive in its respective segment, while delivering an exhaust note that can trigger an avalanche. Or perhaps because it’s an American car in a German segment, and not an American car trying to be German in a German segment. Either way, the CTS-V remains a powerful winning formula that has worked for the CTS-V, both today and in the past. In fact, the CTS-V had more demand than it could supply in 2016. Meanwhile, the ATS-V has gone unloved, despite being the best-handling car in its segment.
So, what happened? Two words: Bob Ferguson.
The Washington D.C. lobbyist served as the highly-unqualified Cadillac chief from 2012 to 2014, and was around just long enough to derail the engineering strategy for the ATS-V, along with who knows what else. Sources confessed to us that the reasoning to use the boosted six was based on copycat tact of the BMW M3 and M4 utilizing a twin-turbo six cylinder engine, making the false correlation that, because the BMW is the sales leader in this space, a twin-turbo six must be used to have the winning formula, and therefore, the Cadillac ATS-V needed to have it.
Now, that’s not to say that the LF4 isn’t a good engine, or isn’t cherished by ATS-V owners. However, compared to an LT1, which weighs nearly the same as the LF4 while being more compact in overall dimensions, despite having two more cylinders, it’s difficult to claim the twin-turbo six as the superior option to the brawny eight. What’s more, the LT1 would have arguably given the Cadillac ATS-V better engine and exhaust notes by far, and a more favorable powerband that delivers power and torque in a swell all the way to redline. Adding even more credibility to that line of thinking is the fact that the V8 in the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG was recently voted the best engine in the class in a recent comparison test by Motor Trend, outclassing six-cylinder engines from BMW and Cadillac.
Today, the ATS-V Sedan has been discontinued after the 2018 model year and 2019 will likely be the last model year that the ATS-V Coupe is in production prior to being replaced by the upcoming Cadillac CT5. All this brings us to the question: did Cadillac miss out by not having a V8 in the ATS-V, or is the ATS-V better off with the twin-turbo V6 LF4? Let us know in the comments section.