5 Best Cadillac V8 Engines of All Time
Cadillac is the brand historically most responsible for the V8 engine's association with power, luxury, and prestige. Having pioneered the production of the 90-degree V for eight-cylinder motors in the early days of the automotive industry, the company went on to build a variety of technologically advanced, high performance engines that for decades set the standard as to what a premium car should bring to the table.
Here are our picks for the 5 best Cadillac V8 engines of all time.
Cadillac L-Head V8
The Cadillac L-Head was the first mass-produced V8 engine available in the world, leap-frogging over the handful of experimental eight-cylinders that had trickled out of shops in Europe over the previous decade. When it went on sale for 1915 models, it featured a 90-degree design that displaced 314 cubic inches and came with a single carburetor and an L-shaped, side-valve head. Horsepower was initially rated at 70. but that number climbed to 83 hp by 1923 after the introduction of a cross-plane crankshaft. The engine was also good for 180 lb-ft of torque.
It's hard to overstate how important this motor was for Cadillac, as it leapt from a four-cylinder line-up to one sporting standard V8s, leaving rivals in the dust.
Cadillac 331 Series V8
In 1949, Cadillac borrowed a page from corporate cousin Buick's book and introduced its own overhead valve V8 engine. Dubbed the '331 Series' after its initial displacement (in cubic inches), the engine generated 160 hp and 312 lb-ft of torque, numbers that climbed to 270 hp just six years later.
The OHV V8 gave Cadillac a potent weapon when dueling with other luxury car companies for the high performance title. The 331 series saw its displacement and compression continually dialed up over the course of the next decade, resulting in the 390 cubic inch, 345 hp Eldorado engine of the late 1950s, and culminating in a bored and stroked 429 cubic inch V8 using the same architecture that produced a monster 480 lb-ft of torque by the middle of the 1960s (the renamed 390 series).
Cadillac 472 Series V8
The largest big block V8 ever produced by Cadillac was the 500 cubic inch edition of the 472 series. The 472 series arrived in 1968 and was good for a whopping 375 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque, but just two years later Cadillac increased displacement to a mammoth 500 cubes, giving it 400 hp and 550 lb-ft of twist in the front-wheel drive Eldorado coupe and convertible.
This motor would be the swan song for big block performance at General Motors, as Cadillac was forced to drop compression only a year later to meet impending emissions regulations (dropping output to 365 hp). By 1976, the last year of the 500, the motor was rated as low as 190 hp using the now-standard SAE-net system.
Cadillac Northstar V8
The 1993 Northstar V8 was the first all-aluminum effort from the brand, and it brought with it many modern advancements that had been lacking throughout the previous decade. The dual-overhead camshaft design featured cast-iron cylinder liners, a distributor-less ignition system, and an unusual capability to continue driving after coolant loss by activating an air-cooled 'limp home' system that fueled individual cylinders one at a time.
The 4.6L engine was initially found in two configurations: 270 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, or 295 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque, depending on which vehicle and trim level was ordered. By 1996 only the legacy Fleetwood was left out of the Northstar party, and a 275 hp edition of the engine eventually filtered into the Pontiac and Buick line-up for a brief period (in addition to the 'Shortstar' V6 derivative found in the Oldsmobile intrigue, and the smaller, 4.0L V8 of the Aurora).
By 2004, the Northstar's output had climbed to 320 hp, but it peaked at 469 hp under the hood of the Cadillac STS-V, which provided a 4.4L, supercharged version of the V8 from 2006 to 2009. The XLR-V received a slightly de-tuned edition of this motor.
Cadillac Twin-Turbo Blackwing V8
The most powerful engine in Cadillac history also enjoyed the shortest time on the market. The twin-turbocharged Blackwing V8 was a clean-sheet design that squeezed 131 hp per liter from its 4.2L design thanks to 20 pounds of boost. With total output of 550 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque (when installed in the CT6-V sedan), the direct-injected DOHC motor was also offered in a 500 hp / 574 lb-ft tune for the CT6 Premium Luxury trim.
The Blackwing was intended to be used with the Escala, a high performance, big-buck four-door, but when this project never materialized Cadillac couldn't justify producing the V8 solely for use in the CT6 sedan, which was selling in very low numbers. Despite the massive investment from Cadillac, the Blackwing V8 lasted only two model years, and was canceled after 2020.
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