Photo: Cadillac

There are a few perpetual, existential questions in this life, such as: “Where do we come from?” “What are we?” “Where are we going?” and “What the hell is Cadillac doing?” This time, though, that last one has reached a part of Cadillac that seemed safe from tampering—the high-performance V-Series models.

But the V-Series name did get tampered with, in the announcement of the new, surprisingly underpowered CT4-V and CT5-V models. They’ll effectively replace the CTS-V and ATS-V we all so dearly loved but not enough people bought, and one statement from General Motors President Mark Reuss seems to blame at least some of it on us losers who couldn’t handle what the V-Series once was.

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Just read it for yourself, via Automotive News:

The strategy marks a change in direction for Cadillac, which has never offered more than one V-Series variant on any nameplate in the subbrand’s 15-year history.

“There was, frankly, some people who were intimidated by the cars,” GM President Mark Reuss said after unveiling the cars last week. “When we did a V series, they were hammers. … There’s some intimidation there.” [...]

Reuss, who oversees Cadillac, said the company is not worried about diluting the V-series name with a lower-performance V-series model because the brand has “established” itself over the last 15 years.

Yes, the problem with the V-Series was certainly that it was too intimidating. It wasn’t that the interiors fell short, or that the vehicles were born into a hard but noble battle directly competing with German powerhouses like the BMW M3. It was that people were scared to drive them. Totally.

The high-performance V-Series cars were the exception to the strategy norm at Cadillac, which has been, in recent memory, confusing and debilitatingly behind the trends. The most recent generation of the CTS-V and ATS-V models cranked out 640 horsepower from a supercharged V8 engine and 464 HP from a twin-turbocharged V6, respectively, with top track speeds of 200 and 189 mph. The latest generation of the CTS-V that began a few years ago dropped the option for a manual transmission, but the ATS-V kept it as standard.

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Cadillac describes the V-Series as “raw power at its most refined,” and the CTS-V and ATS-V fit that description through their most recent generation. They were the powerhouse cars meant for track and road use, with all of the included track training, performance features, power figures, and lap-review technology to go along with those tasks.

But then came the new crop of V-Series cars late last week, the CT4-V and CT5-V. Cadillac announced them with 320 and 355 HP, respectively, coming from the CT4-V’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the CT5-V’s V6 turbo. The only transmission between the two will be a 10-speed automatic, and around the time of announcing them, Cadillac made a slight mention of a “next level” V-Series badge for the cars that will “offer customers a track-capable experience.”

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All of the uproar about offering a new V-Series with half of the horsepower of one of the old V cars could have been avoided by simply not using a V badge—especially because they seem like fine vehicles aside from that—but we’re past that point. We’re at the point when Cadillac’s trying to justify its decision.

There are plenty of potential justifications for chaining the reputation of the V-Series to a bowling ball and dropping it into the ocean, too, no matter how mad they make the fans of what the V-Series used to be.

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Sales numbers show U.S. car buyers care more about crossovers and SUVs than power or small cars these days, for one, and opening up the V-Series to a bigger market by lowering its price could help sell more cars in an already slow-selling segment. In addition to that, if the Trump administration fails to halt tightening fuel-economy regulations in the U.S., getting better gas-pump numbers across an automaker’s lineup is important. That’s much more easily done with a four-cylinder turbo than it is with a supercharged V8.

But in no universe, nor in any subset of any universe, should this move be about “people who were intimidated by the cars.” If Cadillac can’t bear sole ownership for its widely criticized decisions, then we’re once again all left to ask ourselves: What the hell is Cadillac doing?

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