Northstar & Blackwing: A Brief History Of DOHC V8 Cadillac Engines29
The 2019 Cadillac CT6-V, originally introduced as the CT6 V-Sport, ushers in notable for all kinds of reasons, the biggest of which is the introduction of the new Blackwing Cadillac engine. But the beastly twin-turbo V8 Blackwing is not Caddy’s first Dual OverHead Cam (DOHC) V8 engine. In fact, the Northstar V8 was the first DOHC-style engine for both Cadillac and GM.
Let’s take a brief look at the origins of each engine family.
Developed to combat an onslaught of German and Asian rivals with DOHC V8 engines, GM developed the Northstar engine family for Cadillac. It was a first for GM and for Cadillac as a brand; until that point, the automaker exclusively used engines of the OverHead Valve design. The Northstar range was defined by a V8 layout with DOHC layout within an aluminum block, and four valves per cylinder.
Though the Northstar designation is typically associated with Cadillac, the motor was technically developed by the R&D team at Oldsmobile, which later got a six-cylinder variant of the Northstar called Shortstar.
The first Northstar engine, RPO Code L37, was launched in the 1993 Cadillac Allante roadster and the Cadillac Eldorado. It displaced 4.6 liters and delivered 295 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. Later, the engine was also used in the Buick Lucerne Super. A slightly different version of the L37, dubbed LD8, was released shortly after to provide more torque (300 pound-feet) and slightly less power (275 horses).
The naturally-aspirated 4.6L Northstar V8 LH2 made 320 horsepower and was available in the first-generation Cadillac SRX, Cadillac STS, Cadillac XLR and Chinese-market Cadillac SLS.
The range-topping variant was the supercharged 4.4L Northstar LC3 used in the Cadillac XLR-V and STS-V. It pushed out 469 horsepower and 439 pound-feet of torque. Despite those incredible figures, the range-topping Northstar was outdone a few short years later by the 6.2L V8 LSA Small Block engine in the second-gen CTS-V, which made an even more potent 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque via the simpler OHV design, otherwise known as push-rod.
In July 2010, production of the Northstar V8 engine family ceased after a 17-year-long run. The discontinuation left Cadillac without a Dual OverHead Cam engine – something that’s not necessary from a technological standpoint given that GM’s Small Block engines are just fine from a power standpoint. But a DOHC V8 was necessary for two reasons: refinement and image. Simply put, the feel delivered by a DOHC-style engine is necessary, and such an image is all but expected from an image standpoint in the luxury space.
Nine years after discontinuing the Northstar V8, GM revealed a spiritual successor called Blackwing. Featuring two turbos with a 4.2 liter displacement and a DOHC configuration, the all-new engine carries RPO code LTA. The motor is available in the 2019 Cadillac CT6-V, where it is paired with the new GM 10-speed automatic transmission making 550 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. А lower-displacement version making 500 horses and 553 pound-feet of torque is available in the CT6 Platinum.
Apart from those powerhouse numbers, the Cadillac Blackwing engine is truly a work of art. Every individual unit is assembled by hand by a single crafter at the GM Bowling Green performance build center. As of this writing, only six people are certified to build the engines, and each unit is signed by its crafter.
Our friends at Cadillac Society recently discovered that the Blackwing name was derived from the original Cadillac emblem, which featured a black bird called the merlette. The initial trademark filing for the logo indicated that it would consist of “two stylized wings comprised of six elongated geometric shapes.”
In the future, the Blackwing Cadillac engine is expected to become available across a wider variety of vehicles outside the CT6. But for now, one thing is clear: the Northstar has a successor – and it’s the Blackwing.
Stay tuned to GM Authority for more Cadillac news.
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Do you have some quarter mile times for the Blackwing.
The last engine, 6.2L V8 LSA Small Block engine in the second-gen CTS-V was really good.
Im hoping the turbos are as much fun as to drive as much as the supercharged engine.
I’m thinking somewhere in the mid to high 3 sec range for the 0 to 60 with a quarter mile around the low to mid 11 sec range. It is awd and it also has the 10 spd, so it might actually be quicker than what I’m guestimating.
To be fair, the Northstar was not the first DOHC engine built by GM. The first DOHC engine was the quad 4 and I know we are talking about a V8 here so after the quad 4, the ZR-1 was released a couple of years later in 1990 with the DOHC V8 LT5 and I know it was Lotus designed and Mercury Marine built. But GM owned Lotus at the time so it’s still the first V8 DOHC for GM.
Can the LQ1 DOHC V6 engine of 1991era be configured to fit and replace a Northstar engine in a 2005 DHS Deville,,,,a Beautiful car but a bad engine? For that matter, any engine to replace the Northstar. I can do the work myself, just need some viable options
Also, the LQ1 DOHC V6 came out in 1991, developed by Chevrolet.
1975 cosworth vega. DOHC 122 CID 110bhp. Bendex fuel injection.
Not quite correct, the LQ1 was developed in 1988, it was to be the engine of choice for the 1990 Pontiac Fiero GTA. The engine was developed by Pontiac. When the Fiero was cancelled at the end of the ’88 year the engine then found a home in the 1991 Grand Prix after GM dropped the LG5 turbo installed into the 1990 Turbo GP’s, the LQ1 also went into the Lumina Z34 & the Cutlass Surpeme Internationals.
Here’s hoping the Blackwing won’t have anything like the head gasket problems the Northstar had for more than 10 years of its production run. It’s criminal it wasn’t fixed earlier. The V864 and HT4100 did a lot of damage to Cadillac’s reputation for quality, but only for a few years of new cars.
OTOH, I was able to buy a 3 year old Deville for less than a third of its MSRP.
Will this engine match the reliability of the GM diesels and the Cadillac V-8-6-4?
Certainly not company to be very proud of. Hope this one does better or it will be the final swan song for the brand.
I like the T-Bird emblem. Better pray that Ford doesn’t sue you…
That’s where I’ve seen that emblem before. Knew it looked familiar. Cadillac’s future will be based on 60 year-old Fords. Well, beats the Cadillac Cavalier, Omega, I mean Chevrolet Cimarron, Opel Catera route.
Uh huh, and Bentley, Aston Martin, Chrysler, Mini and Genesis all share similar looking winged emblems. Wonder if a N/A version will be available?
This new Blackwing Cadillac engine is a waste of money and resources. Cadillac ignored GM’s LT5 small block 6.2L V8 engine which is one of the finest engines in the world. Given that the ICE may only have 10-15 years left. Caddy should have went with the vette engine price it at a competitive price point. Then spend the much needed resources on the future electric power plant and upgraded interiors.
Insurance in many states is based on engine size. Come back to the modern era, instead of caveman times. Stuffing more liters under the hood is the waste of money and resources.
You mention the Northstar as GM’s first DOHC V8. I know it was not done entirely in house but haven’t you forgotten the Corvette engine developed with Lotus?
Chevy engine Caddies, yep there’s a website that pan Cadillac for using a Chevy v6 it’s called GMAuthority I believe?. A CT6 based Caprice and Buick w/6.2 yes but a Cadillac?, no. If you want a Chevy v8 Cadillac get a CTS-V…
And Escalade too
GM’s LT5 small block 6.2L V8 is a highly regarded world renown engine. Most cars equipped with LT5 engine or its derivative command high resell value and become collector’s car such as the CTS-V and Escalade. I believe Cadillac missed an opportunity that may have placed Cadillac ahead of the foreign luxury cars makers by not offering the LT5 engines on all its cars at a reasonable price.
“derivative command high resell value and become collector’s car”
So is Ford Flathead v8 cars , that type of engine needs to be put in the new Lincolns…?
Again, a 6.2 Caprice and Buick, yes but a twin V8 is needed in this type of car plus the base v8 S-Class, A8 and 7-Series is thousands more then a Blackwing, there’s your “value” there, also Cadillac always had one v8 by themselves ohv or ohc .
Well each has his/her opinion. I focus on the build quality of the engine and/or transmission rather than who shares the engine or transmission. For example, ZF 8HP transmission and its variants are shared among 18 car manufactures. And it is still one of the best transmissions in the world. Using that transmission does lower the value nor mystique of the car. That transmission serves a Ram truck to a Bentley. So goes the LT5.
There is no shame in GM sharing its engine with Chevrolet. LT5 is a great engine. Nissan, and Renault share engines with Mercedes. Also Mercedes use the same engine for their taxis in Europe that we use for the luxury version in the US. A great engine is a great engine. BMW shares it engines with Roll Royce. Toyota and Lexus shares some engines among their models. That’s simply the industry.
The Olds Aurora, which was new for MY 1995, also had a 4.0L version of this engine. It was dubbed the Aurora V8 and made 250hp and 260lb.ft. Carroll Shelby also bought some Aurora V8’s and used them in the Shelby Series 1sports car in 1999.
The 3.5L V6 “shortstar” was used in the Aurora and Olds Intrigue. The plan was to introduce the Intrigue with this engine in 1998, but there were delays, so the Intrigue go the corporate 3.8L “3800” V6 for ’98 and part of ’99. I was working at an Olds/GMC store at the time and I ordered a ’99 Intrigue with the new engine. I liked it, but most people preferred the 3800.
I bought a ’99 Intrique with the 3.5. The engine was by far the best thing about it, but it was geared for economy between 55 and 65 mph. Once you got to 65, it would get to 80 in a heartbeat. MPG was pretty good even at speed if you didn’t stomp on the gas. My 04 Deville was pretty lazy until you stomped on it, and its MPG wasn’t much worse than the Olds.
The Oldsmobile team actually designed the Northstar engine
Supercharged Northstars were build the same way, by hand, by a few people.
It’s too bad GM killed the NorthStar, they wouldn’t have had to spend all this money re-inventing the wheel with a new DOHC V8.
The Northstar was a head gasket waiting to go. On top of that, they crammed it in front wheel drive so it was even harder to work on. Its to bad because once the head stud problem was fixed it was good engine.
No discussion of the Northstar is complete without mentioning it’s fatal design flaw: poorly engineered cylinder head bolting that pulled out of the block. The engines did not last long and that is why they were terminated.
Blackwing shows promise but if it suffers similar reliability/durability problems then it will also have it’s wings clipped.
It’s hard to believe that the engineers of the Northstar were so proud of an engine after the diesel debacle.
The Oldsmobile 350 in itself was a good engine as a 8.5
Compression engine. Who would think the head bolts would hold 22 to 1 compression? It wasn’t the motor or the head gaskets fault. It was the engineers who thought making something in demand cheap would be a great idea. Well if at first you don’t succeed…
Moving on to the Northstar, the consensus was to build an aluminum block motor that dissipates heat to put iron heads on it that holds heat; that way we can pull the head bolts right out of the block.
Makes me embarrassed to admit I use to sell Cadillac
That and thousands of other failures explains why Cadillac sales represents 0.5% of the world luxury market. In other words, outside the US, Cadillac is completely irrelevant.
When Cadillac introduced their electric car, the stock went down. Tesla announces a stock split today and the stock is up 13.12%