Bob Lutz Answers the Challenge

In answer to Swade’s question — Saab truly shouldn’t have answered Bob Lutz’s challenge to race him in a factory-stock Cadillac CTS-V on a closed course. The results would have been downright embarrassing. Saab has never been about supercar performance, but it has been about performance, and being slapped in a challenge like this wouldn’t be pretty.
Whether Saab entered or not is somewhat academic — we Saabisti really don’t have a vehicle in this class — yet. Naturally, the Cadillac won. With 550+ hp on tap and tires designed specially for the car, I’d anticipate that it would be a quick car. Very quick.
Lutz did not win, nor did he place. However, Caddy placed 1-2-3, with a BMW M3 in fourth. The first three places were taken by ringers — John Heinricy and Brian Redman are long-time racers and Aaron Link is a GM engineer that may have logged more miles in the CTS-V than any on the track (strictly speculation).
See the video here for results and for comments by the drivers.
Click through for the rest of the post.


As the resident General Motors apologist, I must say that I’m both happy and disappointed that the Cadillac CTS-V is this good. And it is good, I don’t care what any of you say. It has world-class performance and world-class features. My happiness derives from the emergence of General Motors as a competitive technology and manufacturing company despite the economic and financial challenges. My disappointment is naturally aimed at the fact that Detroit never shared the technology and know-how with Saab (or Opel/Vauxhall for that matter), nor did they ever seem all that interested in making any Saab competitive (other than the 9-7x, which was an abomination anyway).
Looking forward, the 2010 9-5 is the type of platform that could conceivably compete in this class given the right power plant and the right chassis tweaks. As you will see from the video, a couple of the drivers cited brake performance as a critical factor on courses such as the one selected for this event. Of course, Saab could easily adapt a more powerful engine, stiffer suspension and bigger brakes on virtually any Saab, but especially on a current generation development like the 2010 9-5. I see very little that would prevent Saab from producing high-performance, world-class sedan based upon that platform.
On the other hand, Saab has always talked about “right-sizing” the power plant and “responsible” handling for driver safety. Are those goals compatible with an all-out track machine? Would Saab be successful with such a car? These are complex questions, but I think that the answer is a qualified “yes”. Engine technology is constantly evolving, and there are many, many ways to “green” a larger power plant. XWD and little judicious tuning are already available. Success, however elusive in the recent past, can be achieved through engineering and perseverance. Remember how Audi seemed to be on the ropes as few as ten years ago? And what about Subaru, formerly a purveyor to counter culture types, college professors and a few outdoorsmen, but now firmly entrenched in the rally/performance genre? Both great examples of how automotive companies can reinvent themselves.
I hope that we see Saab challenging even the world-class performance sedans in short order. I would be gratifying to see the Saab way be the winning way.

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