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There are quite a few legendary engines in the automotive world. However, few cause the stir that the Cadillac Northstar does. It’s been the powerhouse for many of the best luxury cars, but it’s also problematic for several reasons. This is a powerhouse that many Cadillac owners love to hate as it’s both one of the best and worst engines.

Here’s how the Cadillac Northstar became the automaker’s secret weapon.

History of the Cadillac Northstar engine 

Cadillac has produced some of the best luxury cars, which means it also has some of the best engines. Though problematic, the Cadillac Northstar engine is legendary and has a long history. The automaker first used it in 1993 for the Allante, Eldorado, and Seville STS models. At the time, the Northstar engine was General Motors’s creme of the crop for the best luxury engines.

The Cadillac Northstar was so beloved at the time that it was considered one of the ten best engines in North America by Ward’s Auto. In fact, it made the list three times. The 4.6-liter V8 engine was rated for 295 horsepower. However, it got more powerful as the years progressed and even clocked in at almost 500 horsepower.

The Northstar engine powered many cars
2010 Buick Lucerne | Buick

The Cadillac Northstar is a well-engineered engine that has many notable features. For example, its limp home mode will allow the engine to continue running if the coolant runs out. General Motors later introduced a less powerful version, and the automaker used the Northstar from 1993 until 2010. The final vehicles to use the iconic powerhouse came out in 2011.

Unfortunately, the Cadillac Northstar isn’t one of the best engines for reliability. It has this reputation because it’s a complex engine, which means quite a bit can go wrong. In particular, the Northstar has more head gasket issues than its rivals. These problems primarily impact models with the Northstar that were produced from 1993 until 2005.

Many of the best luxury cars used the Northstar

The Cadillac Northstar is iconic because some of the best luxury cars used the engine. Notably, it powered the V-Series of Cadillacs for a time. The automaker used the powerhouse for an impressive 17 years. However, by the end, it only powered three vehicles in GM’s North American lineup. They were the Cadillac DTS, Cadillac STS, and the Buick Lucerne.

Given the long timeframe the automaker used the Northstar, there are still several options on the used car market that use it. However, many are them are still considered problematic by today’s standards.