When the Cadillac Sixteen concept vehicle was introduced at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, I was completely in awe. Gorgeous color, intriguing dimensions and a stunning 16-cylinder engine that pumped out about 1,000 horsepower. It was only a concept but Cadillac was searching for a powertrain to compete with the V12 engines in the BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. At the time, it seemed like a strategy with which no one would voice an objection.

Fast forward to 2007 on the heels of a documentary about global warming winning an Academy Award, and any suggestion of an engine that displaces nearly 14 liters would be suicidal.

In this week's Automotive News, editor David Sedgwick points out the irony of former Texas oilman and now President George Bush leading a proposal to raise CAFE standards. If passed, as explained by GM product boss Bob Lutz, the company would have to "re-prioritize" product plans. That means no V16, although GM might approve a V10 or V12 engine for a high-priced Caddy supercar.

Laments Sedgwick: "Well, life is hard. I say that with regret. My young son fell in love with the Sixteen -- frankly, I did, too -- but the world isn't geared for little boys."

The V16 in the Sixteen had Displacement on Demand (now called Active Fuel Management), but that cylinder deactivation technology wouldn't have given the engine enough fuel economy to be viable in today's political climate.

The year after the Sixteen was rolled out on stage, I interviewed GM's powertrain boss, Tom Stephens, for an engineering magazine.

"I was pretty proud of the V16," he said. "Yes, Cadillac should have an image engine. I'm totally supportive of that. I'm not sure that a 12-cylinder is enough. Maybe last year's V16 needs to be changed a bit."

Sadly, the only change that will bring this beautiful engine back is a way to get 25 mpg in the city. RIP sweet 16!

[Source: David Sedgwick / Automotive News (subscription required)]

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