After 17 years of production, General Motors Co.'s Northstar V8 engine will end towards the end of July, according to a GM spokesman who confirmed this development to Inside Line. For a time, this engine was the most highly celebrated GM's powertrain firmament.
In 1992, the 4.6-liter Northstar became famous when GM launched the overhead-cam, all-aluminum V8 for the '93 Cadillac Allante.
It was GM's first overhead-cam V8 and it introduced innovative features to the market. This included 100,000-mile sparkplugs and a "limp home" mode that could prevent the engine from melting itself even if all the coolant was lost.
For about 10 years, Cadillac and the Northstar were closely linked, as the "Northstar System" was made into a Cadillac exclusive.
Years later, the engine architecture of the Northstar was used for other brands such as Oldsmobile and Buick. Over the years, there have been three Northstar displacements, although the 4.6-liter engine was used most extensively.
A short-lived 3.5-liter V6 was derived from the Northstar for Oldsmobile before the brand ceased. With Northstar's departure, a hole was created in GM's powertrain lineup.
This means that GM and Cadillac won't have an overhead-cam V8 architecture and that when a V8 is needed, GM would have to rely on the overhead-valve "small-block" V8 which has a design that has existed since 1955.
Only time will tell if the small-block V8 will be technically advanced enough to rival the sophisticated V8s from Europe and Japan. In 2007, GM had nearly completed its engineering for a Northstar successor, named the "Ultra V8," or UV8, but this program was shut down when the company started to lose money, leading to its bankruptcy in 2009.