General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac luxury division moves a step closer to eclipsing the high-performance luxury image of its German rivals with the introduction of the new '06 V-Series STS sedan and XLR roadster.

Aimed at niche vehicles produced by the in-house tuning efforts of Audi AG (Quattro GmbH), BMW AG (M GmbH) and Mercedes-Benz (AMG GmbH), the new V-Series cars return an element of performance, style and exclusivity to the Cadillac name at prices unseen by the brand until now ($77,000-$100,000).

Cadillac jumped on the performance bandwagon in 2004 with the CTS-V, a scrappy midsize sedan boasting an edgy design, European-tuned handling and the Chevrolet Corvette's 400-hp powertrain, complete with 6-speed manual transmission.

So far, the effort appears successful, with the CTS-V selling about 4,000 units annually and the CTS-V race car winning the 2005 driver's and manufacturer's championships in the Speed World Challenge GT Series.

With the STS-V and XLR-V, Cadillac plans to shed some of its track-ready luster in favor of a more refined performance package, one that it hopes will appeal to the affluent and image-conscious consumers of European performance vehicles.

Under each vehicle's bulging, sheet-molded-composite hood is an intercooled and supercharged 4.4L version of GM's DOHC Northstar V