A beautiful, luxurious and speedy end to the ICE era.
The story of the Cadillac Blackwing name is a weird one. The company wanted a modern dual-overhead cam engine to compete with the German luxury marques and came up with a very-Audi-like twin-turbocharged 4.2-liter V8. It put the new engine - dubbed the Blackwing - in its CT6 full-size sedan, which debuted in 2016. Shortly after, the team responsible for the CT6 was let go due to restructuring. Only 800 cars were built with the epic new engine.
But Cadillac wasn't going to let Blackwing (an evocative name that came from its original crest featuring the black merlette bird) die. The name is back, now on its fastest sedans (and eventually SUVs). The first two of the new era, which is also probably the last era for high-performance, big-engine sports sedans, are the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing and the bigger CT5-V Blackwing. They don't have the eponymous engine, but they're the best products Cadillac has ever delivered anyway.
The 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing premiered this summer with the former sporting a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 making 472 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque and the latter housing a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 making 668 hp and 659 lb-ft. They offer ten-speed automatic transmissions sending power to the rear wheels only, but do yourself a favor and get the six speed manual.
Brandon Vivian, executive chief engineer at Cadillac says, "We've been on an expansion of the V-Series, which started in 2004. We're now on our fourth generation of products. The strategy started with the CT4 and CT5-V, which offer a midlevel performance vehicle, analogous to the Audi S series and AMG 43s. And that expansion brings all-wheel drive, which gives us the ability to sell in the 50 states here. The Blackwings raised the bar to our highest level. It's the pinnacle of Cadillac performance, technology and craftsmanship.
We burbled out of Pittsburgh at the crack of dawn on our way to Pittsburgh International Raceway or Pitt-Race. We started in the manual CT5-V Blackwing and felt a little conspicuous in the Electric Blue, carbon fiber-clad and winged sedan, but we restrained ourselves from waking up the entire city. Though we could have.
Both Blackwings feature GM's Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 as standard equipment, meaning they were as almost as comfortable as a Cadillac should be. We say almost because with those 19-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, there was some stiffness there. But unlike some of the Germans luxury sedans, the Cadillac didn't only absorb the bumps, it also absorbed the sound. That's not to say it was pin-drop quiet in the cabin, those tires make some road noise, but it didn't crash through potholes.
Power is prodigious in any gear. Cruising on the highway out of Pittsburgh toward the track, getting up to illegal speeds and passing didn't require a shift. Just put your foot to the floor and you'll go from 70 to 90 mph in sixth gear faster than most cars can do with a couple downshifts. The brakes, which we'll discuss in detail a little later, were flawless on the street.
The Blackwings have electronic power steering, as most modern vehicles do, but it might be the best electronic setup we've felt. And by best, we mean the most road feel and the correct amount of steering effort. It's rack-mounted, which is better than when the electric motor is on the steering column, and Cadillac told us that while most brands are trying to isolate you from the road, at least with the Blackwings, Cadillac wants you connected to it.
After a brief stint on the streets, we hit Pitt-Race. The 2.78-mile, 19-turn track has elevation changes, off- and on-camber corners both blind and visible. A good mix. We started in the 472-hp CT4-V Blackwing with the automatic transmission and were immediately impressed.
The excellence starts with the adjustable brakes. This writer likes his brakes stiff without a lot of movement, breeding confidence no matter how fast you come into corner. It's rare that modern performance brakes just fail and sink to the floor, but it still feels good to have another few inches of pedal travel when you're cresting 120 mph in the blink of an eye. The CT4 delivered.
Combine that and the communicative steering (and hot laps from Johnny O'Connell), and the Blackwing felt fast on this track even though we were just learning it. Crucially, it was adjustable, so we could come over a hill pointed slightly the wrong way, and be able to dab the brakes, readjust and hammer out in exhilarating fashion. The CT4-V Blackwing felt manageable and sharp, but forgiving.
It felt fast too, until we jumped in the 668-hp beast known as the CT5-V Blackwing. The sound is the first thing we noticed. Where the CT4's muted V6 and its ten gear ratios gave little indication of when to shift, the CT5 bellowed its intention like a god. We found ourselves flying along way faster than the CT4, and then realized the pedal was only three-quarters of the way down. Thankfully, the brakes were just as good in this bigger vehicle.
The Blackwings offer four standard drive modes including tour, sport, snow/ice and track. Each with unique settings for throttle and transmission, steering, suspension and brakes. It also features V-Mode, via a button the on the wheel, which switches everything to max like BMW's M Mode. It also has a My Mode setting that can be configured any way you like. We love the brake setting here, as it's rare and welcomed.
Those modes will be superseded by the Performance Traction Management (PTM) system, which has six modes of its own. Those options immediately switch the car into track mode but make other adjustments, integrating the traction control, stability control, Magnetic Ride Control and eLSD in different conditions.
"All other systems including ours, whether in sport, tour or track, are a retardation of the car in some form or fashion whether its spark control, brake control or otherwise. What we do with PTM is change the slip targets, which allows the driver to be more confident and faster on the track. And it's a philosophical approach that's different between PTM and our competition," said Blaine Heavener, global vehicle performance manager.
"One of the key elements of PTM is the friction of the surface. This sets up what's happening in the background and how the system is functioning. In normal traction control mode the system is always learning. It's trying to understand if you're on snow or ice or asphalt, it's adapting," said Heavener. "When you get into the PTM modes we have a targeted friction that it's controlling to. If you have it in wet (modes include wet, dry/damp, sport, race 1 and race 2) it goes to a mu 0.56. Dry and sport go up from there. Race 1 and race 2 are for tracks, depending on how smooth the surface is."
We swapped around the PTM modes, first to sport, then race 1. But after talking with Corvette race car driver O'Connell, we moved into race 2, to allow more slip, with less of a jerk when the traction came back. Coming uphill around a corner, the CT5 Blackwing can send its tail out, and then gradually come back straight at the end of the bend. We spent several hours at the track and we could have done more if it weren't for the seats. They're built for an American audience, which means broad-framed individuals fit well, but the lankier among us struggle when tossing the car around.
We can't say that the Blackwing cabins are up to Mercedes levels of luxury, but the CT5-V Blackwing looked cool at the very least. The seats are comfortable, two-tone and diamond stitched but they aren't as tight-fitting as we would have liked, especially when ripping around roundabouts. On the flipside, they're heated and cooled.
There are a bunch of plastic buttons for the climate control and other functions, those could have been metal, but we do like the carbon fiber accents and extra steering wheel controls. The infotainment screen is on the dash and canted a little towards the sky, it wasn't too sunny on our quick trip, but we could imagine glare becoming an issue at certain times of the day.
The CT4-V Blackwing had a plain black interior, which made it less cool. Automatic-equipped vehicles get a big rotary controller on the center console behind the gear selector. Manual cars have two knobs right on the infotainment screen for volume and selection. The eight-inch screen feels a little small, until you realize that it only needs to be big enough to see a few functions. This car is for driving, not for infotaining.
The 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing starts at $59,990, excluding destination. The automatic transmission adds a little over three grand and when all boxes are checked you'll leave the dealership $84,875 lighter. The CT5-V Blackwing starts right there at $84,990; the auto is $88,165 and this vehicle will max out at $125,980. It seems like a lot. But max out a BMW M5 and then look again. We think you'll be surprised. This is M5 performance at M3 money.
This is the end of an era for Cadillac. And many other brands. Flamethrowing engines will be a thing of the past soon, which makes these two cars a spectacular sendoff. We can't imagine Cadillac will build an ICE car faster than these ever again. On the other hand, we've seen what the company can do on the racetrack (win). And its chassis are good. So, we'll probably get another track car from the company, maybe even a coupe. But it won't drink gas, so get 'em while they're hot.