Driven: The 2023 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Is The Perfect Performance Sedan

Test Drive / 22 Comments

Yes, you read correctly. It's perfect.

We don't say this lightly; the 2023 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is the perfect sports sedan. We'd change nothing about it... except maybe make it a wagon. We could probably end the review right there, but perhaps you're wondering why we are so smitten with a performance car that comes from a luxury brand that's focused on electrification and pioneering the next leap in autonomous driving technology.

The standard CT5 is a pretty OK luxury sedan. When we first drove it, we loved the evolution of GM's heralded Alpha platform and the smooth V6 powertrain. The interior had a few wonky choices, but it was an overall enjoyable experience. But we knew it was the perfect starting point for a sportier model.

When the CT5-V was first revealed, the collective car enthusiast community was underwhelmed entirely, especially when comparing the 360-horsepower V6 to the outgoing CTS-V's 640-hp supercharged V8. But then Cadillac unleashed the Blackwing, and suddenly all was forgiven. This might be the best sports sedan America has ever produced, but more than that, it may go in the history books as the best sports sedan of all time.

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In-Between Sizes

Part of what makes the CT5 such a great driver's sedan is its 'tweener size. It measures 194.9 inches long, almost six inches longer than a BMW M3 (189.1 in), but an inch and a half shorter than an M5. Cadillac decided to prioritize interior space, so the back seat is roomier than most compact sedans at the expense of trunk space.

Modern Cadillac sedans have always been quite handsome, but the American luxury brand honed its design with each iteration, landing on the CT5-V Blackwing. Sharp angles present an aggressive demeanor further accented by bold available colors like our tester's Blaze Orange Metallic. Customers can go as bold as they please with hues like Electric Blue and available bronze wheels, or they can be stealthy with various silvers and whites that will help this supercharged beast fly under the radar.

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Z06 Power

This will likely be the last supercharged V8 sedan with rear-wheel drive. All of Cadillac's competitors have already shifted to turbocharging and all-wheel drive, and Caddy is dreaming of an electric future. Power comes from a familiar 6.2-liter LT4 V8 also used in the Escalade-V and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 (and previously in the C7 Corvette Z06). Here it delivers an astonishing 668 hp and 659 lb-ft of torque, more than an Audi RS7, BMW M5, or Mercedes-AMG E63. It's also louder than the three Germans.

The Blackwing is even more special because it comes with a six-speed manual transmission standard. There's a 10-speed automatic available for $3,175 (including adaptive cruise control), but we can't possibly imagine opting for it when the manual is so darn fun. The clutch pedal is relatively heavy, but we got used to it quickly. There's so much torque on tap, it's virtually impossible to stall, and first gear is so long it never feels jerky to creep along in stop-and-go traffic. The gear lever slides into each gate easily, almost as if the car is anticipating your shifts in a giddy plea to keep accelerating up to the claimed 200+ mph top speed.

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Alpha Platform For Alpha Drivers

Getting the Blackwing off the line is tricky since this car doesn't have the impressive AWD grip of its German rivals. That said, the launch control is like a stern teacher, wrangling all 668 screaming kids into an organized effort. Cadillac says 0-60 will take around 3.6 seconds with the manual or 3.4 seconds with the auto; we'd easily trade those two-tenths for the pleasure of rowing our own gears.

Drivers can choose between Tour, Sport, Snow/Ice, and Track modes, with unique settings available for the engine, transmission, steering, suspension, and brakes. After customizing and choosing their ideal settings, the profile can be saved into a My Mode or a V Mode, accessible from a button on the steering wheel. Separate from those settings, a dial on the wheel shifts between various traction control modes, including Race 1, Race 2, Sport, Dry, and Wet. We didn't play around too much with the traction control, as 668 hp was tough enough to tame on its own with help from the computers. The 305 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rear tires do a commendable job keeping traction, but the engine can break loose on demand.

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Every aspect of the Blackwing begs to be driven harder. The exhaust sound is ferocious, and the acceleration can pin occupants to their seats. As for the steering, all GM vehicles on the Alpha platform have always been known for responsiveness and communication with the driver, and this car is no exception. Whereas many of the Germans provide a one-way relationship from the driver to the car, the Blackwing talks back through the wheel like you'd expect from a hydraulic steering rack (even though it uses an electric unit).

Standard Magnetic Ride Control keeps the car planted through corners without ruining the ride. In anything other than the Track Mode, the dampers deliver a smooth ride that's very Cadillac-like. This is not only a stellar driver's car, but it functions beautifully as a comfortable cruiser as well.

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A Focused Interior

The Blackwing's interior won't blow anyone away when cross-shopped against an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes. That being said, it's filled with premium materials and a driver-centric layout that's complication-free. A standard 10-inch touchscreen packs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto tied to a nice-sounding AKG Premium Audio system with 16 speakers. Cadillac's vestigial rotating knob control for the infotainment system is absent on the manual-equipped Blackwing to accommodate the shifter, and we didn't miss it at all. The touchscreen is easy to reach, and physical buttons abound below it for climate control and other vehicle functions.

Leather-clad performance bucket seats come standard, but our tester included the $2,800 optional High-Performance seats with more substantial bolstering and carbon fiber trim. These seats are fabulously comfortable and grippy and include heating, ventilation, and massage functions. Semi-Aniline seats are available for $8,080, but we thought the mid-level leather felt just fine.

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A Family Muscle Sedan

As we eluded to earlier, the CT5-V Blackwing has a pretty roomy backseat, though the headroom is slightly less impressive due to the car's sloping roofline. There are 37 inches of legroom in the rear, nearly an inch and a half more than the M3's backseat. As for the trunk, it's a bit small for a sedan of this size, accommodating only 11.9 cubic feet. For comparison, the smaller M3 has a 13-cubic-foot trunk. We'd love for Cadillac to release a wagon variant to succeed the CTS-V Wagon, but it seems highly unlikely.

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Verdict: The Perfect Performance Bargain

At $91,995 ($95,170 with the automatic), the 2023 CT5-V Blackwing is far from an affordable performance sedan. But when compared to a similarly-powered German model like the Audi RS7 ($120,900), BMW M5 ($109,900), or Mercedes-AMG E63 ($112,800), it stands out as a bargain. Our car was pretty well-equipped with options, but it stayed just under $100,000 before destination. The last xDrive M4 we tested was more expensive than that, and the aforementioned mid-size options can easily near $150,000 with options.

There may never be another car quite like the CT5-V Blackwing, so if you can afford it, we'd highly urge you to get one now before it's gone. Our lone hesitation would stem from the smaller CT4-V Blackwing. Its twin-turbo V6 won't sound as good, but at only $60,495 to start, it's around two-thirds the price of its big sibling. It may have "just" 472 hp on tap, but 0-60 only takes a half-second longer. So if the larger Blackwing's price is too high to justify, be sure to check out the CT4.

Money no object; we'd take the CT5-V Blackwing over any sports sedan in history. It's a perfect blend of performance, driver connectivity, and comfort. Cadillac has built the perfect luxury muscle car... just in time for the electric takeover.

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