“The Hollow Men,” one of T.S. Eliot’s most famous poems, closes with a major bummer of a line, one that still echoes through my head 16 years after reading it for the first time. Reflecting on the ravages of World War I, mankind’s propensity to sabotage itself with needless poverty, and the futility of life compared to the expanse of the universe, Eliot finishes his elegy with, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”
Well, the folks at Cadillac apparently skipped Ms. Ferrill’s junior English literature class that day, because they’re sending internal combustion out with a fury courtesy of the 2022 CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing. From now on, every major debut from the company will be an electric vehicle, so it’s likely that these two sport sedans will be the famed luxury brand’s final outings in the world of high-performance internal combustion. And boy, is Cadillac marking the occasion – not with a whimper but a bang.
In Rare Form
Believe it or not, Cadillac has been in the sport sedan game for nearly two decades, thanks to three generations of the CTS-V and one of the smaller ATS-V. But the last couple years have been a bit disappointing for fans of four-door ferocity. The CT4-V – ostensibly a replacement for the ATS-V – bummed us out with slightly agricultural behavior coming from its Chevrolet Silverado–sourced 2.7-liter turbo four. Meanwhile, the larger CT5-V’s turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 couldn’t come close to touching the outrageous performance of the final CTS-V’s supercharged 6.2-liter V8.
One is a nimble little turbocharged scalpel, while the other is an outrageous supercharged chainsaw. Both cut up the road with equal ability, but in very different ways.
Cadillac has rectified almost every complaint we had with those cars with one word: Blackwing. The name is derived from the high-performance engine found in the CT6 Platinum and CT6-V, but today’s Blackwings share little with that twin-turbocharged, high-revving V8. Nevertheless, the branding still represents the best performance that Cadillac has to offer, vaulting the humble CT4-V and CT5-V into Mercedes-AMG and BMW M territory.
My colleague (and Motor1.com director of video) Clint Simone and I were lucky to line up both variants – the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing – for one brilliant day in the canyons northeast of Los Angeles. These sporty sedans have a lot in common, but in spite of their similarities, the compact CT4 and mid-size CT5 are prone to some sibling rivalry, resulting in two distinct cars with two very different personalities. One is a nimble little turbocharged scalpel, while the other is an outrageous supercharged chainsaw. Both cut up the road with equal ability, but in very different ways.
Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing: This Feels Familiar
If the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing gives you some deja vu, you’re not alone. That could be because the automaker’s entry-level super-sedan shares its basic body structure with the ATS-V. However, calling the Blackwing a rebadged ATS does it a disservice thanks to its significantly stiffer Alpha 2 architecture, standard Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 suspension, and modernized styling and technology. More importantly, the twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 rights many of the wrongs we experienced in the non-Blackwing CT4-V – that car’s 2.7-liter turbo four is just a bit too coarse for a sport sedan.
In the Blackwing, the sassy six makes 472 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 445 pound-feet between 3,500 and 5,000 rpm, giving it a bit more power and a wider torque plateau than the ATS-V’s similar engine. Mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox on our tester – a six-speed is standard – the littlest Blackwing will hustle to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds per Cadillac’s estimates. We believe it. The CT4 launches off the line with ferocity, thanks in part to its standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires. At full tilt, the 10-speed cracks off quick, intuitive shifts, those twin turbos whistling away to keep boost up until you’re ready to relent.
Paddle shifting is a must if you want to extract the most from the 10-speed. Or better yet, get the manual.
Like the mid-tier V model, the CT4 Blackwing also benefits from GM’s Magnetic Ride Control 4.0, which provides a wider performance delta, faster responses, and better control than MRC 3.0 (found in the previous generation of Cadillac V products). The CT4-V Blackwing retains the razor-sharp responses of its ATS-V predecessor, but the upgraded suspension components and retuned steering help it maintain greater composure over high-frequency bumps. Set to their sportiest mode, the magnetic dampers still keep a healthy amount of ride compliance, and in Tour mode, the Blackwing might as well be a Biarritz.
Not all is bliss, however. Even in Sport or Track modes, the 10-speed constantly tries to upshift unless your foot is firmly pressed to the floorboards. Adding to the frustration, the gearbox will activate “Performance Shift” if you enter a curve with some speed, downshifting to a lower gear in the middle of a corner. And if you don’t make a full-throttle sprint to the next twist – inadvisable unless you have a lot of trust in your local law enforcement – the transmission will again revert to selecting higher gears. Paddle shifting is a must if you want to extract the most from the 10-speed. Or better yet, get the manual.
Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing: Do-It-Yourself Pyrotechnics
The fleet manager who ordered our CT5-V Blackwing tester followed that advice. Packing a hand-built, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 668 hp and 659 lb-ft, the hottest CT5 also gets a standard six-speed manual and rear-wheel drive. With a chassis-twisting idle and an exhaust note that wouldn’t sound out of place at the Brickyard 400, the CT5 Blackwing is an intimidating vehicle at first blush. It’s also not subtle, thanks in part to this particular example’s Electric Blue paintjob and $4,100 worth of carbon fiber styling accents. It’s a treat for (or an assault on) the senses – even the semi-aniline leather feels and smells rich.
With a chassis-twisting idle and an exhaust note that wouldn’t sound out of place at the Brickyard 400, the CT5 Blackwing is an intimidating vehicle at first blush.
Toss it out on a straight piece of road and the CT5-V Blackwing will hit 60 mph in 3.6 seconds with the manual, and Cadillac includes no-lift shifting and launch control to make the most of the V8’s prodigious grunt. As with just about every supercharged V8, power and torque are available at any engine speed and in any gear, so working the Tremec six-speed around isn’t mandatory. But when I did, I experienced a spring-loaded clutch that took some getting used to, countered by an accurate, pleasantly mechanical-feeling shift lever. As well as enough power to break the tires loose in third gear at freeway speeds. This thing is mental.
Luckily, it has just about every suspension and braking upgrade in GM’s arsenal. MRC 4.0 is standard in the CT5 Blackwing, giving the midsize sport sedan excellent body control over Azusa Canyon’s undulating, seismically modified pavement while still taking the edge off harsher bumps. The smallish 19-inch wheels help here as well – most other performance vehicles in this class get 20s or 21s – without sacrificing response or grip. Thanks here go to the same standard Michelin PS4S rubber as the CT4-V Blackwing. Once warmed up a bit, this rubber might as well be branded “Elmer’s.”
Clint and I also got to experience the Blackwing’s available carbon-ceramic braking upgrade, a $9,000 option. It admittedly wasn’t a hot day in the canyons, but several hours of aggressive driving exposed zero squealing, fade, or bad habits, even against the thrust acquisition of the supercharged V8. That said, the CT4-V didn’t exhibit issues either, even though it was riding on conventional iron brakes. Most weekend warriors will find the optional ceramics to be overkill – though they may appreciate the lack of dust accumulated on the wheels. The CT4’s rollers (and rocker panels) were coated in a thin brown film after a full day of hooning.
Once accustomed to the power and torque on hand, it’s easy to fall in love with the CT5-V Blackwing. Although not as precise and nimble as the smaller CT4-V, the CT5 wins hearts via a glass-ratting exhaust scream, incredible levels of grip, and a sophisticated traction control system that inspires confidence without sapping fun. That said, if Cadillac slowed things down a bit with a naturally aspirated version of this engine – without losing the burbling tailpipe music – I wouldn’t complain, and nor would my insurance company.
Blackwing Says Relax
Shockingly, both sedans are still perfectly competent daily drivers. MRC 4.0 plays the Clark Kent/Superman role very well, providing adequate body control and excellent compliance in Tour mode, and both our testers sported the supportive, optional performance bucket seats – a $6,090 option on the CT5 in conjunction with semi-aniline leather and a $5,400 upgrade for the CT4 bundled with leather upholstery and seat ventilation. Both sets of chairs boast plenty of lateral support, but their bolsters are adjustable for a less claustrophobic experience on the freeway. There’s even a rudimentary massage function to keep tired backs activated.
Shockingly, both sedans are still perfectly competent daily drivers. MRC 4.0 plays the Clark Kent/Superman role very well, providing adequate body control and excellent compliance in Tour mode, and both our testers sported the supportive, optional performance bucket seats.
Mercy upon mercies, both sedans feature a pleasant infotainment system. While the software looks much like that of lesser GM products, it still works very well, and there’s wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for added functionality. It’s a massive improvement on the ATS and CTS, which featured the frustrating, capacitive-touch CUE operating system. Cadillac even offers a redundant rotary controller if you’d prefer to keep your screen fingerprint-free.
Speaking of, the CT4’s display is rather small at just 8.0 inches – CarPlay or Android split-screen functions result in teensy little individual widgets. It’s one of two major cabin points where the CT5 is a clear upgrade, thanks to that model’s 10.0-inch display. Both sedans get a kickin’ AKG audio system with 15 speakers in the CT4 and 16 in the CT5. The other definitive win for the larger sedan is, not surprisingly, the back seat. While the CT4 is genuinely cramped back there – especially behind a 6-foot-tall driver – the CT5 offers plenty of legroom and just enough headroom for two of me to get comfortable.
As impressive as both these sedans are, my colleague and I couldn’t help but parse out a few key differences between the two. The CT4-V Blackwing isn’t as immediately charming as its bigger sibling, with an underwhelming exhaust note that only sounds good if you’re really ripping on it hard. That complaint also applies to the upshift-crazy transmission – push it to the limit and it’s genuinely fun, but the gearbox taxes your patience at sane speeds. That said, the CT4’s smaller proportions and lower power require far less concentration to turn a road into a ribbon curl. Just jump in and drive (with the transmission in manual mode, of course).
Conversely, the CT5-V Blackwing draws admiring stares from both Mustang and M5 drivers with a single push of the start button, but the driver should approach it with respect, not playfulness. The Performance Traction Control is your friend, and it’ll save your ass (as it did mine) if you accidentally bungle a downshift. But once you’ve got the car under your skin, the larger Blackwing is just about as delightful a back-road companion as its kid sibling. There’s no getting around its added width and wheelbase, which makes it a bit harder to clip an apex. But the CT5 is still hilarious good fun.
If you want to get all Lincoln-Kennedy here, you could probably make a connection between death and the Blackwing name. For example, the CT6 – a good sedan made great by the addition of the eponymous twin-turbocharged 4.2-liter V8 – got cancelled just two model years after the Blackwing engine debuted. Expect similar of the CT4-V and CT5-V. Their replacements are probably half a decade away, and per GM’s electric-only future, the new sedans will almost certainly be EVs. Just as the Blackwing engine perfected the CT6 before its death, so too does the Blackwing name perfect Cadillac’s final internal-combustion sport sedans before theirs.
That’s not to say the luxury brand won’t continue to market V-Series and Blackwing vehicles, but in the future they’ll be electrified – which, by the way, also likely spells the end of that marvelous Tremec six-speed manual. It’s impossible not to feel just a bit saddened by that prospect. But at the same time, there’s no denying the joy of Cadillac finding its hot-headed family hauler mojo right at the very end, when we’ll all remember it the fondest. The internal combustion “Standard of the World” is going out with a bang, and I’m glad I got a seat on the ride.
|2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing||2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing|
|Engine:||Twin-Turbocharged 3.6-liter V6||Supercharged 6.2-liter V8|
|Output:||472 Horsepower / 445 Pound-Feet||668 Horsepower / 659 Pound-Feet|
|Transmission:||10-Speed Automatic||Six-Speed Manual|
|Drive Type:||Rear-Wheel Drive||Rear-Wheel Drive|
|0-60 MPH:||3.9 Seconds||3.6 Seconds|
|Top Speed:||189 MPH||200 MPH (est.)|
|Fuel Economy:||16 City / 24 Highway / 19 Combined||13 City / 21 Highway / 15 Combined|
|Weight:||3,900 Pounds (est.)||4,123 Pounds|
|Cargo Volume:||10.7 Cubic Feet||11.9 Cubic Feet|
|Base Price:||$58,995 + $995 Destination||$83,995 + $995 Destination|
|Trim Base Price:||$59,990||$84,990|