Cadillac introduces a new name to the fast sedan game, and absolutely crushes it.
When Cadillac first revealed the V Series brand in 2004, it did so with a CTS platform that was barely luxurious, but packed the powertrain from the C5 Corvette Z06. As a model that was designed to contend with the small speedy sedans of Germany, the CTS-V was a bargain, but with some compromises made with fit and finish. Quickly building a reputation as a less expensive American alternative to the Audi RS4, BMW M3, and Mercedes-AMG C63, the Cadillac CTS-V upped the ante by stealing the supercharged engine of the Corvette ZR1 for its second generation model in 2008, and moving up to a bigger class against the RS6, M5, and E63. Adding a coupe and wagon variant to the mix, GM gave enthusiasts several options for getting the right second generation CTS-V for them.
To improve its handling and overall build construction, in 2014 the third generation CTS-V was assembled on GM’s Alpha platform. This model prominently established the Cadillac as a true contender in its class, and solidified the brand’s identity. As this new CTS bumped up to a bigger sedan segment, Cadillac needed to keep a model offering to compete with those smaller German performance sedans. Enter the ATS-V, also built on GM’s Alpha chassis, featuring a twin-turbo V6 under the hood. At a massive discount against its German rivals, the ATS-V was a blast to drive, and when I gave it a road trip test in 2016, I said it was the model to buy while saving a ton of cash. BMW’s M3 might be the class leading seller, but the American marque wants a piece of the action.
The Detroit-based manufacturer decided to toss all V Series brand equity out the window in 2020, when it launched the latest generation with new–and somewhat confusing–naming conventions. Now known as the CT4, the ATS was replaced with a new design, improved interior quality, yet retained the chassis that contributed to its fantastic driving characteristics. The trouble was that Cadillac slapped a V badge on a lesser sedan, diluting the name, and causing plenty of head scratching. As enthusiasts, journalists, and owners cried out when Cadillac hurt its reputation, the company announced there was a new model and name coming, that would uphold the values of the V Series, and offer seriously good performance at a value price point. It’s called the Blackwing, and while its name may not make much sense, with production limited to just 139 examples, what’s underneath absolutely does.
The Good Figures
Continuing to employ the twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6, the 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing produces 472 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. This figure is more than the Audi RS5’s peak 444 horsepower, on-par with the standard M3 output, but just less than the 503 in the M3 Competition and AMG C63. A 6-speed manual is the standard transmission, with a 10-speed automatic is the standard transmission available. Rear-wheel drive is the only choice in the Blackwing–hooked up to an electric limited-slip differential–just like the standard BMW M3, with the M3 Competition, C63, and RS5 all featuring all-wheel-drive.
Through this drivetrain, the automatic-equipped CT4-V Blackwing can rip from 0-60 MPH in 3.9 seconds, and the manual model will hit that figure in just 4.1, with both models boasting a top speed of 189 MPH. The Alpha platform has been updated, now featuring GM’s Magnetic Ride Control 4.0, passive dampers from ZF, and hollow stabilizer bars. The 2022 CT4-V Blackwing’s dimensions are comparable to the Audi RS5 Sportback, BMW M3, and AMG C 63, and sports a curb weight of 3,860 pounds in manual form, with only a slight bump in mass with the automatic transmission.
Like its predecessors, the CT4-V Blackwing may not offer refinement in its cabin that contends with the German offerings, but the price point catches the eye. At a base price of $58,995, the CT4-V Blackwing is an attractive offering at a savings of $10,000 against the base price of the M3, and is nearly $20,000 less than a C63 or RS5. Even when loaded with factory upgrades including the natural leather seats, sunroof, heads-up display, interior ionizer, ventilated and massaging front seats, and $7,000 worth of carbon fiber trim packages, the loaded Satin Steel Metallic CT4-V Blackwing I tested hit an MSRP of $77,090.
The Practical Daily Sedan
Without being overly focused on outright performance, and while maintaining some Cadillac personality, the CT4-V Blackwing is remarkably composed as a city driver. The Magnetic Ride Control dampers are fantastic, giving the CT4 great response without compromising ride quality. The 6-speed manual transmission is a gem, with a light pedal input needed to change gears, and great clutch feedback. 18-inch wheels are a refreshingly civil size on the CT4-V Blackwing, offering a bit more sidewall from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, and plenty of grip in any condition without making too much road noise.
Keeping the drive mode in the tour setup (Cadillac’s comfort setting), the CT4-V Blackwing softens any chassis disruption, keeps the engine a bit more chill, and allows the electric-assist steering to feature smooth inputs and light feedback. Continue utilizing the tour mode and behave yourself during throttle applications, and you just might hit the EPA fuel economy estimates of 15/23/18. I barely managed 16 MPGs during my week-long test, but there was no way I wasn’t going to play with the CT4-V Blackwing as much as possible.
Cabin design in the CT4 is essentially a scaled-down version of the CT5’s setup, which is a good thing. Not as cool or as finely appointed as the German rivals, Cadillac still offers a nice interior to spend plenty of hours inside. Though the belt line is high, and the roof is slightly swept, the space you experience inside the Blackwing is great for a sedan of its size. Fitted with optional natural tan leather wrapped around the sporty seats, this faster CT4 is wonderfully comfortable, with a seating position that’s perfect for cruising or hooning. Back seat occupants should probably be kids, and there’s a hint of lateral support in those rear seats, but your adult friends may not gripe much if you’re making a quick run to get food. The CT4’s trunk is big too, with a couple organized spots at each side for your smaller items.
Long gone is Cadillac’s awful Cue infotainment system, replaced by GM’s NexGen touchscreen setup, which is intuitive and quite functional, complete with an actual volume knob. I’ll admit I had never heard of AKG audio systems before testing these new generations of Cadillac models, but the system in this CT4-V Blackwing is good, with plenty of tone where it matters. Could the speaker grilles look cooler when Mercedes has badass metal ones with its Burmester system? For sure. Paired with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the CT4-V Blackwing has wireless charging for your mobile phone, with its pad neatly placed in the storage compartment under the climate controls.
The CT4’s steering wheel has a hot button to employ the customizable V Mode for your spirited driving, and if you want to switch drive modes, there’s a toggle switch next to the shifter. I appreciate Cadillac offering a “My Mode” setup in addition to the V Mode, so you can have even greater flexibility when driving. Extra tweaks to the fake engine sounds being pumped through the speakers are a funny thing to include.
Storming The Twisty Stuff
The spec sheet may not stand out, in a time when everything gets 500 horsepower under the hood, but the CT4-V Blackwing’s twin-turbo engine is stout enough. Not exceptional, especially the sound it makes through its quad square-shaped exhaust tips, this boosted V6 still provides a smooth surge of torque, especially when you’re already at a decent speed along a canyon road. I could give a shit about 0-60 times, because what really matters is how well the CT4 pulls between 45 and 75, and this is where the Blackwing shines. As pace increases, the turbocharged CT4-V Blackwing’s powerband has no tapering effect either, happily surging toward triple digits and beyond.
Clicking off effortless gear changes is a joy in the CT4-V Blackwing, with a positive sensation each time to slide that short throw shifter that shows off its 3D-printed gear pattern. Engaging the rev matching mode made downshifts easier, met with a rowdy blip of the throttle, and keeping me from having to nail my heel-and-toe efforts. Make the sacrifice in your commuting to opt for the manual transmission, as the 10-speed auto in the CT4 is the same I tested in the CT5-V Blackwing, which hunted for gears too often for my liking. Also, manuals are dying off, and fewer are being offered in fun sedans, so enjoy this while you can.
Where the Blackwing may give away some power to its German rivals, its chassis is wonderful. More compact than the more powerful CT5-V Blackwing, this CT4 setup was designed to be effectively fun to flog in any decent driver’s hands. Its steering is perfectly sharp, especially in the sport or track drive modes, offering the right amount of weight and effort required to nail every apex. This fast Cadillac’s proportions are perfect too, allowing the 109-inch wheelbase to stabilize the car alongside its 60.5-inch track. Without the extra weight–and hint of cornering confidence–of all-wheel-drive, the CT4-V Blackwing likes to slide if you smash the throttle as you exit a corner. A bit more confidence could come from adding all-wheel-drive, like the CT4’s competitors have, but I like the challenge from needing to manage control and power while taking some weight off the front axle.
A quick toggle switch for the Performance Traction Management system is mounted on the steering wheel, and allows you to let the Blackwing dance as effectively as you like. The PTM can also be customized in the V Mode, to keep as much or as little help intervening when on a track or fun road. Playing with these settings, I found that the PTM in sport was just right for twisty roads, maintaining just enough stability control while still letting me fling the Cadillac’s ass-end.
What stunned me is how composed it was during any harder session along a curvy route. Without tiny sidewalls, the Michelin PS4S tires worked in harmony with Cadillac’s magnetic dampers to quickly dismiss any bumps while eliminating any hint of chassis disruption. Brembo also supplies fantastic steel brakes, which have wonderful pedal feel and plenty of heat tolerance during reasonably fun canyon road sessions. I wish Cadillac offered the CT4-V Blackwing with ceramic rotors, like it does on the CT5 variant, for those who really want to push the envelope without the risk of brake fade. Should the gray calipers not be your thing, spend $595 to either opt for gold or red ones.
If tracking the CT4 is on your agenda, maybe opt for some better pads and fluid, and consider a second set of wheels with tires that will last longer than the Michelins (which are great for the street but melt on track). Also tick the $1,600 option box to add Cosworth’s Performance Data Recorder system that uses high definition cameras and comprehensive data logging that can be reviewed in the desktop app to get the most out of your track days.
The Really Good Things
Cadillac gave the CT4-V Blackwing reasonably tame looks, particularly up front. While it’s twin-turbocharged, there aren’t massive–and hideous–grilles to cope with the Blackwing’s additional cooling needs. The CT4’s profile looks good, without being too busy with fake sweeping lines. Even with 18-inch wheels fitted, the fender gap is perfect too.
Respect to Cadillac for only charging $600 to add massaging and ventilating front seats, although you have to upgrade the seating surfaces through another package to allow this feature. The design of quilted stitching, perforations, and contrasting piping is super cool, and the carbon structures and alcantara backing with the V logo add extra style points. If you wear dark wash jeans, you definitely need to opt for darker leather.
Cadillac now incorporates a fully digital instrument cluster that’s customizable not only in how the data is displayed, but how simplistic the pod can be. I liked being able to toggle off all the tire pressure, fuel economy, and temps to only see the tachometer and speed to minimize distractions. Track mode really kicks things up, making a wide digital rev counter stretch across the top of the screen while the gear and speed are centrally placed.
Less Than Favorable Aspects
The CT4-V Blackwing is a stylish sedan, but doesn’t look as clean and impressionable as its CT5 sibling. The angles are a bit busy, and the back end is too sharp for my liking. While some drivers want the extra carbon fiber goodies slapped around its exterior to give it a shouty “I’m a fast sedan” appearance, I’d ditch them to not only roll around in a sleeper, but to also save several thousand dollars. The carbon fiber lip splitter was also begging to be cracked any time I parked the CT4-V Blackwing, as the parking sensors didn’t seem to be calibrated for the extra few inches of expensive material.
Steering wheel controls employ actual buttons, which offer a nice click, but the audio adjustments are far from intuitive. The scrolling wheel should control the volume, and instead plays with modes on the display. The buttons on each side of that control switch through menus, rather than skipping tracks or presets. Really strange. Another odd detail that bothered me was the positioning of the indicator stalk on the steering column, which was placed too far forward. I had to physically move my left hand ahead and out of an optimal grip position to hit the blinker, and that stalk was considerably further away than the one on the right side that controlled the wipers.
As I mentioned when I tested the CT5-V Blackwing, there’s no distinguishing detail on the exterior of the CT4 model to let you know this is the fastest model Cadillac offers. After tossing the V Series’ brand equity out the window when introducing the Blackwing, the company should have made some sort of model designation on this brilliant sedan’s body. The only indication of a Blackwing model is hidden along the seat bolster’s piping, and could easily be overlooked.
An Exceptional Sport Sedan, But It’s Too Limited
When I reviewed the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, I thought it was an astoundingly good performance sedan for under $100,000, making it considerably less expensive than its German super saloon rivals. My one concern with it was that its 668 horsepower needed a wide open road or track to be fully enjoyed. With the CT4-V Blackwing, Cadillac has packaged together wonderfully useable performance, fantastic handling, and a price point that makes it more attractive. The Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing possesses an engine that isn’t too powerful for its chassis, delicately balancing on looking underpowered on paper, but providing a complete driving experience that I crave more of.
Cadillac has some engineers I’d like to shake the hands of, because the CT4-V Blackwing is one of my favorite new cars I’ve driven in the past few years. The only car I’d want more is the now-unavailable BMW M2 CS, which cost around $90,000. In my ideal spec, this Blackwing would be closer to $68,000, which is seriously good value. When comparing the CT4 to the BMW M3, Audi RS5, and AMG C63, it may not be as nice inside (which might be its only disadvantage), but it’ll be more fun to use as a canyon slaying daily driver while pocketing a ton of cash. I just wish Cadillac opted to produce more than 139 of them, because there are thousands of enthusiasts who should end up owning one, and taking a big bite out of the M3’s market share.