First Drive: 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing

10 min read

First Drive: 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing

10 min read

The fire-breathing, LT4-powered Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing seems to be hogging the majority of the headlines when it comes to Cadillac performance these days, but overlooking its compact stable-mate would be a mistake. The potential folly is understandable considering how similar the two sports sedans look, but the CT4-V Blackwing proves itself to be an entirely different animal: Where the CT5 has its sights set squarely on beating the BMW M5 at its own game, the CT4 has taken aim at the smaller M3, a car that has been an industry benchmark for decades.

If the CT4-V Blackwing looks vaguely familiar beyond its aesthetic similarities to the CT5- V Blackwing, it may be because it’s ostensibly a heavily reworked ATS-V in everything but the name. Like the ATS-V, the CT4-V Blackwing rides on the Alpha platform that’s shared not only with its bigger, 5-Series-fighting brother, but also the Chevrolet Camaro. And as with the ATS-V, there’s a twin-turbocharged V6 under this hood and a standard six-speed manual transmission to channel the grunt to the rear wheels. But don’t dismiss this as just an ATS-V with some flashier bodywork – as with the CT5-V Blackwing, Cadillac has sweated the details with the CT4-V Blackwing, focusing on beating BMW at its own game rather than bludgeoning would-be buyers with outlandish performance stats.

Still, given its mechanical similarity to the ATS-V, we couldn’t help but wonder just how much has really changed as a result of the Blackwing makeover. To find out for ourselves, we spent a week with this Infrared Tintcoat-hued example (which carries a base MSRP of $58,995 and an as-tested price of $70,235 with destination) around town and out in the canyons to get a better sense of whether or not this Caddy has what it takes to dethrone the German standard-bearer.

What's In A Name?

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing rear 3/4

Even without the optional carbon fiber aero packages, the CT4-V Blackwing looks the part of a legitimate, track-ready sports sedan. The front splitter, rear spoiler, fender vents, and rocker extensions all come standard, as do the staggered forged wheels, the latter of which measure 18 x 9 inches up front and 18 x 9.5 inches in the rear.

As with the CT5-V Blackwing, the CT4-V Blackwing suffers from an unnecessarily confusing naming convention. Neither gets its shove from Cadillac’s short-lived twin-turbocharged, 4.2-liter DOHC Blackwing V8, and the fact that there isn’t a single Blackwing badge to be found anywhere on this car doesn’t help matters. But more than anything else, what you really need to know is that Blackwing now signifies the top-tier offerings in Cadillac’s performance hierarchy, and this car – along with the CT5-V Blackwing – represent the last Blackwing models that will be powered by internal combustion.

So what does the Blackwing treatment get you? For starters, more power: In the case of the CT4-V Blackwing, motivation comes from an all-aluminum 3.6-liter direct injected, twin-turbocharged, 24-valve dual overhead cam V6. It largely carries over from the ATS-V, but air intake tweaks and revisions to the engine calibration allowed Cadillac engineers to bump peak output up to 472 horsepower – an improvement of 8 horsepower over the ATS-V’s version of this V6 – while peak torque remains unchanged at 445 lb-ft.

A six-speed manual transmission with auto rev-matching and no-lift upshifting is standard here while a ten-speed automatic with magnesium paddle shifters is optional. Power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels through an electronically controlled limited slip differential regardless of which transmission you choose. Cadillac cites a 0-60 MPH sprint in 3.8 seconds with the automatic, or four seconds flat when equipped with the manual, on the way to a top speed of 189 MPH.

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing wheel and tire

All CT4-V Blackwings roll out of the factory on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires that were developed specifically for this vehicle. Six-piston Brembo calipers and 14.96-inch rotors provide the stopping power at the nose of the car, while four-piston units clamp down on 13.4-inch discs out back.

As you’d expect, the CT4-V Blackwing is also outfitted with stiffer spring rates, beefed up front and rear sway bars, higher-rate bushings, and structural reinforcements that provide more rigidity versus a standard CT4-V, but the big news on the chassis front is the inclusion of fourth generation of Magnetic Ride Control dampers.

These new shocks not only process and adjust to changing road conditions four times faster than the previous generation dampers, the data they pull in is also more precise, allowing the shocks to more accurately adjust to heavy braking, hard cornering and other performance driving maneuvers as they happen.

Stopping power is provided by Brembo six-piston calipers paired with 14.96-inch rotors at the front, while four-piston units and 13.4-inch discs are equipped at the rear. 18-inch forged aluminum wheels are standard, and they come wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires that have been developed specifically for this car.

Like the CT5-V Blackwing, the CT4-V Blackwing also scores an array of unique exterior elements that improve its aerodynamics and ratchet up the visual drama. Fender vents, mesh grilles, rocker extensions, a front splitter, and a rear wing are all part of the package. It equates to a visual aesthetic that’s noticeably more aggressive than garden-variety Cadillacs but not over the top. The story is similar inside as well, where 18-way adjustable sport seats are outfitted up front, along with a unique leather-wrapped steering wheel with a V-Mode button and a Performance Traction Management switch. A customizable 12-inch digital gauge cluster is also on board, as is an 8-inch center touchscreen display with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android auto, and a 14-speaker AKG audio system.

Behind The Wheel

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing interior

While comfortable, well laid-out, and appropriately sporty where it counts, the CT4-V Blackwing’s interior is still a few steps behind its European rivals in terms of material quality, even with the $4900 leather package equipped on our tester. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is responsive and works well with wireless Apple CarPlay, but it feels a bit cramped in an era when tablet-sized displays are becoming commonplace.

While the CT5-V Blackwing’s rowdy intentions are clear from the moment you bring its boosted V8 to life, the CT4-V Blackwing tends to fly under the radar a bit more, and whether Cadillac wants to admit it or not, the blame must again be placed on its turbo V6. Even with a dual-mode exhaust system and additional engine noise piped in through the audio system, it makes a fairly subdued and generally unremarkable noise. As we noted years ago when testing the ATS-V, the fact that this platform is shared with the Camaro indicates that the naturally aspirated LT1 V8 would probably fit into its engine bay with minimal fuss, and it seems like a missed opportunity that could have set this Cadillac apart from its European rivals with a thoroughly American driving experience.

Make no mistake – this V6 is incredibly responsive for a turbocharged mill and essentially lag-free, and it’s far more satisfying to row through the gears of this six-speed manual gearbox than it is to plod through the rubbery gates on the M3’s shifter. But despite the fact that the numbers are so similar, the Cadillac V6 seems outgunned by the M3’s likely-underrated 473 horsepower 3.0-liter inline six. It always feels a step or two behind the BMW in terms of outright acceleration, and with a relatively low 6500 RPM redline, we also found ourselves longing for the extra 700 revs offered by the BMW engine. It’s hard not to wonder how much of this could have been addressed with a V8 swap. Still, the CT4-V Blackwing definitely leaves an impression in other ways.

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Engine

The 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V6 carries over largely unchanged from the ATS-V, but tweaks to the intake system and engine calibration netted Cadillac engineers an eight horsepower bump that brings peak output to 472 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque.

Around town, the chassis revisions yield ride quality that its rivals just can’t match. Even when traversing some of worst pavement that LA freeways have to offer the CT4-V Blackwing remains composed and admirably compliant in Tour drive mode. Its sport seats aren’t as aggressively bolstered as the optional carbon buckets in the M3 but they’re far easier to live with in general, and on the whole, the Blackwing’s greater emphasis on comfort and technological ease-of-use makes it the better daily driver of the two. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks a bit low-rent in a car that’s designed to go head to head with the best of Europe, but it’s responsive, gimmick-free, and offers practically all of the core features that enthusiasts in this segment want. The interplay between all of the vehicle’s performance settings is also notably less convoluted than BMW’s approach.

Out in the canyons the Cadillac’s suspension, steering, and brakes help to even the score with the M3 in terms of outright performance. Where the base M3’s steering is vague and far too light regardless of which setting you choose, the CT4-V Blackwing’s rack is direct, well-weighted, and more communicative. Paired with Magnetic Ride Control’s magic and a brake system with a wonderfully firm pedal, linear response, and tons of stopping power on tap, the CT4-V Blackwing is easy to throw around and hard to unsettle. A few clicks of the PTM switch on the steering wheel will give you as much or as little tail-out drama as you want on the fly, but the Blackwing is adept at managing the power going to those rear wheels and easy to collect back up when throttle inputs outpace the available grip.

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Exhaust

The Blackwing is outfitted with an active dual-mode exhaust system that’s befittingly mellow in Tour mode. Switch over to Sport or Track driving modes and the system will send out a volley of subtle pops and crackles every time you let off of the throttle.

The CT4-V Blackwing might not be lightning in the bottle on the same level as its larger sibling, but the two share a lot of commendable traits. More importantly, the CT4 feels like a more thoroughly thought-out entry than its predecessor did, and while there are still areas where improvements could be made, there are no glaring deficiencies that hold this one back from achieving greatness.


254 Posts