First Drive: 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing

10 min read

First Drive: 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing

10 min read

In many ways, Cadillac has been chasing the ghost of BMW’s past for almost two decades. The first obvious volley sent in the Bavarians’ direction came in 2004 with the introduction of the first generation CTS-V, a hot rodded mid-size sports sedan with the heart of a Corvette and chassis tuning to match.

Eighteen years later, at a point in time which some consider to be the twilight of internal combustion performance, Cadillac’s strategy remains very similar here, but the end result is far more successful than it’s ever been in the past. Simply put, the CT5-V Blackwing may go down in history as the high-water mark of traditional sport sedans. It’s easy to dismiss that as hyperbole, but when you consider the fact that Cadillac has already explicitly stated that this car and the CT4-V Blackwing will be the last V-Series vehicles powered by internal combustion, the math starts to add up.

Sure, there are a few weak spots. Beyond the Hellcat-like thirst of the CT5-V Blackwing’s V8, it doesn’t take much searching to find the typical General Motors cost-cutting efforts, particularly in the interior. But if you’re looking for a rear-wheel drive, four-door driver’s car, few production machines deliver an experience as engaging and well-rounded as this Caddy does.

The Blackwing Treatment

Cadillac CT5 Blackwing Rear Quarter

The CT5-V Blackwing’s aggressive look helps it stand out in crowd, but nothing was added just for the sake of curb appeal. “Everything new and unique on these vehicles was only included if it served a functional purpose,” says Andrew Smith, executive director of Global Cadillac Design.

Like the CTS-V before it, the CT5-V Blackwing represents the pinnacle of Cadillac’s performance models. But in a naming scheme and design strategy that perhaps only Cadillac could ever explain, this car does not get its motivation from the twin-turbocharged, 4.2-liter dual overhead cam Blackwing V8 that was found under the hood of the now-out-of-production CT6-V. Despite the fact that it was built from scratch and exclusive to Cadillac, the engine was unceremoniously sent to the boneyard (alongside the CT6-V itself) after less than 1500 examples were produced in total. We don’t understand the rationale, either.

Fortunately for us – and every V8-loving automotive enthusiast out there – the engine that Cadillac opted to use instead is a fantastic powerplant in its own right. Derived from the LT4 used in Chevrolet’s performance vehicles, it’s a supercharged, all-aluminum 6.2-liter pushrod mill that dishes out a healthy 668 horsepower and 659 lb-ft of torque.

Those represent improvements of 28hp and 29lb-ft over the last CTS-V, but the real game changer here is the transmission that the engine’s hooked up to. Gone is the CTS’s lazy eight-speed automatic and in its place is an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual gearbox with auto rev-matching. A 10-speed automatic transmission is optional, but we can’t imagine springing for it when the three-pedal solution is this well-sorted and offers the ability to row your own at a time when no other competitor in this segment does.

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Engine Bay

Power comes from a revamped version of the supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8 that used in the third generation CTS-V. Here it makes 668 horsepower and 659 pound-feet of torque for improvements of 28hp and 29lb-ft. Endurance-style track testing was performed in hot weather to develop its upgraded cooling system.

Power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels through an electronically controlled mechanical limited slip differential, resulting in a 0-60 MPH sprint in 3.6 seconds with the manual or 3.5 seconds when equipped with the automatic on the way to a top speed that exceeds 200 mph. Either way it’s still a few ticks behind the blisteringly quick M5 CS, but the Caddy makes up for it in other areas.

And the chassis is one of those areas. Outfitted with fourth-generation Magnetic Ride Control dampers that process changes in road conditions four times faster than the previous system as well as stiffer spring rates, unique hollow stabilizer bars, and higher-rate bushings than the standard CT5-V, the Blackwing’s suspension has the versatility to deliver ride quality befitting a luxury sedan in its Tour driving mode, but at the press of a button, it can seriously stiffen up to provide the high-speed stability and body control needed for hardcore track work. It also boasts the largest factory-installed brakes in Cadillac history, and the availability of carbon ceramic rotors (which are equipped on our test car) offers improved heat management and reduced unsprung mass.

It looks the part, too. The mesh grille design makes a return with improved airflow, while rocker extensions, a rear valence diffuser, front splitter, and a rear spoiler give the car a purposeful look while improving downforce. An available carbon fiber package – also equipped here – ups the visual aggression while also reducing lift by 75 percent versus the standard aero package. The CT5-V Blackwing rides on a staggered set of 19-inch forged alloy wheels wrapped in specially developed Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber that measures 275mm wide up front and 305mm in the rear.

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing rolling stock

The CT5-V Blackwing rides on forged 19-inch alloys and Michelin Pilot 4S summer tires that were developed specifically for this vehicle. With six-piston calipers and 15.6-inch rotors up front and four pistons calipers with 14.7-inch discs at the rear, the standard brake system is the largest that Cadillac has ever fitted to a production car. The optional carbon ceramic brake package, seen here, increases the diameter of the front rotors to 15.75 inches and price of the car by $9,000

Cadillac has long struggled to match its competitors in terms of interior design and material quality, and while the CT5-V Blackwing still falls short of its German rivals in a few aspects, it’s a substantial improvement over its predecessor and a pretty agreeable place to do the business of driving. On the tech front the Blackwing is outfitted with a heads-up display, a 12-inch customizable digital gauge cluster with a lap timer and other performance-focused features, and a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 15-speaker AKG audio system comes standard as well.

18-way adjustable heated and ventilated sport seats and a unique performance steering wheel with a V-Mode button and a Performance Traction Management toggle switch are outfitted to every CT5-V Blackwing while carbon fiber-backed seats with quilted leather are optionally available. CT5-V Blackwings equipped with the automatic transmission also score magnesium shift paddles, and each car comes with a serialized number plate on the steering wheel that corresponds to its VIN. Pricing starts at $83,995 before destination, but our loaded tester rang up $108,115 when all was said and done.

Behind The Wheel

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Interior

The Cadillac’s cabin might not be as quite as posh as some of its German rivals – particularly when it comes to the switchgear – but the controls are well laid out and the much-maligned Cue system from the CT5-V Blackwing’s predecessor is now a distant memory.

It was clear that Cadillac had created a thinly-veiled hooligan from the moment that we first pushed in the clutch and pressed the ignition button. The engine springs to life with an eight-cylinder bark that the M5 CS secretly wishes it had, and a few stabs of the throttle elicits all manner of snaps, crackles, and pops from the active exhaust system. There’s a hint of blower whine as you set off, but it’s still far more subdued that the banshee wail of the twin-screw mounted on top of the Hellcat Hemi and entirely masked by the exhaust system at wide-open throttle. For those who’ve moved past the pursuit of maximum noise but still hear the roar of a small-block in their dreams, the CT5-V Blackwing is just the right amount of obnoxious.

The clutch is perfectly weighted, requiring just right amount of effort to feel substantial but not cumbersome in traffic, and the engagement point is spot-on. The shifter is satisfying to use as well, offering smooth engagement and short throws. It’s worth noting that we missed the upshift from 2nd to 3rd on more than one occasion during full-throttle blasts, though, but we get the sense that this is something that happens less often over time as familiarity sets in and muscle memory takes over.

While the CT5-V Blackwing delivers eye-watering performance out in the canyons, its civility during normal driving is just as remarkable. On Los Angeles’s pockmarked streets and highways it delivers ride quality that is flat-out better than the aforementioned M5 CS and on par with some of the best air suspensions out there, absorbing asphalt patchwork and other imperfections with very little harshness in the standard driving mode while also keeping extraneous body motions to a minimum. The optional carbon fiber sport seats equipped on our tester are perfect match to the Blackwing’s mission, too – comfortable enough for daily driving and easy to get into and out of, but with enough lateral bolstering to be useful for the occasional track day or when you’re really hauling the mail down a good back road.

Speaking of hauling the mail, the CT5-V Blackwing has absolutely no problem doing that when you drop the hammer. The power on tap makes this sedan feel (and sound) like a four-door C7 Corvette Z06, and while the Michelins provide plenty stick, adjusting Performance Traction Management to suit the situation (and your mood) is simply a matter of the flicking the switch on the steering wheel whenever the urge strikes you.

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Seats

The optional carbon fiber-backed sport seats feature custom quilting and 18-way adjustability. They strike an excellent balance between comfort and performance, offering enough bolstering to keep you in place during high lateral G maneuvers without significantly compromising ingress and egress.

The new dampers also pay major dividends out in the canyons in Sport and Track driving modes, handling mid-corner bumps, high-speed undulations, and at-limit braking with world-class sophistication and zero drama, while the optional carbon ceramic stoppers deliver race car-like pedal feel. Overly-grabby response at the top of the pedal travel is still an all-too-common trait with carbon discs, but that characteristic is entirely absent here – the pressure applied by your right foot directly translates to the amount of stopping power that the system delivers. Other automakers should consider taking notes.

Beyond its outright performance prowess, the CT5-V Blackwing is just a pleasure to drive regardless of whether you’re going hell for leather or just out running a few errands. That is an increasing very rare trait amongst performance vehicles, and personality and charm are two key sticking points that remain for electrified performance, in particular. This Cadillac has both in spades. This car may mark the end of an era for GM’s luxury brand, but rest assured that the traditional sports sedan is not going gently into that good night.


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