If you’ve seen Top Gun:Maverick, you were hopefully in awe of all the beautiful aerial cinematography. What made it work was that the actors were really in the back seat of an F/A-18, straining and grunting through high-G maneuvers. You can’t fake that, and I found myself almost turning and pulling G’s with them in my movie seat. That’s what driving the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is like. Your clutch leg will be sore. You will be tense at anything above 3/10s. And your face will hurt from all the smiling. Welcome to the last great sports sedan, from the company you probably least expected.
The 2022 Cadillac CT5 V-Series Blackwing overview
This car makes no sense: it’s already dead. Cadillac has said that all Blackwing models going forward will be electric-only. What a shame, because it’s pretty much perfect.
The soul of this thing starts under the hood, but it’s not all the horsepower. It’s the sound this V-8 makes, and the sensations it produces. The shifter vibrates at idle. In fact the entire car does. But that’s no knock against it. This is a machine built for sensations as much as performance. I can’t imagine why you’d pick an M5 over it. Or maybe I can, because the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing has an identity crisis.
Performance Score: 10. Aural assault.
But it’s not here in the performance department. Powered by a supercharged 6.2 liter LT4 V-8, the Blackwing pumps out 668 horses and 659 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the supercharger in the F-Pace SVR, the Caddy’s whine is subdued. Blame the exhaust. Give the engine a stab and hear a roar from four pipes that equals anything Detroit has ever produced. Then let off the throttle to hear proper burbles and pops – nothing fake like a German car might have.
It’s not the same engine from the Corvette, as that’s naturally aspirated, but it’s similar. Here, the 1.7-liter supercharger (the size of a Honda engine by itself) fills in any gap of torque the N/A version might have. The result is speed everywhere. A redline of 6,500 sounds anti-climatic if you’re used to high-revving machines, but the truth is you don’t need it. Wring the engine out through second gear, and you’re above 80 miles an hour.
And you wring this car out through a six-speed manual powering the rear wheels only. Unlike in an M3, the stick here is no afterthought. The clutch bites very low, almost right off the floor, as if the car is telling you that every minor movement you make is critical. Shifting takes some muscle. While you can get away with flicking the knob in some cars, here you need to grip it with your entire hand. It’s so much fun.
Because of the immense power and tall gearing, I found myself forgetting to shift. Once you’re in third (good for almost 120 mph), the engine is good for less than 3,000 rpm at 60 mph. The power becomes a liability. You’re going so fast, you don’t need to shift, and the car itself becomes a bit bored with it all. To really give the V a workout, you need to be at supersonic speeds.
The V might be bored, but you won’t be. All those little sensations, the cackle of the exhaust, they help you have fun at 10 mph or 100 mph. That’s the difference – you must lash an M5 to get the joy, but you don’t need to here.
There is a 10-speed automatic available. I can’t imagine why you’d want it. It’s like seeing Top Gun for the first time on your TV instead of a movie theater. You’ll enjoy the experience, but it could have been so much better.
When you hear Cadillac as a car enthusiast, you’re trained to think “floating”, or at the very least “touring”. And true to its history, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing can cruise with the best of them. An adjustable adaptive magnetic suspension does an amazing job at soaking up bumps in this car. I know all the pot holes and sewer covers around town. The M3 might crash over them, but the Blackwing sops them up with ease.
But the amazing part is that once you turn the car to “Sport” or ‘Track” mode, the civility remains, but the performance ramps way up. There is almost no body roll. It’s imperceptible. Stability control is expertly calibrated. The rear tires come loose, but it always knows when to step in. Even stabbing the gas driving in a strait line can break traction. This car begs you to drive it, and dare I say some skill is needed to tame it.
Steering is also excellent. I always know what the Michelin PS4s are up to at the front. There’s even some push back on the wheel as I turn into a corner. It’s old-school good, no asterisk needed.
Like most modern cars, the Blackwing has adjustable brake feel, and they control optional carbon ceramic Brembo brakes. Stopping power is immense and appropriate, but with the brakes on their firmest setting, it’s very difficult to control. I found the soft setting much easier to modulate. For $9,000, I say you can skip the ceramic discs and go with conventional steel, unless you want this to be a track car.
Combine everything for a drive on the back roads in a spirited fashion, and you’ll feel like Maverick when you get out. Tired, smiling, and ready for more.
Utility score: 7. Full-size speed.
The Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is priced in M3 territory, but it’s the size of an M5 outside. Inside it’s comfortable, with room for four without issue, and plenty of trunk space. Nothing here should stop you from making it your daily, aside from a roof that might be a bit low for taller drivers.
Actually, there might be one thing.
Efficiency: 2. Pain pump.
It’s not really the range of the Blackwing, which is less than 300 miles per tank, but the amount at which it uses fuel. I averaged 13 mpg.
Don’t forget the gas guzzler tax at $2,100 when you purchase the car. It raises the base price from $83,995 to $87,090.
But don’t let the mileage stop you, especially if fuel goes back down. The car begs you to rev and floor it just because. You’ll never save the planet in this car, but you won’t save it in an electric Blackwing either. Might as well have fun with this one.
Features and Comfort: 7. Good enough.
We’ve come a long way from the plastic fantastic that used to betray GM products inside. And you do get a lot for your money here. A HUD, AKG high-end sound system, massaging, heated and cooled seats– it’s all standard.
All the important parts are too. Magnetic ride control, that amazing motor, Michelin Pilots, and the six-speed manual. It’s enough to make you forgive a few of the shortcomings.
The biggest one being the bottom cushions of the front seats to be on the snug side, a situation made worse by the manual. The carbon fiber backs of the seats and the quality of the leather isn’t as nice as you might find in an M car, especially at $6,090 for the optional sport buckets. That’s around $2,000 more than the optional thrones in an M3, and those are much nicer.
Elsewhere inside, it’s standard GM. The infotainment is the same at the Corvette, with the same oddly discolored screen. The steering wheel isn’t as nice to grip as some other cars. And I miss an iDrive controller. Outside, the carbon fiber package adds a CF lip and spoiler, but again, the quality seems a bit on the plastic side.
Good things are here too – like actual buttons. I don’t need to fumble through menus to make changes, and everything is laid out logically. You can sit in this car and feel at ease within minutes of driving. Try that with a modern Mercedes.
I’m being nit-pickey because I like the car so much. Skip the seats and the ceramic brakes, and you have an amazing performance value.
One thing you won’t find on the car is a Blackwing badge. Even the “V” badging is subdued. No one knows what this car is. And that can be the problem.
The 2022 Cadillac CT5 V-Series Blackwing is the best performance sedan you can currently buy, but that might not be enough.
Everyone knows what a BMW M5 is. You may have always dreamed of owning one. But you’ve probably never dreamed of owning a Cadillac V.
You can partially blame GM. I had to check the trunk a few times to learn the name of this car. CTS, CT5, CT4, V, Blackwing. The naming of their lineup has been generic and in a constant state of flux since the early 2000s. You can’t aspire to own a car if the name always changes. Legends aren’t made that way.
The size and price is in no-man’s land. It’s cheaper than comparably-sized rivals, and bigger than comparibly-priced ones.
We can’t lie about why we buy cars like this either. I love how driving an M car makes me feel, both because it’s a performance car, and because of what it says to everyone that sees me in one. People will make presumptions based on the car you drive, good or bad. What does the Cadillac say?
And buying a BMW comes with a feature not available on the CT5 – a community. The person in the 1992 328i and 2022 M3 can both make a safe assumption at the car show, which is that they like to drive. But when did Cadillac become a driver’s car? Go through Cadillac’s history and you’ll see greats like the DeVille and Eldorado, but they are not machines built for road domination. Does the brand stand for it now, outside of the Blackwing lineup? If so, when did that switch happen? I digress.
Get one before it’s gone
Driving the M5 can sometimes be clinical and cold. And the M3 has a stick that’s an afterthought. Nope – the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is the last, best performance sedan out there, label be damned. It requires skill, and demands attention. It’s no lip service – I encourage you to test drive one if you’re in the market.
If driving is something you truly care about, than this is the one for you. Maverick would feel right at home.
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