First Look Review: 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
I did not want to write these words. What I wanted to do instead was sit down with a pen and a cocktail napkin and draw you a cartoon of an exploding human head. Over this image I would scrawl the letters CT5-V BLACKWING. We would then dump the whole thing into a post under the heading FIRST LOOK REVIEW, adding only a byline. Because that is all you really need to know.
Six hundred and sixty-eight horsepower in a Detroit tuxedo.
Name another mass-produced thunderbus currently sold with similar power but also four doors, a large back seat, and a clutch pedal. It doesn’t exist.
Sure, sure: There is more to know. Of course there is. Engineering trivia about digitally managed magnetic suspension hardware. The goings-on inside a 6.2-liter LT4 V-8 with titanium valves and a blower so large, a grown man could wear it for a shirt. We could even assemble a lively debate as to whether you really want three pedals in a modern luxury car. All you really need to know, however, is that you drive this blessed event of an automobile, and past a certain point, you do not care how it works. You just want more.
At a GM press event at Virginia International Raceway this summer, I was fortunate enough to run more than a few laps in two of the most resolved and entertaining vehicles yet produced by the modern car business. One of those cars was the just-released Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, arguably a better BMW M3 than BMW currently builds. The other machine boomed through that track’s infamous climbing esses like the Kool-Aid Man through a brick wall. It is inarguably a better M5 than BMW’s current effort, the same idea with more feedback, a greater sense of soul and identity, and more rear grip.
Remarkable compliance and traction; zero histrionics under fire; a 4100-pound, executive-grade battering ram pulling off feats of strength and composure over an apex, and then you grab another gear, so much giddy face behind the wheel.
Lord, this job can jade you. People at industry gatherings these days actually say things like 668 horsepower doesn’t seem that much any more and Why should you need to know how to drive on a track? Counterpoints: 668 hp at 6500 rpm and 659 lb-ft at 3600 rpm are not small numbers. Yes, some EVs make far more, and their torque hits you more immediately. Thrust of this grade is no longer novel. But if you climb into a CT5-V Blackwing and uncork that old-school grunt bomb through a fast corner while still believing the car to be something ordinary, you have officially spent too much time guzzling free auto-show shrimp.
Names can be deceiving. As with the CT4, this is a face-lift and technical update of an older car. The 2016–2019 Cadillac CTS-V was also rear-drive and potent, just less refined and talkative at the limit and 28 hp weaker. Like the current M5, it lacked a manual gearbox; the standard transmission was a competent but uninspiring eight-speed automatic. If you ask GM engineers, the CT5 Blackwing gets a standard clutch pedal because clutch pedals are fun. The car’s paddle-shifted 10-speed Hydramatic 10L80 is also fun—and remarkably predictive at speed—but ten years from now, auction buyers will going mad for the three-pedal ’wings. Last of a breed. They won’t be wrong.
The common thread among fast Cadillacs is a sense of refined cannon. Imagine a roomier Camaro after finishing school. (Not coincidentally, the LT4 used here is also found in the Camaro ZL1.) For that matter, imagine the CT4-V Blackwing, just fatter and longer in wheelbase. Take a moment to scan the review linked in the previous sentence. The larger Blackwing’s magnetorheological dampers work with chassis software and hardware in the same fashion. As a collective, the CT5 ’wing’s silicon brain is exceptionally good at using diff lockup and hyperquick shock adjustments to run cover for the car’s bulk. As with the Blackwing CT4, turn-in is so deceptively quick that you have to remind yourself to be patient with the front Michelins. A nut behind the wheel can chase absurd entry speed for the weight and tire and get it, for a bit, but this is not a light car, and if you are not patient, you will overcook those suckers in a handful of laps.
The rear tires also require patience, at least with traction control off. But then, 668 horses and street tires, and of course they do.
You may now be curious as to measurables. GM quotes for the larger Blackwing a 200-plus-mph top speed, a 3.4-second 60-mph time (automatic), and 1.01 g of lateral grip; a day with the car on a very fast track and a few public roads gives no reason to doubt those claims. The CT5 offers the same basic balance as the CT4 but less lively steering and a shade more steady-state understeer. The upside is that deliciously chill and lag-free V-8 under the hood, plus a wheelbase-aided bump in high-speed stability. A person can choose to leave the excellent variable stability-control system on and crank out clean laps, or you can kill the aids and tame the thing yourself. Either way, if you take this business-class ferryboat to a track day, you will hurt a cubic boatload of feelings.
Such a machine. This is also the first Cadillac available with carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes. They crouch behind 19-inch wheels and did not produce observable fade in our short lapping sessions, though service cost (pads, rotors) is likely high.
We should at this juncture note that you are reading a First Look review. A short gloss on a new vehicle, usually based on a manufacturer press launch. If it seems like this page holds precious little factual information, it is only because it does.
Powder must be kept dry. Your obedient servant here has attempted to traverse his life in honorable fashion, but every case has exceptions. With this one, he desperately wants to fire one of the last great oil-burning American sledgehammers around a track again in the near future, and he will resort to publishing deception to do it.
I offer a pledge: In the near future, once GM has made loaner test vehicles available, I will for you folks find a large and fast pile of race-track corners. I will selflessly drive a CT5-V Blackwing over great length of public highway to reach those corners, and then I will run through them, tireless, until I understand the machine completely.
At that point, I will write another review. A deeper dive. Out of duty to you.
If the machine in question is not a joy in the process, I will eat my shoe.
Fast Cadillacs traditionally do not sell in impressive numbers. The last CTS-V moved just over 300 examples in its final model year. Some carmakers do that kind of sport-sedan volume over lunch. Smart money holds that almost no one will buy this happy bludgeoner, just as no one is likely to buy its smaller and only a smidge less delightful sibling.
Your humble narrator has just one response:
2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
Base price/as-tested: $84,990 / $125,580*
Highs: An M5 with more personality and rear grip. The only clutch pedal in the class. Fast laps are like discharging a nuclear weapon in your back yard, but nobody turns into a mutant after.
Lows: Thirteen city miles per gallon and 22 mpg highway.**
Summary: One of the best big sport sedans in years, and happy rage at the dying of a certain kind of light.
*The VIR event attended by the author featured multiple test cars in various levels of trim; this figure represents a fully loaded CT5-V Blackwing.
**There are almost certainly other negatives, but whenever we asked the author to supply them, he simply made brappety V-8 noise with his mouth.