- Photos: Kurt Bradley

The Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Kicks Serious Sedan Ass

A performance sedan with a name no one has heard of makes a big impression.

3w ago

Cadillac first hit the scene with a V badge back when George W. Bush was in the White House, giving enthusiast drivers a faster CTS model that borrowed the C5 Corvette Z06's powertrain. Back then, the CTS-V was damn fast at a bargain price, but Cadillac wasn't exactly producing the nicest cars in a luxury segment. Years went by, and Cadillac not only stepped up its luxury efforts, but started supplying more power and handling capabilities by stealing more parts from its GM cousins as Chevrolet continued to beef up the Corvette.

Sadly the fantastic CTS-V ended its production run a couple years ago, leaving a gaping hole in the market for those who wanted a decently appointed sedan that could rip up canyon roads and tracks alongside much more expensive German rivals. When the V badge made its return last year, Cadillac screwed up all its success in building V Series brand equity, anointing that status among more ordinary sedans, while also replacing the CTS as a new CT5 and calling the successful ATS a CT4. Yes, I'm just as confused as you.

The new V models were barely sportier than their traditional models, and I made sure to express my disliking when I reviewed the CT5-V last summer, but Cadillac quickly responded by announcing a new name--no one had ever heard of--would carry the performance torch. Enter the Blackwing. Powered by a revised version of the supercharged V8 from the last generation, the new CT5-V Blackwing should stomp any pavement it wants, even if the name doesn't register with anyone. I had to see what it could do.

The Big Specs

Cadillac's new top level V is called Blackwing, and I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean. In any case, under the hood is a familiar 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that formerly found glory powering the exceptional C7 Corvette ZR1, benefitting from a couple revisions. Cranking out 668 horsepower and 659 lb-ft of torque, the fastest Cadillac has more power and torque than the Audi RS6 Avant, AMG E 63 S, and BMW M5 Competition, but those are all powered by much smaller twin-turbo V8s. Cadillac only sells the CT5-V Blackwing with rear-wheel-drive, while the previously-mentioned models from Germany all have all-wheel-drive standard. In this new generation, the CT5-V Blackwing is the most powerful and fastest production Cadillac in the company's 120 year history.

The Blackwing can sprint from 0-60 MPH in 3.6 seconds when equipped with the standard 6-speed manual or in 3.4 seconds with the optional 10-speed automatic transmission (both managed by an electronic limited-slip differential), with a top speed of 200 MPH. The CT5-V Blackwing's acceleration figures are comparable to those set by the fast Germans, but the Caddy will leave them behind with its top speed. Curb weight is 4,123 pounds (1,870 kilos) for the manual transmission model, bumps up to 4,142 (1,879 kg) if one opts for the automatic, and laughs at that heft as it pulls 1.01g on the skidpad.

Pricing for the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is seriously attractive against its rivals from across the pond. Starting at an MSRP of $83,995, the Caddy holds no less than a $20,000 advantage against the base price of the RS6, M5 Comp, and E 63 S. After adding the finer natural leather and semi-aniline interior treatments, carbon fiber seatbacks, 10-speed automatic transmission, performance data recorder, ultraview sunroof, blue brake calipers (which can also be painted grey, red, or bronze), and a few extra safety systems, this Wave Blue Metallic CT5-V Blackwing hit an MSRP of $99,635. Even after adding carbon ceramic brakes and all the options available, the Blackwing only maxes out at $125,580.

A Luxury Sleeper In The Streets

Cadillac may have released the Blackwing into the wild as a seriously fast sedan, but that doesn't mean it can't be comfortable do daily drive. My willpower to overcome my addiction to speed was useless in the CT5-V Blackwing, as I'd deploy the blown powerplant often, making highway passes instant, and turning slightly curvy city routes into more entertaining ones. Even with my heavier right foot, I averaged 18 MPGs over my week-long test, beating the EPA estimates of 13/22/16 (which are similar to the MPG estimates of the competition). The supercharged V8 may urge you to apply the throttle more heavily, but there are several drive modes that you can employ to tame this beast.

I like that Cadillac offers a "My Mode" setup in addition to the V mode (which is what I used for the fun setup). I adjusted My Mode for the engine to be a hint calmer while tuning down the weight of the electric-assisted steering to its most civil of three settings, told the engine and exhaust notes (some of which artificially pumped through the speakers) to chill, and enjoyed the refinement of the adaptive Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 shocks in their comfort setting. This produced a composed full-size sedan on bumpy city streets that could still pounce at-will. Michelin's Pilot Sport 4S tires are fitted around 19-inch wheels, offering reasonably thick sidewalls for a performance sedan, which contributed to the overall comfort in town.

Unlike the German competition, Cadillac utilizes almost too subtle styling cues to distinguish the CT5-V Blackwing next to its more tame siblings. The front grille has dark metallic mesh treatments and a bold badge, secondary grilles are slightly larger to better direct airflow to the auxiliary charge coolers, smaller front lower grilles reduce pressure while channeling airflow into brake-cooling ducts, exhaust pipes are four moderately-sized parallelograms, a small lip is added to the decklid, and V logos are applied to the front fenders and boot lid, stuck to brake calipers, and etched into the polished wheels.

Nowhere on the exterior of this faster CT5 will you spot a single Blackwing designation, which is a missed opportunity. Cadillac does fit a serialized number plate that corresponds with each vehicle’s unique VIN sequence to the base of the steering wheel, and there's a tiny Blackwing trim piece in the front seat piping, but that's it. There are options to add a bigger rear wing and a larger front splitter, but until the go pedal is applied, a lay person may not recognize this Cadillac as one intended to haul ass.

In spite of its performance intentions, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is a luxury sedan, and that's a good thing. The interior appointments are nearly identical to those spotted in the CT5-V I drove last summer, albeit with cooler stitching and patterns mixed alongside sportier materials and a reasonable helping of carbon fiber to look the performance part. Cadillac definitely improved its fit and finish with the new CT5, which is only slightly less luxurious than what I experienced in the BMW M5 Competition, while not as cool against the wonderfully designed cabin of the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S I love nor the space age cockpit of the Audi RS6 Avant.

Seats give the sporty appearance, but are supremely comfortable, with good cushioning, power adjustable bolsters, massage modes, and seriously effective heating and ventilation (albeit with loud fans) functions. Optional carbon fiber panels on the back of the front seats are cool as hell too. I would happily road trip the CT5-V Blackwing across the country, even if fuel stops to top off the 17-gallon tank would happen often. Rear passengers will enjoy massive amounts of space, and ride along comfortably, even if their seats don't have as much bolstering like the front ones. The CT5's trunk will easily hold four roller bags, or two tour-size golf bags if you're into that sort of thing, and Cadillac provides plenty of spots to store all sorts of smaller items throughout the cabin.

Audio and climate controls employ physical buttons that are easy to read and operate, and the upgraded NexGen infotainment system is a massive upgrade over Cadillac's Cue system in the last generation CTS, now featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The AKG 15-speaker audio system is seriously good too. Instrumentation is fully digital, with plenty of ways to customize the data and tools at your disposal, complete with an option to simplify the display to just the tachometer and speed.

An Absolute Menace In The Twisties

A luxury four-door that packs massive supercharged V8, equips an available 6-speed manual transmission, and only powers the rear wheels. This combination is nearing extinction, so you better embrace what Cadillac has assembled in the CT5-V Blackwing. Its Audi RS6 Avant (I know it's a wagon), BMW M5 Competition, and AMG E 63 S rivals all come standard with all-wheel-drive, to keep you out of trouble when you're giving the car a thrashing, but there's something fun about balancing on a knife's edge in a car this potent. Sure, a little added front end grip is nice with this much power at your disposal, but the raw nature of the CT5-V Blackwing is unreal.

Floor the CT5-V Blackwing's accelerator, and a brutal surge of power is delivered alongside a little wiggle from the back-end as the electronic limited-slip diff seeks optimal traction to send the big Cadillac forward. Compare this sensation with that provided by the German trio I reviewed previously, and those cars feel more composed and graceful as they unleash their 600+ horsepower. The unbridled fury from the Cadillac may seem a bit blue collar, but the roar from the massive V8 can't be matched by the Germans' smaller turbocharged engines. It's a pure American muscle car soundtrack blasted for all to hear.

Avoid being a total knob, and the Blackwing is manageable to play with, but amateurish steering inputs met with heavy throttle applications will rapidly send the CT5's back-end around. Smooth hands and steady pedal work will make for some damn fun drifts out of quick bends though as the blower whines, the exhaust tips rumble, and a cloud of tire smoke is left in the Blackwing's wake. Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber is perfect for the CT5-V Blackwing, offering plenty of confidence in the bends, without getting too greasy during longer stints of spirited driving. The 14.5-inch steering wheel isn't too thick, and I like the deviated stitching and the red 12 o'clock marker.

I prefer the Blackwing's three-pedal option, but happily accepted the press car I was provided, and was surprised how well the tuning for this automatic coped with hardcore driving along some winding Texas Hill Country roads. I suggest using the magnesium paddle shifters to maintain the best control of the gear changes and to minimize the frequent switches up and down through the 10-speed box. Brembo's steel brake rotors hold up reasonably, and clamped by 6-piston front and 4-piston rear rotors, are wonderful at shaving speed. If you're looking for more confidence from harder days of bashing the Blackwing, the carbon ceramic brake discs might be a smart--yet costly--option.

Cadillac's sport and track modes are great, giving the CT5-V Blackwing ideal setups for attacking empty canyon roads, but I made use of the V mode to keep the suspension in comfort, and went wild with the heavier steering, more aggressive engine, and firmer braking settings. Utilizing Cadillac's Performance Traction Management modes (quickly toggled via a switch on the steering wheel that reminds me of the Ferrari Manettino), I told the stability control to take the day off too, as it would intervene a bit too anxiously if I want to smash the gas.

The sporty buckets Cadillac installs in the CT5-V Blackwing are well-suited to heftier American drivers, but with the powered bolsters in full-attack mode, they kept me planted in the corners. Look closely at the piping up the sides of these seats, and you'll spot the only Blackwing markings on the entire car. Still bugs me that Cadillac didn't do more to make this fastest trim level stand out.

Like other top-level performance models from GM, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is available with the $1,600 Performance Data Recorder that logs several data points and lap times, compiles high-resolution video with a few overlays, and comes loaded with several circuits all over the globe. Used in harmony with Cosworth's Toolbox software and mobile apps, Blackwing owners can quickly pull the SD card from the dash, quickly import the session, and break down their good and bad habits around the track.

This Bargain Rocket Sedan Slays

Cadillac has provided another badass sedan in the CT5-V Blackwing. The name is going to take some getting used to, but this super saloon rips. After a year of complaining about the "normal" CT5-V being too basic to get that iconic badge, Cadillac gave enthusiasts what we crave, with a nicely balanced luxury sedan package that will destroy any twisty road or circuit it pleases. The CT5 may not be as nicely appointed inside nor as controllable in the twisty stuff as the all-wheel-drive Audi RS6, Mercedes-AMG E63 S, or BMW M5 Competition, but it's not far below the high bar set by that trio.

If I'm spending six figures on a performance four-door, and money isn't as tight, I'm sticking the AMG E 63 S in my garage, and opting for the wagon version. Depending on how you spec the Blackwing, the Cadillac can save up to $40,000 versus its German foes, which makes it massively attractive. For that sort of cash, the CT5-V Blackwing gets two big thumbs up from me, and should warrant some serious attention from anyone looking to own a wildly fast luxury sedan.

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