Cadillac, as the USA’s foremost luxury manufacturer (sorry, Lincoln), has always had the ever-burdensome job of building cars that can compete with the storied and undeniably glorious powerhouses from Germany.
BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and even Porsche have long dominated the luxury performance sedan segment with cars like the BMW M5, Audi RS7 (and now RS6 Avant), Mercedes E63-AMG, and Porsche Panamera Turbo. Cadillac certainly tried to compete before, but not very successfully.
Never quite on par with the Big 3
Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Cadillac offered the CTS-V as their response to the aforementioned Germans, but it was never quite up to snuff. Sure the most recent CTS-V had more power than the equivalent M5, E63 and RS7 but it could never quite catch the big 3 from Germany in any way that extended beyond what was under the hood. The Germans always had better interiors, and far better infotainment (because Cadillac’s old CUE system was perhaps the worst piece of in-car technology ever developed).
Additionally, Cadillac wasn’t the only one offering their performance sedan with three pedals, as the BMW M5 offered a manual all the way through the end of the F10 generation. Finally, the people who have enough spare cash to spend $100k on a car generally prefer to roll up to their country club with the latest and greatest BMW or Mercedes rather than a Cadillac. What all this means is that Cadillac could never really make a strong argument for their performance sedan being better than the others. Now, however, that’s changed: enter the recently released Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing.
Cadillac “V” doesn’t mean what it used to, but “Blackwing” does!
Before we continue on about why the CT5-V Blackwing is a far better competitor than the outgoing CTS-V, let’s first talk a bit about its name: “Blackwing.” Traditionally, Cadillac’s top-dog performance cars bore the “V” badge, similar to how BMW’s highest-performance cars wear an “M” badge, and the hot-rod Mercedes say AMG on their trunk lids. So, when Cadillac released their CT5-V a while back with a turbo-V6 and a frankly pathetic (for the segment) 360hp, people were… disappointed.
We’d grown accustomed to Cadillac’s CTS-V making 640hp from a fire-breathing Corvette V8, so when the CT5-V (remember that the CT5 is effectively the new CTS) dropped with nearly a 50% horsepower reduction, fans and journalists alike were rightfully disappointed. Little did they know, however, that Cadillac was quietly working on a name change and line restructuring.
Instead of “V” representing Cadillac’s top performance line, it now represents the middle performance line, leaving room for another placard to take the reigns as top dog: Blackwing. With the CT5-V Blackwing, it’s clear that Cadillac is taking a page out of the Germans’ book with three distinct levels of performance. For example, just as BMW has the regular 5-series, the M550i, and the M5, Cadillac now has the normal CT5, the CT5-V and the CT5-V Blackwing, with higher performance as you go up the chain.
Quick Specs on the CT5-V Blackwing
Now that we’ve covered the name change, and before we talk about why the CT5-V Blackwing is poised to make big waves in the luxury performance segment, let’s first go over its basic specs. The CT5-V Blackwing comes with an upgraded version of GM’s supercharged 6.2L V8 dubbed the LT4, the same engine as in the higher-performing versions of the old C7 Corvette. This engine cranks out a very impressive 668hp and 659lb-ft of torque, with a 1.7 supercharger. Just the supercharger on the CT5-V Blackwing is larger in displacement than the entire engine in the Honda Civic Sport. GM is not messing around with the powerplant in the CT5-V Blackwing, and it’s more powerful than the M5 Competition, E63-AMG, Audi RS7 and Porsche Panamera Turbo.
A 6-speed manual is standard
Perhaps more importantly than what’s under the hood is what lies in the transmission tunnel, as the CT5-V Blackwing comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, an option tragically unavailable on any other car in the segment. The 6-speed in the Blackwing offers shorter throws than its predecessor, as well as a no-lift shift option. GM’s 10-speed automatic is an option if you prefer, and while that is a fantastic gearbox as far as autos go, it’s not as exciting as rowing your own gears. Whatever transmission you choose, it’s rear-wheel-drive only. And finally, rounding out the drivetrain is an electronic limited slip differential out back.
The Blackwing also features GM’s impressive and configurable magnetic ride control, or Mag-Ride suspension. This suspension setup allows the driver to adjust the feel of the suspension in a number of different ways depending on what drive mode is selected. Sport and Track modes will tighten things up to help the Blackwing corner more quickly and precisely, while comfort-oriented modes will be more forgiving and comfortable on longer trips or over harsh roads.
And it even looks good
And finally, while highly subjective, it is important to talk about styling too, and the Blackwing is impressive in this department as well. The Blackwing features a number of changes compared to the lower-level CT5 models, including wider fenders, a redesigned front fascia, carbon fiber front aero, a carbon fiber rear diffuser and trunk spoiler, and four prominent exhaust tips to let that LT4 breathe. In combination all of these come together to make a very attractive sedan.
Why the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is a Big Deal
Now that we know all about the Blackwing, let’s talk about why it’s such a big deal. As we discussed before, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Porsche have been fighting amongst themselves for the title of best luxury performance sedan manufacturer, while Cadillac sat idly by, watching them have all the fun, and make all the sales. This was in large part because the now defunct CTS-V just never seemed to find its leg up on the German competition.
So what is Cadillac to do? Well, in typically American “go big or go home” style, Cadillac decided to not just find one leg up, but to find and take all legs up on the competition. You want the most powerful car in the segment? You get the Cadillac. You want the car with the biggest engine in the segment? You get the Cadillac. You want the only car in the segment that is rear-drive only? You get the Cadillac. You want a manual transmission? You get the Cadillac. You want to tell your golf buddies that your car’s supercharger is bigger than a Honda Civic Sport’s engine? You get the Cadillac! And finally, and perhaps most importantly: if you want the cheapest car in the segment, you guessed it—you get the Cadillac!
Cadillac is in play
So, to wrap things up, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is a big deal because it is, at least on paper, a very strong competitor in a market that has been dominated by the same brands for decades. And amazingly, it offers all of these advantages over its stout competition at a significantly lower price, starting at $84,900, with the next cheapest option being the M5, which starts at $103,500. This makes the Blackwing a tremendous performance bargain. So, kudos to Cadillac for building what is poised to be a fantastic car, and for their devotion to the stick shift, something enthusiasts will unanimously appreciate. Now, let’s just hope that it sells so they keep making it!