2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing Review: The perfect sports sedan’s Viking funeral

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing Review: The perfect sports sedan's Viking funeral

Sometimes within the first mile of driving a car you know that it’s spectacular. The 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing is one of those cars. As one of the final two gas-powered heavy-hitters from the brand (the other being the sinister CT5-V Blackwing) the CT4-V Blackwing has a lot resting on its shoulders. So it was with serious trepidation that everyone laid eyes on the ATS-V’s successor, and the wait was worth it. This is one of the best cars, and far and away one of the best sports sedans, ever built.

In 2004 Cadillac, known entirely for luxury barges, quintessential American luxury plushness, and the star hit Escalade, was striving to rebrand itself. Most associated the likes of jazz and late-90s rap and hip hop with the brand. More Sinatra than Slash. General Motors was sick of the relaxed, posh, and elite image. They turned Caddy’s radio to play Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll, and everything changed. Cadillac had created V.

From day one, Cadillac set out to build a less expensive, less pretentious version of BMW’s M3 and M5, and Mercedes’ AMG sedans. Getting there meant more aggressive bodywork, less fussiness, and a honkin ‘ol V8 under hood. The formula was simple: Go faster cheaper than the Germans, or at least be more fun and less stuffy in the process of trying to do so. Those early CTS-V cars were a joy to play in, but they never felt fully baked; even in the CTS-V’s third generation which ran until 2019, items the infotainment always felt like an afterthought. So did V as a whole, with the CTS being the only model to get the treatment from 2009-2016.

How far we’ve come…

In a bid to broaden the lineup, Cadillac expanded V to the ATS in 2016. Smaller, lighter, and nimbler than the CTS thanks to tidier dimensions and less mass, the ATS-V took a swing at the M3 and comparable sports saloons and struck hard, albeit with an engine that was underwhelming and uninspired. A few years later in another desperate plea to spike sales and build brand credentials, Caddy made a number of sweeping, concurrent changes. The existing names were thrown out the window, replaced by the naming scheme started on their SUVs. No more were ATS and CTS; it was to be CT4 and CT5. They ditched the trio of sedans (ATS, CTS, and CT6) in favor of two (CT4 and CT5). Both cars were fully redesigned and given mechanical makeovers in the process to go along with the evolved styling and updated naming convention.

The biggest scare about the future of fun Cadillacs came under the careful misdirection of Johan de Nysschen, who decided “V” was no longer the moniker they would use to denote a model’s highest-performance trim. Or, at least not on sedans, as there’s an Escalade V-Series coming this year likely powered by the CT5-V Blackwing’s supercharged LT4. But on the sedans? Confusingly, “V” would now mean middle-range, a trim and upgrade over the base car akin to an M440i, S4, or C43, versus the full-on M4, RS4, C63 etcetera.

Instead, the big-boy, full-fledged performance sedans would carry the name Blackwing, a curious callback to the 4.2-liter twin-turbo LTA engine that had been specially developed for the CT6 Platinum and CT6-V. It made 500hp/574lb-ft and 550hp/640lb-ft in these cars, respectively. Excellent numbers considering the displacement, and it was extremely promising as a powerplant that was speculated to end up in GM’s sports cars and other sedans. And then they killed it off after a tiny run of just 275 units from 2019-2020. Sad story aside, the real Blackwing shares nothing but spirit and a name with the CT4-V Blackwing.

…To get to the best sports sedan Cadillac has ever made

This leads us to today. Cadillac reworked and retuned the ATS-V to make the 2022 CT4-V Blackwing, the model’s final act before sliding away into electric darkness. Obviously the bodywork has changed, as have the mechanicals. To get from -V to Blackwing, Caddy stiffened the chassis for improved rigidity, revised bodywork, and added carbon fiber rocker extensions, splitters, secondary grilles, and a rear wing that help for a 214% reduction in aerodynamic lift. Inside there’s a 12.0-inch screen familiar from other GM models. Needless to say, Caddy took the already-good ATS-V and worked wonders on it. The result is fantastic.

Mostly, at least. The exterior was given a thorough redesign. A sharper front clip and profile are net positive, yet the rear is a bland lateral step in the styling department. The Blackwing is sorely missing the ATS-V’s hood vent and mid-trunk crease. Sure; you can say something about only those behind you having to look at your taillights, and all that. Still, it’s one extra line away from being drop-dead gorgeous and menacing at the same time.

Inside the CT4-V Blackwing

The interior was updated, too, much for the better. CUE was ditched in favor of GM’s modular screen setup, which is an excellent piece of hardware (and software) that’s easy to use and that looks quite good. It’s slightly too familiar if you’ve just gotten out of any other GM vehicle recently, but no complaints here as it works and works well. CarPlay means you have minimal unnecessary involvement, and playing with the suspension, steering, throttle, traction control, and other settings is intuitive and straightforward. Just as it should be.

The highlight of the interior is the seats. They strike that happy balance between endlessly comfortable and offering substantial enough bolstering so as to keep you snug in place when approaching the Blackwing’s high handling limits. It’s the kind of all-day comfortable seat that handily does its job on a back road, and there’s plentiful adjustment with 18-ways of doing so. The seating position is excellent, and visibility is strong, too. All-in, the interior is the kind of place you’d be happy to either road trip or carve a mountain road. It’s not without fault, as some interior materials are iffy, the center tunnel is a tad too close to your right leg, and there’s not a ton of room inside but only back seat passengers will only complain, so think of it as a 2+2 more than a full-on sedan.

It doesn’t get better than this

And yet none of this matters as of the second you notch the shifter into first gear and hit the road. The Blackwing’s numbers aren’t drastically different from those of its predecessor, with horsepower creeping from 464 to 472 and torque remaining the same at 445, yet the 3.6L twin-turbo powerplant has been reworked for both power delivery and sound. Acceleration and speed are utterly effortless. There’s more exciting engines out there, though the beauty of this one is that it’s usable in everyday life. It’s a joy to interact with even if it could use more headroom before the redline. You can actually rev it out without going supersonic speeds. And yet, it’s fast; the engine and size of the car combine for the beautiful sensation that it really is underselling itself on the figures front. The powerband is wide, throttle response immediate, and all of those other things you want to hear in a car review. Sure, a V8 would be nice in a car this size, but the TTV6 gives it a character all its own. It’s a delight, and even pulls decent MPG.

Even sweeter is the transmission. Here, Tremec’s TR6060 is as good as it gets before stepping up to a Porsche. The shifter has perfect weight and the right distance between throws, which are beautifully direct and inspire huge confidence when hustling the car. The metal coin on top of the knob gets cold in winter and presumably hot in summer, but it’s easily forgiven as it looks and feels special, like it was machined out of a single piece of metal just for you. There’s also auto-rev match downshifting which works flawlessly and makes you feel, or at least sound, like a hero. No-lift shift is present if you have the gusto. An automatic is available but those who can manage the stick would be foolish to not get it. Even rowing the gears yourself, 0-60 comes in 3.8; either way the top speed is 189 mph top speed.

Amazing Alpha 2

Once you’re familiar with the outstanding engine and transmission you can start to explore the car’s handling dynamics. Thing is, the chassis’ competence is present even at low speeds and on awful surfaces. It allows for a soft ride and truly Cadillac-esque compliance while having no body roll; the five-link rear helps this, but Magnetic Ride Control is the hero, better here than ever before.

Getting up to speed (both literal and figurative) is laughably easy, and the incredible Alpha 2 chassis is endlessly capable and willing to play. The Blackwing’s front and back end are paired perfectly, tied in perpetual unison by the chassis. Tell the car what to do and it just does it, no questions asked. It dances on a back road and rides like a Cadillac product should. Even despite the 3,860 pound curb weight (some 50 pounds heavier than the ATS-V), the Blackwing feels like it weighs 500 pounds less. Chassis mastery, and handling limits well beyond what can be explored on the street, though even throwing the car around at low speeds is a blast.

The Blackwing is truly a special thing to drive on a good road. With the V button on the steering wheel set to my preferred settings of aggressive engine and steering response but the softest suspension setting, it’s more fun to drive than any four door car should be. The size is right, it fits perfectly in a lane, and it’s happily manipulated by the steering wheel, throttle, or brakes. Regardless of the road, you point, shoot, and go.

The amount of feel is perfect for a car of its nature and the feedback is plentiful. Some so-called sports cars would be deeply envious of the Blackwing’s responsiveness, from steering to chassis to brakes and even throttle response. It never complains about being driven hard and blends seamlessly into the background when you have it in a normal driving mode. It’s not Jekyll and Hyde, but rather just always the best of both personalities. Have your cake and eat it, too.

So much good, so little bad

Complaints? Few. The electric parking brake takes longer to actuate than a manual one and is a constant curiosity. Many of the interior materials are unchanged from the base CT4. The back seat is small, but your bigger friends wouldn’t fit in the Camaro’s torture chamber, either. And that’s it. The Blackwing has the shortest list of “downsides” of any car that I’ve ever reviewed, all of which can be thrown out the window when considering the price. The 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing has a base MSRP of $58,995 which makes it less expensive than the ATS-V was. Mind boggling in today’s car market and given how new car prices have skyrocketed.

None of this $76,635 tester’s $16,645 worth of options ($5k for Jet Black paint and microfiber surfaces, $7k worth of carbon fiber, $1,600 for the Performance Data Recorder, $725 technology package, $1,225 for satin graphite wheels, $595 for bronze brake calipers, and $600 for heated/cooled/massaging seats) make a drastic impact on the way the Blackwing drives, so pick and choose wisely. Or not. Any way you serve it, the Blackwing is phenomenal.

This is a car for the ages

It feels like GM actually put time, effort, resources, and thought into the CT4-V Blackwing. It’s a car they cared about building and that they wanted to be proud of. In a world where cars have become ever-so-slightly different flavors of the same fat-free store brand yogurt, the CT4-V Blackwing is a delicious protein shake with a dab of Kahlua thrown in for fun. It’s fully baked, the culmination of everything GM can throw at it, and it’s worth every penny. The CT5-V Blackwing might have a better engine, but the 4 is the one you want, the right size versus the big 5’s much larger dimensions. The 4 by comparison is lithe, svelte. It makes it easy to place in a lane, around a corner, and in everyday life. It’s the right amount of car everywhere you look.

The CT4-V Blackwing is not just the best sports sedan I’ve ever driven, but one of the best cars I’ve ever driven, if not the title holder. It brings about constant driving-induced pleasure and makes you want to go for a drive anytime you’re not actually behind the wheel. Someday it’ll be collectible, and that day very well may be soon. And so with the CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing, Cadillac and GM send their gasoline propelled sedans out with a bang. A viking funeral of sorts, with smoke and theatrics until the tires show cords and the tanks run empty. The electric future is promising, but it’s doubtful that a car will ever again be this engaging. Pour one out for the Vs; take a moment of silence for the loss of our beloved.

When we look back on the greatest driving gas-powered sedans ever built, the CT4-V Blackwing will be on the podium. I’m extremely fortunate to spend time in a lot of cars, and none has struck a chord with me like the CT4-V Blackwing has. There’s no such thing as true car perfection, and yet the Blackwing might as well be. A piece of machinery that makes you feel things metal, rubber, and composites shouldn’t. What a winner.