This is a brilliant car.
The CT4-V Blackwing will be the final small performance Cadillac with a gas engine. That engine isn’t all that special. Honestly, nothing about this car, when written on paper, seems all that special. These are specs and components we’ve seen from Cadillac and other manufacturers. There are no stand-out numbers, no wildly exotic materials, nothing that takes your breath away.
None of that matters. There’s magic here.
The successor to the ATS-V, this Blackwing uses everything loved about the ATS-V–and there was a lot–and makes it even better. The chassis has the newest, best-tuned version of GM’s magnetic ride suspension. The brakes are top notch. The engine, the familiar 3.6 liter twin-turbo V-6, now thumps with 472 horsepower, a modest eight whinny increase over the ATS-V. It’s connected to a six-speed manual – a 10-speed auto is optional – has great bucket seats inside and aggressive aero work on the body. All evolutionary moves forward. Nothing radical.
Like the ATS-V before it, the CT4 Blackwing doesn’t have one thing that it does better than everything else. It doesn’t have more power than a Mercedes C63 AMG, more grip than the new all-wheel drive BMW M3, a better interior than the Audi RS 5, or better steering than the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. But all the little details work together to create a car that is best in class, a right-sized driver’s car that emphasizes all the qualities we value while other manufacturers go for big numbers and bragging rights. The Cadillac is all about balance. The way the CT4 drives is poetic.
While it's just two inches shorter and three inches narrower than the M3, it feels much smaller. So many modern performance cars can feel ungainly and isolating; like you’re sitting on the car instead of inside it. You sit low in perfectly bolstered bucket seats, the steering wheel not trying to be a shape other than round. The gauges–or gages if you spell check for GM–on the LCD dash are clear and easily read. No games or insane graphics to show off how clever the engineers are. There are a few different display themes depending on the drive mode, but no light shows or multi-level entertainment distractions. It keeps the driver focused on driving.
Left in sport, the Blackwing shines on the road. The six-speed manual, a nearly extinct creature in today’s quest for quicker shifts and 0 to 60 times, is enchanting. The clutch is well weighted with a defined engagement point and the shifts, though slightly clunky, are also intensely satisfying. That’s linked to that twin-turbo V-6, perhaps the only forgettable part of the car. Not particularly interesting or revvy, it sounds boomy but does its job. Even if it does lack the refinement of the latest generation of turbo engines, it matches particularly well with the manual gearbox. That’s because the engine isn’t so manic, so determined to give you full power from 0 rpm, that it makes it impossible for a human to keep up.
That’s what makes it such an outstanding street car. The driver is in the equation. The electric steering is well-weighted and accurate, though there is some on-center vagueness. The 15 inch, six-piston front and 13.4 inch, four-piston rear brakes are strong and consistent, with great initial bite and a progressive pedal. But the real star is the chassis tuning. The CT4 embarrasses not only every car in its class, but also cars that cost far more with how compliant it is in its softest modes and how willing it is to give feedback in the more aggressive settings. It never feels out of sorts, it doesn’t punish, doesn’t harm the driver. Instead it provides feedback in droves, a constant flow of communication from the suspension to your body.
Cadillac also didn’t fall victim to the common practice of giant wheels and tires. The Blackwing’s wheels are 18 inches front and rear, shopping cart-sized by today’s standards. The standard tire is a Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, 255/35 up front, and 275/35 out back (because it's winter, our car was on Pilot Alpins, but the ride quality was still excellent). Imagine that, a performance car with smaller wheels and actual sidewall. What a world.
It also has GM’s excellent Performance Traction Management system, or PTM for short. Real motorsport traction control, this system has ever more aggressive modes that reduce ESC and TC involvement to help any level of driver go faster. It’s a trick system, too, since it cuts spark to subtly rein back the engine’s torque output and doesn’t use braking as its only way of creating stability.
That chassis tuning and PTM is even more phenomenal on a track, where it’ll do otherworldly things, just like its faster, more-powerful brother, the CT5-V Blackwing. We did get a chance on track in one at VIR last summer, where we found exactly that.
What goes against it? Cadillac’s performance cars, even if they’re better than the ones from Germany, never seem to catch on until it’s too late. The CTS-V Wagon could barely sell when it was new and now they’re worth more than ever. The ATS-V was under-appreciated and now you barely see them, even if it felt more like an M3 than an M3. Hopefully the same fate doesn’t befall the CT4, because it’s easily the most fun model in its class.
Isn’t that what matters? The CT4 ticks every single box that you’d want from a new performance sedan. It looks great, particularly with the carbon fiber kit on our test car. With a base price of $59,000, it starts out $12,000 cheaper than a new M3, and this is the better car.
The CT4-V Blackwing was tuned by a team that knows this is it. Cadillac has only made performance cars for 18 years so this is a bittersweet moment. This is the final time they’ll engineer two great, combustion-powered fast sedans.
Cadillac’s performance history may be short, but ending its gas-powered era on a car like this is how to go out on top.
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