The automotive world is going electric. What started with Tesla led to improved infrastructure and public perception. Now, electric trucks and SUVs are springing up all over the place, and makers like GM have pledged to go all-electric in the not-so-distant future. Take Cadillac, which has pledged to phase out gas engines by 2030 and will limit themselves to updating the power plants of the current lineup between now and then. Every other new Cadillac will be electric – which means the 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing marks the end of an era. While there’ll still be combustion engine Cadillacs built over the rest of this decade, this is the last one that’ll be new, and it’s doubtful that it will be surpassed in any measure.
Fortunately, the new Blackwing is a fitting capstone for the modern era of Cadillac design. The V-series has established Cadillac as a genuine competitor to the German luxury-performance brands, especially considering the lower price of entry, and the CT5-V Blackwing is undoubtedly the pinnacle of almost 20 years of performance development. It’s uniquely positioned to become an appreciating collector’s item with plush luxury features, apex predator capability, limited-run exclusivity, and last-of-its-kind nostalgia value. Pretty fitting for a car with a name that sounds like one of Batman’s proteges.
A Legacy Defined
The Cadillac CTS-V first surfaced in 2004, one year after the CTS itself was introduced to begin re-establishing Cadillac’s image as an exciting American alternative to BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. The first manual transmission Cadillac in nearly 20 years received a V8 engine transplanted from the C5 Z06 Corvette, good for 400 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque in a midsize sedan. With the modern style and unexpected gusto of the V-series muscle car, Cadillac was no longer grandpa’s brand.
How serious was the CTS-V right out of the gate? Well, it ran the Nurburgring in 8:19, only 20 seconds off the pace of the Corvette with the same powertrain – and a full second faster than the BMW M5. It wasn’t a slam dunk, though, with differentials notorious for exploding when you needed them most and ride quality that ultimately left something to be desired against the German competition, even after accounting for the $20,000 price difference. So for the second gen in 2009, the CTS-V got the Corvette ZR1’s supercharged V8 with over 550 hp and GM’s MagneRide suspension, giving drivers the ability to change ride feel with the push of a button. This iteration ran the Nurburgring in 7:59, setting a new mark for production sedans. It also boasted a reinforced differential design that resolved the issues of the first generation.
The sportwagon body style from this generation is already a collector’s item, with manual transmission examples selling at or above sticker price today because the odds of someone building anything like it again are slim to none. Let that be a preview of how the first – and last – generation of the CT5-V Blackwing will be received in even ten years’ time. The third and final CTS-V was GM’s most powerful production vehicle ever at 640 hp, but now, the 2022 CT5-V Blackwing takes that crown by squeezing a full 668 hp out of the same engine. Not bad for a lineup that didn’t even exist 20 years ago.
The Best American Muscle Car
The CT5-V Blackwing is a luxury car first, performance car second, but with 668 hp and 659 lb-ft of torque, why shouldn’t it be able to compete with pure pony cars like the Camaro ZL1 1LE? The Blackwing boasts a 3.4 second 0-60 mph time, and it still comes with a standard manual transmission (an even quicker 10-speed auto is optional). It even sounds the part thanks to an enthusiastic exhaust character, but with multiple drive modes, it doesn’t have to be loud and obnoxious all the time either. So what has Cadillac done to make the 2022 CT5-V Blackwing into something that belongs in Bruce Wayne’s garage?
Despite sharing its name with the 4.2L V8 “Blackwing” engine of the short-lived CT6-V performance model, the CT5-V Blackwing does not come with the engine from the full-size car because it just wasn’t powerful enough. The name was adopted by Cadillac as their expression of ultimate performance, while the proven LT4 engine from the CTS-V was adopted and upgraded by installing a new Eaton supercharger. Paired to a 10-speed auto or a slower, but surely more entertaining, 6-speed manual with a short-throw shifter, no-lift-shift, and automatic rev-matching, the powertrain can propel the Blackwing to over 200 mph!
At speeds like that, air management – both for downforce and for cooling – becomes essential. Good thing that, while it clearly isn’t as hard-core as some pure performance cars, the CT5-V Blackwing is covered in function-first aerodynamic features. Every square inch of open area on the aggressive front fascia has a purpose, from the mesh primary grille (with flutes on the mesh to reduce drag, because why not?) sending air to the radiator and intake to the aggressive-looking gaps that direct air to the brakes – added to the fascia when Cadillac engineers discovered high pressure building up in those locations.
There are functional air vents behind those 15.7-inch front brakes too, which is good because these are the largest rotors ever mounted to a Cadillac (they are also the first time Cadillac has offered carbon-ceramic brakes with cross-drilled rotors, providing more than 50 lbs of weight savings). Brake pedal feel even adjusts according to drive mode, one of the many systems that Cadillac has integrated so that changing drive modes is almost like changing to a different car.
The advanced aero runs all the way to the back, where a diffuser rises up and coaxes air to fill the space, causing it to rush under the car on the way. This reduces the air pressure below the Blackwing, helping the wheels maintain good traction by keeping them firmly on the ground. A trunk lip spoiler completes the package. This disrupts the otherwise fast-moving air flowing over the end of the vehicle, reducing lift and once again keeping those powered rear wheels in a maximum-traction condition.
Owners have the option to equip a pair of carbon fiber packages, which does just a little bit more for the CT5-V Blackwing’s track performance. The first replaces the stock spoiler with a carbon fiber version and adds a carbon-fiber splitter to the front, which acts a little bit like a wing – directing a higher percentage of airflow over the top of the car and improving downforce at the front end as a result. The second kit changes the diffuser, grille header, and rocker moldings to carbon fiber as well, shedding pounds and adding a sportier edge to the car’s appearance.
Travel in Style
For the CT5-V Blackwing to truly compete with the BMW M-series and Mercedes-AMG lineup, it needs more than overwhelming power and exhilarating handling. It needs state-of-the-art materials, technology, and build quality. Of course, that’s more or less been Cadillac’s specialty for decades, so nobody should need convincing that the CT5-V Blackwing delivers, but what does it deliver?
The second you open the door, it’s obvious that beauty goes right to the core of this car. Even the standard bucket seats have 18-way powered adjustability, but the upgraded seats put sophistication on full display with detailed and intricate quilting and perforation patterns whether you’ve got the standard or Semi-Aniline leather selected (both feature a completely unique design, of course). The upgraded seats also offer suede microfiber accents, carbon fiber shells, and narrow headrests positioned to accommodate a track helmet.
Once you’ve settled into your executive class chair and take a look around, you might find there’s too much to take in. The view is dominated by the steering wheel, with Cadillac’s striking logo gleaming from the center, but this is no pedestrian Cadillac helm. That much is clear from the red stripe at the 12 o’clock position, a racing-focused feature to help keep the wheels straight and true. You’ll also see a striking V-series emblem in the carbon fiber trim, near a unique plaque marking the serial number of this limited-run machine. And don’t neglect the conveniently positioned V-mode and Performance Traction Management toggles on either side of the horn, making it easier to change your CT5-V Blackwing’s characteristics on the fly.
Look up, and you will see enough information to overwhelm the novice driver. From the center console’s 10″ infotainment screen to the 12″ configurable digital gauge cluster, there’s plenty to take in! Among the CT5-V Blackwing’s distinctive features are an integrated performance data recorder, customizable launch control (with line lock to keep the front brakes frozen while you warm up the rear tires), and a track-oriented shift timer light to coach you into optimal gear changes. If it’s all a little much, that’s okay – focus on the heads-up display (HUD) projected onto the windshield, delivering the essentials in a location that won’t distract you from the road. Lots of cars offer a HUD these days, but Cadillac has set up the CT5-V Blackwing with tour, sport, and track modes for a unique HUD experience depending on how you’re driving it, once again making this car just a little more special than the others.
Filled out with jet black, sky cool gray, or natural tan highlights (plus optional red stitching and seatbelts), every interior option looks dressed to the 9’s, and yet every inch is still performance-focused. Attention to detail like the 3D-printed shifter knob diagram reminds you at every turn that this is a special car and that no stone has been left unturned in the design and development of this ultimate Cadillac. It’s a design simultaneously worthy of Bruce Wayne’s opulent standard and the Dark Knight’s exacting demands.
A Caddy for Collectors
It’s an American take on the ultimate driving machine, a shot right across the bow of the German luxury-sport behemoths. It’s also the last hurrah for GM’s supercharged combustion engines and the pinnacle of a 20-year saga of performance development. The 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is a beautiful sedan and a super-muscle car to boot, which should be enough to make it a coveted acquisition in its own right – but consider what it means in the industry (and to Cadillac in particular), and it seems like a lock for retaining or increasing value over the coming decades. If, that is, you can somehow refrain from driving it – but that is a proposition that’s worth every penny in and of itself.