2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Reviews Are In: This Might Be the New King of Combustion
Up against the F90-generation BMW M5 and the Mercedes-AMG C63, the CT5-V Blackwing presents a classic retort to an evolving argument: manual gearbox, big V8, rear-wheel-drive.
Sometimes I worry about the brand management of Cadillac over the years. Difficult changes, inconsistent model naming conventions (lasting to this day), and an auto exec whose name rhymes with “go on the mission” have put Caddy in a strange spot in the luxury car market. It gets a bit more depressing when the strength of the engineering team at Cadillac is recognized, with GM’s industry-leading vehicle dynamics engineers and black magic structural engineering leading the segment for the past few years. But the 2022 CT5-V Blackwing might just have escaped out from under the utter mismanagement of the brand as a breakout product that is, realistically, the last of its kind.
The formula is as simple as a 6.2-liter supercharged LT4 small block V8, a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual, and one of the greatest vehicle dynamics teams to grace the industry. Oh, and the interior actually got really good and the gauges don’t look like cheap rental car ones. This monster is a winner. Except for the name. It makes zero sense.
For this Review Rundown, I looked at a bunch of articles and videos by our friends across the industry to get some different perspectives and info on the 2022 Cadillac CT5-V. I came away with high hopes for the big Caddy sedan, and respect for the work that the engineering team at Cadillac did to make a credible attempt at the title of best sport sedan ever made. With a strong history in three generations of CTS-V, all Cadillac had to do to stand out in our turbocharged, all-wheel-drive future was make a car that feels classic today: A rear-wheel-drive six-speed manual supercharged V8 sport sedan.
Here’s the Scoop
Cadillac has been around forever, the premier luxury brand of America. Yet, one of its greatest struggles has been matching the might of the Europeans in the past two decades, getting admirably close every time but just missing out on key details that used to set the Euros apart. Cadillac has had high peaks in handling and powertrain since the second-generation CTS-V and has arguably led the class since the first-generation ATS. Dumb things like bad infotainment, ugly gauges, and mediocre interiors held cars back, and the aforementioned brand mismanagement have held the company back as a whole. Finally, the CT5-V Blackwing makes a cohesive whole from many disjointed parts of a company finding its footing.
Up against the F90-generation BMW M5 and the Mercedes-AMG E63, the CT5-V Blackwing presents a classic retort to an evolving argument: manual gearbox, big V8, rear-wheel-drive. This car feels like the final gasp of a dying era because it is. Engineers at the CT5-V Blackwing launch seemed to drill it into journalist’s heads: this is the last one we’ll make. Everything after this is electric, so enjoy it. Cadillac says they set out to make the last manual V8 sport sedan the best one ever made. So, did they do it?
On The Engine and Gearbox
A big highlight of the CT5-V Blackwing is the old faithful supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8, now making 668 horsepower and 659 lb-ft of torque, paired with the Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual gearbox or 10-speed automatic. In fact, the manual gearbox might be the single thing that sets the car apart as the last and greatest of a breed that is already dead. We live in a strange world where Cadillac is making the last of what used to be a relatively common breed and Lexus is releasing what will probably be the last naturally aspirated V8 sport sedan. Here are the experts on the big Caddy’s engine and gearbox:
Kristen Lee for The Drive — “The 10-speed automatic is a delight around town, up and downshifting seamlessly without the annoying slow-down stutter you sometimes get from a dual-clutch setup. In the manual car, the clutch engages nice and low, the short-throw lever slotting easily into well-defined gates. Let off the throttle at speed in the manual and a series of burbly cracks and pops explode from the tailpipes. Leave it in the highest gear and the engine, hanging out below 2,000 rpm, cannot be heard at all.
But, oh, stomp that throttle and the bear’s meds wear off. It remembers it was always a wild, vicious animal.
A massive snarling fills the cabin and the CT5-V Blackwing leaps forward with the ferocity of a charging bull. There’s a momentary lightness in the steering from the entire car leaning back on its haunches from the acceleration—an exhilarating reminder you’re reining in something undeniably rear-driven. But fear not; there’s never a loss for grip, as the Cadillac’s onboard computers are far too responsible for that. The power is still relentless, pulling mightily all the way to its 6,600-rpm redline. At full roar, the engine sounds like someone knocking on the sky.”
Byron Hurd for Autoblog — “And while the supercharged LTA [editor’s note: the engine nomenclature is LT4] engine may not have been up to European standards of V8 refinement (Cadillac’s stillborn Blackwing V8 would’ve been a closer competitor in that regard), there are many in the U.S. of A. who find its rough-edged burble charming. Here, in the luxurious CT5-V wrapper, it works just fine. In Touring mode, it’s present, but not overwhelming. The constant supercharger whine of previous-generation CTS-Vs is absent, replaced by a nice, deep thrum from the engine compartment – until you plant your foot hard on the gas pedal, that is. Dial the drive mode over to Sport or Track, and things wake up significantly even at lower throttle inputs.”
Jeff Perez for Motor1 — “With a prodigious 668 horsepower and 659 pound-feet, the CT5-V Blackwing certainly feels like the highest-output production Cadillac in history. Technically, the CT5’s hand-built, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 is an updated version of the outgoing CTS-V’s motor, but the CT5 outmuscles the old guard by 28 horses, 29 lb-ft, and three-tenths of a second to 60 – not to mention it tops out north of 200 miles per hour.
That extra oomph manifests itself the second you lay your foot on the throttle – the CT5 pulls heroically on its way to a supercar-rivaling 60 time of 3.4 seconds (or 3.6 seconds with the manual) with launch control. You won’t find many four doors that feel this ferociously quick and utterly smooth off the line. The CT5-V Blackwing doesn’t hit you over the head like a Dodge Charger Hellcat, rather, this car employs all of its power with unmatched fluidity.”
Alex Kierstein for Motor Trend — “The pick for street duty must be the slick-shifting six-speed manual. The CTS-V only offered an eight-speed automatic; without Cadillac’s earnest announcement that both Blackwings would be standard with manuals, no one would have been surprised in the least if Cadillac had simply dropped in the excellent 10-speed automatic and left it at that. But remember, this Blackwing has a legacy to forge, and the manual makes it legendary. Like the CT4-V Blackwing, shifts are crisp and brief, with the sort of action that makes you want to do a few perhaps unnecessary up-and-down shifts around a long bend just to use it some more.”
Chris Perkins for Road and Track — “Initially, the engine dominates the CT5-V Blackwing experience. The LT4 has been with us since 2015, but we’re not getting tired of it. For the CT5, it gets a new intake and some other small revisions that bring output up to 668 hp and 659 lb-ft of torque, and it’s a monster. The numbers flashing on the digital speedo the first time you really get on it are more than a little shocking.
Around VIR’s beautiful full course, it’s hilarious. The engine is all grunt and glorious small-block noises that… Well, god damn, we’re going to miss them when they’re gone. Throttle response makes you wish turbos were never invented. And did I mention the torque?
And did I also mention that you can have it with a six-speed manual? I believe I did, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s the familiar Tremec TR6060, the same basic ‘box available with the CT4-V Blackwing and in current V-8 Camaros. It’s a sweetheart, with a nicely weighted shift action and a clutch that, while understandably heavier than the CT4’s, isn’t going to give your left leg too much of a workout. Automatic rev-matching can be activated by a button on the center console; it works flawlessly, but the pedals are well spaced for heel-and-toe if you’d rather do it yourself. There’s also no-lift shifting, where all you have to do is dip the clutch while holding full throttle and the car’s electronics do the rest.”
On Handling and Dynamics
Another big brownie point haul for the CT5-V Blackwing is the suspension platform it rides on: the Alpha platform. Why is that good? The Alpha might be one of the great suspension architectures of all time, an architecture that Jason Cammisa called “Dynamagic” because of how freakishly grippy, composed, and balanced the Alpha platform ATS-V was. That same architecture underpins this car, with updated fourth-generation magnetorheological dampers, the incredible GM Performance Traction Management, and a trick electronic limited-slip differential. These bones easily put the CT5-V Blackwing into contention as one of the greats. Here’s what the pros say:
Chris Perkins for Road and Track — “As good as the drivetrain is, it’s the rest of the CT5-V Blackwing that keeps you coming back for more. You’re aware of the extra 250-plus pounds the CT5 carries when compared to the smaller CT4, but the balance is largely similar, and the extra 6.7 inches of wheelbase makes the CT5 even friendlier at the limit. Ultimately, it’s the more entertaining car as a result.
The word that kept coming to me, other than “hysterical,” was “velvety.” GM’s latest MagneRide dampers give this car amazing precision, but with no hard edges. They’re supple when you want, supportive when you need, and even have the ability to mitigate pitch and roll.
No doubt this amazing control is also aided by the optional $9000 carbon-ceramic brakes fit to all our test cars Cadillac. Claimed reduction in unsprung weight is 53 pounds, which you’ll notice over the curbs. The Brembo-sourced brakes provided excellent performance, hauling the CT5 down from well over 140 mph on the pit straight lap after lap. And lest you balk at the added cost, a Brembo engineer said that the rotors should last the life of the car, or at least the time you own the car. Combine this with the benefits of reducing unsprung weight so significantly, and the cost starts to make sense… for a given definition of “sense.”. We didn’t get a chance to try out the standard cast-iron brakes, but engineers say they’re more than worthy for track use
As with the CT4, the magic of the CT5-V Blackwing doesn’t come from good hardware alone, but from the way in which the hardware is integrated. Once again, you have GM’s clever Performance Traction Management system; when activated, PTM gets the powertrain, electronic rear differential, brakes, and MagneRide dampers all working together to keep the car in delightfully neutral balance. My sweet spot was Sport, which is apparently designed to flatter the moderately experienced driver; Cadillac’s faster engineers use Race 1 and Race 2, which only provides a bit of traction control on corner exit, like what you get with a modern GT race car.”
Kristen Lee for The Drive — “I spent the night before stressing about how terrifying and out-of-hand the CT5-V Blackwing would be on track: 668 hp is nothing to joke about. But once out of the pit lane, those worries melted away. There’s nothing scary about the big Cadillac (provided you don’t poke the bear too much). Immediately, it has less roll and lean than the CT4-V Blackwing. I thought the smaller car had a forgiving chassis; the CT5-V Blackwing felt positively playful. It’s larger in every way—bigger, heavier, more powerful—but still approachable. This is a car that welcomes you hanging its ass out through an entire corner. It rejoices in shenanigans.
The steering was a tad light for my taste in Sport mode, but Track mode tightened it right up. Turn-in is sharp but you never quite lose the sensation you’re piloting something immense. I liked it, though. It made the CT5-V Blackwing more predictable—a very good thing when you’re stuffing that powerful of an engine into a car anyone is allowed to buy.
And while the magnetic ride suspension worked its usual magic of keeping the car planted even over the most high-speed bumps, my best fail-safe friend was those carbon-ceramic brakes. Yes, I know they’re expensive. But if you have any plans whatsoever to track your CT5-V Blackwing, they are a must. The calipers snap down on the giant rotors like a crocodile and scrub speed harder and faster than you can believe. We ran those cars lap after lap after lap on a scorching day and not one of them displayed any sort of fade by the end of our two-hour session.”
Alex Kierstein for Motor Trend — “What hasn’t changed is the car’s combination of confidence-inducing poise and tenacious grip, though as Tony Roma, Cadillac’s chief engineer for sedans puts it, exploring the CT5-V Blackwing’s limits will likely be “intimidating to most, uh, humans.” So making a big sedan that channels this kind of power to its rear wheels as approachable as possible—especially with the manual—was the primary mission of Roma’s team: to create a car that encourages the driver to push rather than scaring them into backing off. Like most of the V engineers present, Roma can drive. And the CT5-V Blackwing’s friendly monster vibe shows the (fast) human touch at work, rather than the cold efficiency of the stopwatch.”
The standard CT5 and CT5-V look kind of generic and basically share a C-pillar with a Honda Accord. I wasn’t crazy about them, but I am very into the subtle aggression of the Blackwing. Cadillac exteriors have been strong for a few years now, with a mixture of flat surfaces that make the car look like a cut diamond to my eye. The proportions are decent, while the head-on front view is the CT5-V Blackwing’s best angle.
Jeff Perez for Motor1 — “People criticize the CT5 for looking too generic. And sure, this car is a bit bland in base form with its odd front fascia and a gloss black kink on the c-pillar that draws comparisons to the Honda Accord. But something about the styling of the CT5-V Blackwing absolutely works. Designers added necessary aggressive touches to the exterior without going overboard.
The front end looks tougher with larger outboard vents, wider lower openings, and a unique V-shaped mesh in the grille that sends more fresh air to the now-larger engine. Standard carbon fiber splitters line the front bumper and side skirts, while opting for the Carbon Fiber 1 package ($4,100) adds bigger splitters all around and the Carbon Fiber 2 package ($5,230) includes everything you get on the CF1 package, but tacks on a sharp carbon fiber spoiler in the rear.
The CT5-V Blackwing’s color palette is absolutely perfect, too. Summit White and Raven Black are the only two no-cost hues, but it’s worth shelling out the extra $625 for paint like Blaze Orange Metallic or Electric Blue (pictured here). If you’re really feeling saucy, the $3,925 Dark Emerald Frost matte paint looks stunning in person.”
Kristen Lee for The Drive — “There’s no getting around how mean the CT5-V Blackwing already looks (a very good thing!) but you also have the option of two carbon fiber packages. For $5,230, the Carbon Fiber 1 Package includes a front splitter, a giant rear wing, and front-wheel deflectors. Add another $4,100 for the Carbon Fiber 2 Package—and bringing your grand total up to $9,330—and you’ll get rocker extensions, a rear valance diffuser, and a grille header.”
Alex Kierstein for Motor Trend — “There’s a bit of cold efficiency at work in the styling, though. The old CTS-V was completely distinctive, with a squat, blocky look that was the epitome of the brand’s hard-edged approach. The CT5 diverges significantly from its sharp-shouldered predecessor, adopting the Escala concept’s general styling language and featuring aggressive but somewhat anonymous headlamps and an incongruous C-pillar fillet. Other than the bisected vertical LED lamps that tumble down at each end of a sharp, bold character line on the flanks, it’s more purposeful than distinctive.
But, as we said when we drove the regular CT5-V, the car does look more handsome in person. And the Blackwing variant does its best to accentuate the latent aggression in the sheetmetal, using the ducktail spoiler and front splitter to great effect. Its flanks are classic muscle sedan stuff, with crisp wheel arch radii that suggest significant musculature underneath. And there’s no mistaking the mesh-filled twin grilles, a signature V-Series look given suitable reverence in its reinterpretation here—and cleverly, the mesh has been reshaped to improve airflow through it. There’s that attention to detail again.”
The CT5-V is fun to look at; no reason not to include a batch of GM’s promo photos here. Enjoy.
Based on initial impressions, the 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing seems to be the new performance sedan king. It offers a package that no other manufacturer offers and doesn’t lose sight of the fundamentals of what makes a great performance sedan. It also seems to be the genuine last gasp of a once-mighty segment, so it might be your last chance to buy anything like this new ever again. I say it’s a winner.
All of the reviews for the 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing were conducted at Virginia International Raceway, a common haunt for GM vehicle dynamics engineers doing personal track days and racing. Some testers were allowed to take the car onto some local Virginia roads, while all drove the car on track with engineers or GM representatives in the passenger seat.