Cadillac wants the V-series sedans to go out with a bang. The letter “V” made them a serious contender in the sports sedan market, largely dominated by the Europeans. It was a letter that did well to rid Cadillac of its octogenarian image and help them cater to a younger clientele.
Older V-series cars are lust-worthy, none more so than the manual CTS wagon. They have all the right ingredients to reach legendary status and 10-year-old examples are already fetching upwards of $70,000 USD on auction sites like Bring a Trailer and Cars and bids.
Sadly, that era is coming to an end and the new Blackwings represent the final stop on Cadillac’s relatively short journey. But what a stop they are. If Cadillac wanted a bang, they’ve delivered a mushroom cloud.
There’s no sense in crying about it (okay maybe a little bit), because in the now, the two Cadillacs you see before you represent the best of what the company has learned about going fast during the better half of the last two decades. And in the pursuit of the fastest lap, they’ve managed to retain one very important characteristic that most of the others seem to have forgotten—fun.
Cadillac brought us out to a freshly paved CTMP (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) courtesy of the Ron Fellows driving experience where we had a go with both the CT4 and CT5 Blackwing around the DDT (Driver Development Track) and the big Grand Prix track.
The Ron Fellows driving experience for those unfamiliar will put a group behind the wheel of the Corvette Stingray or Camaro and will teach you the fundamentals of track driving.
It’s done in lead-follow, meaning a pro Hotshoe leads the way and you follow as they pick up the pace with each lap while maintaining constant radio contact. It’s a great way to learn the proper technique and the correct racing line through the corners.
Without getting a chance to test these cars on the road where 95 percent of their lives will be lived, my impressions stem from a performance standpoint only, but with such willing subjects, I’m not complaining.
Sitting on a damp pit lane, two rows of Cadillacs lie in wait for helmet and HANS device-clad journalists eager to wring them around the track.
There are two main tracks at CTMP and we will be using both of them.
The DDT is just under 3 kilometeres long and it’s a technical series of corners meant to test both car and driver.
The main Grand Prix track is just about 4 kilometeres long and consists of 10 challenging but fun corners. Lots of elevation changes and big speed define this circuit.
2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
I start with the CT4-V Blackwing, the smaller of the two.
Starting at $65,098, the CT4 gets a 3.6-L twin-turbo V6 that generates 472hp and 445 lb-ft of torque driving the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission, or optionally, a 10-speed automatic for $3760 more.
Add to that Magnetic ride control 4.0, Brembo brakes, drive mode selector with PTM (performance traction management), and a 15-speaker AKG sound system.
Major options boil down to an aero-tested carbon package, upgraded performance seats, and a driver assistance package with adaptive cruise control and enhanced emergency braking which isn’t available with the manual transmission.
There’s also a range of actual colours to choose from, including on the inside.
The carbon package includes a carbon-fibre splitter, dive planes, rear spoiler, and wheel well deflectors said to produce more downforce than anything else Cadillac has ever produced, including its bigger Blackwing brother.
Cadillac’s testing saw the CT4 get from 0-97 km/h (0-60 mph) in just 3.9 seconds (10-speed automatic) and on to a top speed of 304 km/h.
The V6 has tons of torque and pulls strongly through the rev range. The 6-speed moves precisely into gear with a nice firm tug. Clutch action is light and easy to modulate. I didn’t get any rev hang or strangeness and you can get into the next gear as fast as your hands can move. With no-lift shifts you don’t even have to let off the gas between full-throttle gear changes.
The DDT is a smaller track, most of it done in third gear. With the CT4 being the smaller of the two cars it naturally felt more at home here.
On the big track, the CT4 still feels powerful, and I’m able to wind it out even more, easily cresting past 200 km/h on the back straight. Powerful and confidence-inspiring Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brakes scrub off speed with alacrity setting you up for the next corner.
We’ve been instructed to keep the cars in Track mode and not enter the PTM settings, where traction and stability control is more loosely governed.
Drive modes can be accessed via a rocker switch on the centre console and affect the suspension, steering, brake feel, engine response, and engine sound. A V-mode button on the steering wheel allows you to program your favourite setup including a PTM mode.
There’s so much grip from the custom-compound Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires, you barely hear a peep from them even at track speeds. The steering weights up naturally through the corners and lets you know exactly where those front tires are and what they’re doing. Turn-in is quick and reassuring, and body roll is kept firmly in check. Enter a corner too hot, as I did a few times, and there’s a smidge of understeer, cured easily with a bit of throttle.
Track mode is still a bit restrictive, not allowing too much slip, but that’s easily solved with a twist of the very Ferrari-like PTM mode switch on the steering wheel.
The CT4-V is nimble and precise, a proper tool for the track that didn’t exhibit any signs of distress after being lapped over and over again.
In a way, it felt more alive than the M3 I drove recently with better steering feel and shift action, but without a chance to test it on the road, real-world impressions will have to wait for another day.
2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
Next up is the CT5-V Blackwing and although it looks similar to the CT4, this is an entirely different animal.
Prices start at $87,798 for the 6-speed manual, and $91,443 for the auto, which is the same 10-speed automatic found in the CT4. Under the hood is a hand-built 6.2-L supercharged V8. Power output is prodigious at 668 hp and 659 lb-ft of torque going exclusively to the rear wheels. Yeehaw!
My first go is with the automatic which Cadillac tells us is programmed to shift faster than Porsche’s PDK, a bold claim indeed. Left to shift for itself (highly recommended with 10 gears) I couldn’t confirm or deny that claim but it felt quicker to me than the box in the Corvette Stingray.
Equipment setup is nearly identical to the CT4 with 4th-gen magnetic ride dampers, Brembo brakes, premium AKG sound system, and optional aero enhancing carbon fibre add-ons. Wheels are larger at 19-inches with a few different styles to choose from and if you really want to get serious, carbon ceramic brakes make it to the option list but are a $10,000 item.
Instrumented performance is mind-blowing with a 0-97 kmh (0-60 mph) time of 3.4 seconds with the automatic and a top speed of over 322 km/h.
On the smaller DDT the big Caddy feels slightly unwieldy, with all that power going largely untapped but it’s able to act like a much smaller car than it is, with lots of front-end grip and confident body control.
Out on a much drier main track with a 6-speed manual CT5-V, I finally get to open up the big 6.2 and it is an eye-opening bomb on the straights surging well past the 220 km/h mark on the back straight with no signs of letting up.
Squeeze on the brakes and the large Brembos haul you down from speed with a firm reassuring pedal and little dive. Aim for the apex, straighten the wheel, and go again. The shove you feel on your lower back never gets old. Too much gas and the rear will happily step out but it remains progressive and easily manageable even in my novice hands.
If I had anything to complain about, it was minor. The seats could use more bolstering, and a few items like the indicator stalks felt a little too parts bin and out of place in a car with a price tag near $100K.
While stickshifts get bought with less frequency everyday, Cadillac still saw fit to put the development dollars behind a transmission that can only be considered archaic. But it’s an important tool in winning over the hearts and minds of car enthusiasts, the world over and it seems that they are certainly out there with initial US Blackwing sales sitting at 60 per cent in favour of the 6-speed.
The CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing are some of the most exciting sedans to come out at a time when most others are going away and it’s a fitting way to close the book on the story of “V”.