Finally beating the Germans at their own game

Many good sports cars take some getting used to. The BMW M2 CS, the new Nissan Z and even my own C7 Corvette all needed some tweaking before I really started to love them. Undoubtedly BMW’s best driver’s car, Nissan’s shiny new sports car and even my own personal dream car are all great in their own way, but not without flaws that take some getting used to. Remember that. Now consider this: Within five minutes of driving the 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, it was clear that this thing was an absolute hit.

There’s no better stick-shift sports sedan on the market today, except perhaps the V8-powered CT5-V Blackwing. On paper, you would assume that the main BMW competitor to the CT4-V Blackwing would be the M3 or M4. But it’s a bit of an open secret that the M2 is widely regarded as the best driving and most rewarding BMW M currently on offer. The CT4 doesn’t absolutely top it off in terms of overall performance, but that’s never something BMWs have done to their rivals either. However, all things considered, the Cadillac is simply a better machine to drive. It has finally beaten the Bavarians at their own game.

Peter Holderith

The strange thing about this is that Cadillac’s performance cars haven’t exactly made a huge leap forward. They are of course cheaper than the competition, but that’s always been the case. They arguably look better than anything from BMW, but that’s more on BMW than anyone else. [Ed. note: Debatable, but I’ll allow it. -CT] Basically what Cadillac has done with the CT4-V Blackwing is make a better ATS-V at a time when there are only two automakers in the building putting out manual sports sedans—and one of those automakers isn’t quite what it used to be.

Caddy’s powerful V-range has only gotten better since its introduction in the early 2000s. BMW’s M cars have been gradually losing their luster for years. It’s only a matter of time before their trajectories intersect and the roles reverse. With the CT4-V Blackwing, it seems like it’s already happening.

Specifications Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing 2022:

  • Base price (as tested): $59,990 ($75,640)
  • Drivetrain: 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 | 6-speed manual transmission | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 472 @ 5,750 rpm
  • Couple: 445 lb-ft @ 3,500 to 5,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 3,860 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Top speed: 189 mph (estimate)
  • Freight volume: 10.7 cubic feet
  • EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city/23 highway (manual)
  • Quick take: After being a footnote for years, Cadillac’s M fighter has finally delivered the knockout punch.
  • Score: 9/10

The base

The CT4-V Blackwing is the best performing version of Cadillac’s compact entry-level sedan and is therefore more or less a successor to the ATS-V. It’s up to you to decide if it looks as good as the old car, but vertical lighting elements front and rear make it clear that we’re dealing with a Cadillac. Really, the main changes can be found inside. The interior is more than acceptable for the price of the car, especially when you consider the features available. Based on looks alone, everything inside is finally something that is easy on the eyes and pleasant to the touch.

Getting it all moving requires an engine that’s basically the same as that of the 464-horsepower ATS-V, but quite a bit of tuning has gone into making sure it’s as good as it gets. The LF4 twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6 now delivers 472 horsepower and sounds better than before. The CT4-V Blackwing is available with a 10-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission. Rear-wheel drive is mandatory.

Driving the CT4-V Blackwing

You know how I said I knew how awesome this thing was in the first five minutes? I can actually go through them with you. Starting and driving the clutch felt good, and not even just in the context of a new car. It picked up at a predictable point in the travel and was easy to modulate carefully. Then I grabbed second gear and noticed the revs dropped right away – it didn’t hang high in the rev range like other new manual transmission cars might. Once I got into some tighter corners, the electric steering was surprisingly very communicative.

So far the clutch, shifting and steering have all been great. Then I merged onto the highway. The engine sang all the way to its 6,500-rpm red line with ease. It sounded great, felt smooth and responded eagerly to downshifts with an automatic rev match. The CT4-V Blackwing isn’t insanely fast, but its 472 horsepower is very usable. In fact, it feels closer to 350 horsepower in terms of usability rather than the 500 it’s actually approaching. In the past, this bike was named because it sounded and feels a little unrefined, but that’s just not the case anymore. It spins very freely and doesn’t buzz at all at the red line. With a tune, this car would be an absolute rocket.

Peter Holderith

The chassis is also extremely buttoned up, something I could appreciate even on the Interstate. Some sport sedans have adjustable magnetic shocks – great – but the softest settings are still rock hard and the hardest settings are downright uncomfortable. The CT4’s adjustable suspension isn’t like that. In its soft setting, it is extremely compliant and well cushioned, absorbing blemishes and dimples with ease without rolling around. In the track environment, however, it is quite stiff. After all, that’s what the job setting is for.

Blackwing CT4 is perfectly flat through the corners. While you can’t feel them working, there is definitely some magic going on with the MagneRide 4.0 shocks in the active sense. Defects in the middle of the corner are smoothed out and accounted for in ways that are very confidence inspiring. The same goes for the brakes, which are attached to a pedal that feels natural and provides intuitive braking power in relation to pedal input.

Wonderfully cohesive and capable, it was immediately apparent that this is a feel BMW has long strived for and a feel the Blackwing delivers in spades.

Ride quality, engine sound, braking feel, steering and more can also all be independently changed and assigned to the custom “V-Mode,” which can be turned on on a whim via a button on the handlebar.

For the record, it’s the plush suspension, the second-of-the-loudest exhaust, the most aggressive braking feel and light steering for me.

Highs and lows

The lows are rare in this thing, but to make it even better, Cadillac has made it so you can take out a lot of the annoyances. For example, the exhaust in track mode pops and pops way too much, but this can be solved by simply setting a V mode with a quieter exhaust and track for everything else.

Inside, the 8-inch infotainment screen is slightly smaller than it should be, although this car’s point of focus would be missing. Rear headroom isn’t great either – I’m about six feet tall and didn’t have much room – but again, pretty insignificant in the bigger picture.

On the other hand, the interior is very well appointed in terms of fit, finish and equipment. Heated and cooled seats with lumbar massage are available and very pleasant. Everything you touch and see, with a few exceptions, looks and feels great. The physical controls all make sense and, of course, the drive inputs – throttle, steering, brakes, clutch and most importantly the shifter – are tuned to perfection.

Peter Holderith

CT4-V Blackwing Features, Options and Competition

As icing on the cake, the CT4-V Blackwing is also very reasonably priced compared to the competition. Its closest rival is the BMW M3, which starts at $72,800 for a base 2023 model. The Cadillac I drove was a 2022 that started at $59,990. Yes, the car got a small 2023 price hike that cost it to $60,390 to start, but it’s still $10,000 cheaper than the BMW. At the time of writing, BMW is in between the M2 models, but for what it’s worth, the previous generation’s M2 competition started at around $60,000.

But who wants a basic model? Let’s add some options. If it were my money, I’d want a sunroof, the heated/cooled lumbar massage seats, orange paint and a head-up display. If you check off all the packages needed to get these things, the total is still $69,890 – still nearly three thousand less than an option-less M3. The outgoing M2 CS I drove, keep in mind, came in at $93,095 as tested. Alternatively, the Lexus IS500 is also much cheaper at $58,500, and it has a V8. The Audi RS3 also costs about the same price, starting at $59,995.

Peter Holderith

Each of those competitors is worthy in its own way. Want a V8 and Japanese refinement? The IS500 is a good choice. Likewise, the sound of the five-cylinder engine in the Audi RS3 is hard to beat. None of them except the M3 and the Cadillac are offered with three pedals. For many enthusiasts, that’s a deal breaker, especially given that stick-shift sedans like this one are very likely to disappear soon.

Sustainability

This is a performance car, so durability isn’t as relevant as other vehicles, but it’s worth mentioning. The official fuel economy figures from the EPA are pretty dead. Expect 15 to 17 mpg in the city. On the highway, it can be used a little more than the EPA says, but not much. I saw about 23 to 25 mpg pretty consistently. This is about where most other cars in its class end up, so it’s not particularly good or bad. The CT4-V Blackwing has no automatic stop-start and no “eco” driving mode.

Value and judgment

At MSRP, the CT4-V Blackwing handily undercuts the M3. But how is the market now? It’s a total toss-up. One dealer may sell you a larger and generally superior CT5-V Blackwing for what another marks a CT4. About the CT5-V Blackwing: I only got to drive it briefly, but it’s the only other stick-shift sports sedan I’ve driven that is significantly better than this one in many ways.

Cadillac’s sports saloons were never guaranteed to end up like this, but the CT4-V Blackwing is closer to sports saloon perfection. Cadillac did it: it beat the Bavarians at their own game. The catch is that it only lasts one generation and everyone – especially dealers – is all too aware of that. We finally have our cake, but eating it is complicated.

However, that doesn’t stop me from insisting that this is a great achievement. Prepare for a resale value that will never fall.

Email the author at peter@thedrive.com

Leave a Comment