2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing First Drive Review: More Muscle, Less Fat

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
A magnetic suspension, Performance Traction Management system and video-logging Performance Data Recorder are among the sophisticated technologies in the 2022 Cadillac CT-4 Blackwing. Cadillac

Cadillac, busily transforming itself into an electric luxury brand, swears the 2022 CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing are the last “V-Series” performance cars it will make with gasoline engines. If that’s true, Cadillac is going out with a bang.

I drove these astonishing sport sedans at Virginia International Raceway, a notoriously fast, gut-check road course that proved the Cadillacs’ appetite for speed. I then transferred from the track to winding country roads in Virginia and North Carolina on an audition that underlined a key takeaway for discerning performance fans: Unless you’re wedded to V8 overkill and scare-the-neighbors sound, the CT4-V Blackwing—with an ample 474 horsepower from a twin-turbo, 3.6-liter V6 engine—is the smarter, sharper-handling choice. That includes a bottom line of $59,990, or $25,000 less than the larger CT5-V Blackwing’s $84,990, which brings 668 horsepower from a supercharged, 6.2-liter V8. The CT4-V Blackwing’s base price is also $2,600 lessthan the weaker-performing ATS-V that it replaces. (Check back for a full, First Drive review of the 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing).

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing is a specialized performance tool for serious driving fans, with a 474-hp, twin-turbo V-6 and comprehensive engineering and tech aimed at roads and racetracks alike. Cadillac

Old School, New Tech

Cadillac’s no-compromise approach to the CT4-V’s performance extends to transmissions; a standard honest-to-goodness, six-speed manual is standard. It’s a doozy, with a pleasant-feeling, short-throw lever topped with faux suede and a 3D-printed, hand-polished medallion. That lever is paired with a smooth, not-too-heavy clutch pedal.

Call it old-school, but new tech, with the latest features to make life easier, including a selectable Rev Match function for easier downshifts; an automated Launch Control that lets users set their desired levels of engine rpm and wheelspin at the start; and a “no-lift-shift” that allows the throttle to stay pinned to the floor during shifts for faster hustles without damaging the transmission.

Cadillac cites a smoking 4.1-second run from zero to 60 mph when equipped with the stick. And Cadillac executives expect at least 20% of buyers to choose the manual, one clue to the largely self-selecting audience for such a hardcore sedan. Choosing the ten-speed, paddle-shifted automatic boosts the price to $63,165 (a $3,170 upcharge) drops the zero-to-60 sprint time to 3.9 seconds. Both versions top out around 189 mph.

The CT4-V Blackwing certainly looks the performance part, though its dowdy back end remains its least-appealing visual feature. But its go-fast additions are fully functional, not just for looks. Cadillac says its optional Aero Package, including a huge, scalloped rear wing, creates more aerodynamic downforce (it uses air to pin the Cadillac to the pavement and boost stability) compared with any V-Series car in history.

“More muscle, less fat” was among the development mantras for this CT-4 Blackwing. The 3.6-liter V6 brings the muscle, including 445 pound-feet of torque, and sturdy titanium connecting rods for manual-equipped versions.

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
The 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing attacks the challenging, high-speed curves and crests of Virginia International Raceway. Cadillac

Performance Traction Management

It’s a fun, flexible engine—the best V6 that ever produced by General Motors—with an urgent, well-tuned exhaust sound that can be adjusted with a welcome new “V mode” button on the well-sculpted steering wheel. That button calls up a simple screen menu with more adjustable settings for the steering, suspension engine, transmission, brakes and the excellent Performance Traction Management (PTM) system.

Integrated with the car’s limited-slip differential, that PTM progressively frees up safety oversight of traction and stability through Wet, Dry, Sport, Race 1 and Race 2 modes. So there’s a mode for every situation, and drivers of every skill level. Dialed up to its Race 1 and Race 2 modes, PTM allowed me to explore the CT4-V Blackwing’s ultimate limits, without ever intruding on the fun like an electronic chaperone.

Best of all, PTM is now instantly accessible via a lever on the steering wheel, which recalls Ferrari’s “manettino” switch. Until now, including on cars like the Corvette, GM had inexplicably made PTM a near-secret-weapon, hiding its functions behind an inscrutable series of button presses.

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
Why, yes, that is a manual transmission: Standard six-speed manual is an increasing rarity on performance cars; optional 10-speed automatic improves acceleration and fuel economy, but isn’t nearly as fun. Cadillac

Magnetic Ride Control

The massive tech roster continues with Magnetic Ride Control. What GM calls the world’s fastest-reacting suspension tech uses a magnetic field to instantly adjust the flow of shock-absorber fluid that’s filled with metal particles. GM pioneered the technology, and it’s now been adopted by the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Audi.

Here in its 4.0 iteration, the “MR” suspension has been a godsend for performance cars, allowing drivers to choose a comfy setting for everyday driving, then crank up firmness and control for two-lane workouts or track days. Control extends to brilliant Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires (on 18-inch alloy wheels) with a special rubber compound developed exclusively for these Blackwing models.

Between those top-shelf tires and superlative suspension tuning, the Cadillac can generate 1.04 g’s of lateral acceleration in curves. Brembo brakes, from the renowned supplier of performance braking systems, proved their all-day durability on a scorching racetrack. Those enlarged stoppers include six-piston front calipers, in a range of colors beyond the usual Brembo red.

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
The CT4-V Blackwing’s cabin is ready for action, but design isn’t as contemporary or luxurious as some competing sport sedans. Cadillac

Comfort and Convenience

Inside, this CT4 still doesn’t look as rich or contemporary as the best small luxury cars, whether a Mercedes C-Class or Genesis G70.  A modest 8-inch color touchscreen, with so-so graphics, is equally behind the luxury curve. But the hopped-up V-Series treatment helps, including a finely sculpted steering wheel with carbon-fiber accents. Handsome sport seats feature aggressive, pneumatic bolsters for both thighs and torso.

The CT4-V offers three interior choices with distinct trim, features and technologies. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.Optional AKG premium audio brings 14 speakers. Back-seat dimensions, including 33.4 inches of legroom, trail class leaders by an inch or two. And trunk space is tight, offering just 10.7 cubic-feet of space.

On the safety front, standard advanced driver-assistance features include automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert with pedestrian braking, rear park assist and rear camera as well as Cadillac’s Safety Alert seat that vibrates for blind-spot and other warnings.  

2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
An adjustable magnetic suspension and smart engineering ensure the Cadillac is more than a one-trick pony; the CT4-V Blackwing makes for a fine everyday sedan. Cadillac

More Cool Tech

The available, improved Performance Data Recorder lets drivers record video and audio of everyday drives, or GPS-based track laps, with video overlays of key performance parameters. That PDR will record souvenir videos of track days or vacation joy rides, but it’s also a serious teaching tool. It overlays video with laps from other drivers using Cosworth racing software so pilots can minutely analyze every aspect of their driving.

Fuel economy is poor (naturally) and rated at 16 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway. The manual delivers 15 mg city and 23 mpg highway. One mellow drive through small towns in North Carolina returned 19 mpg.

For Blackwing buyers, fuel economy will barely compute. These sedans may be surprisingly comfortable and livable on an everyday basis, but they’re about excitement and sensation above all. On that score, the CT4-V Blacking is a home run. The CT4-V Blackwing puts up great numbers, from acceleration to lap times, but it’s about much more than that.

This Cadillac is a soul-stirring blast to drive, whether on a freeway off-ramp or a record-setting grocery run. Stuffed with every available option, the CT4-V Blackwing reaches $87,775. That’s a lot of money for a compact sport sedan, but still thousands less than a comparably equipped BMW M3 Competition, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG or Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Go easier on options, and a smartly equipped CT40-V Blackwing can be had for closer to $70,000.

Hyper-powered, gasoline sport sedans are on the outs right now, no matter who’s building them. But for people who want to experience the (potentially) last drop of fossil-fueled might from Caddy’s V-division—or tuck one away in a collector’s climate-controlled garage—the CT4-V Blackwing is a rare treat.