Many good sports cars take some getting used to. The BMW M2 CS, the new Nissan Z and even my Corvette C7 all took a few tweaks before I really started loving them. Arguably BMW’s best driving car, Nissan’s new sports car, and even the car of my personal dreams are all great in their own way, but they’re not without flaws that take time to get used to. Keep that in mind. Now consider this: Within five minutes of driving the 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, it was clear this thing was all-time great.
There is no better manual transmission sports sedan on sale today, save perhaps the Blackwing CT5-V with V8 engine. On paper, you’d assume that the CT4-V Blackwing’s main BMW competitor would be the M3 or M4. But it’s a bit of an open secret that the M2 is generally regarded as the best-driving and most rewarding BMW M currently on offer. The CT4 absolutely does not slaughter it in terms of all-out performance, but it’s never something BMWs have done to their rivals. All in all though, the Cadillac is just a better car to drive. Finally, he beat the Bavarians at their own game.
The weird part about this is that Cadillac’s high-performance cars haven’t exactly taken a quantum leap. They’re cheaper than the competition, sure, but that’s always been the case. They are probably prettier than anything else from BMW, but this is on BMW more than anyone else. [Ed. note: Debatable, but I’ll allow it. -CT] What Cadillac has done with the CT4-V Blackwing is fundamentally create a better ATS-V at a time when there are only two automakers in the building making manual sports sedans and one of those automakers isn’t quite that of a time .
Caddy’s high-performance V offerings have only improved since their introduction in the early 2000s. BMW’s M cars have gradually lost their luster for years. It is only a matter of time before their trajectories cross and the roles are reversed. With the CT4-V Blackwing, it looks like this is already happening.
2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing review specs
- Base price (as tested): $ 59,990 ($ 75,640)
- Powertrain: 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 | 6-speed manual | Rear-wheel Drive
- Power: 472 @ 5,750 rpm
- Couple: 445 lb-ft from 3,500 to 5,000 rpm
- Empty weight: 3,860 pounds
- Seats: 5
- Full speed: 189 mph (estimate)
- Loading volume: 10.7 cubic feet
- EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city / highway 23 (manual)
- Quick grip: After years of being a footnote, Cadillac’s M fighter has finally delivered the knockout punch.
- Point: 9/10
The CT4-V Blackwing is the highest-performing version of Cadillac’s compact, entry-level sedan, making it 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 the vertical lighting elements front and rear make it obvious we’re dealing with a Cadillac. In fact, the most important changes lie within. 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 easy on the eye and pleasant to the touch stuff.
Getting it all moving is an engine that’s basically the same as that of the 464 horsepower ATS-V, but a fair amount of tuning has been done to make sure it’s the best it can be. The 3.6-liter LF4 twin-turbo V6 now produces 472 hp and sounds better than before. The Blackwing CT4-V is available with a 10-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Rear-wheel drive is mandatory.
Driving the Blackwing CT4-V
You know how I said I knew how good this thing was in the first five minutes? I can really guide you through them. Starting it and moving forward, the clutch felt good, and not just in the context of a new car. It recovered at a predictable point in the journey and was easy to carefully modulate. Then I hit second gear and noticed that the revs dipped right away – it didn’t lock up high in the rev range, as other new manual cars might. Once we got into some tighter corners, the electric steering was surprisingly very communicative.
So far, the clutch, gearbox and steering have all been outstanding. Then, I got onto the highway. The engine sang easily up to its 6,500-rpm redline. It sounded great, felt smooth, and reacted enthusiastically to downshifts with automatic lap matching. The Blackwing CT4-V isn’t blazingly fast, but its 472hp is very usable. In fact, it feels closer to 350bhp in usability rather than the 500 it is actually approaching. In the past, this engine was called to sound and feel a little raw, but that’s no longer the case. It spins very freely and doesn’t buzz from the red line at all. With a melody, this machine would be an absolute missile.
The chassis is also extremely buttoned up, which I might like on the Interstate as well. Some sports sedans have adjustable magnetic shock absorbers, which are great, but the softer settings are still rock hard and the harder settings are uncomfortable. The adjustable suspension of the CT4 is not like that. In its soft setting, it is extremely snug and well damped, easily absorbing imperfections and holes without rolling. In the layout of the track, however, it is suitably very rigid. This is, after all, what the track setup is for.
Blackwing CT4 is completely flat through the corners. Even if you can’t hear them working, there is certainly some magic going on with MagneRide 4.0 shocks in the active sense. Mid-corner imperfections are resolved and explained in ways that are very trustworthy. The same goes for the brakes, which are connected to a pedal that feels natural and offers intuitive stopping power in relation to pedal input.
Wonderfully cohesive and capable, it was immediately clear that this is a feeling that BMW has been chasing for a long time and one that Blackwing delivers in spades.
The ride quality, engine sound, braking feel, steering and more can also be changed independently and assigned to custom “V-Mode”, which can be activated at a whim via a button on the steering wheel.
For the record, it’s soft suspension, second notch exhaust from the loudest, the most aggressive braking feel and light steering for me.
Ups and downs
Bass is few and far between in this thing, but, to make things even better, Cadillac has made sure that you can actually turn off a lot of the hassles. For example, the track mode exhaust pops and rattles too much, but this can be solved by simply setting a V mode with a quieter exhaust and a track for everything else.
Inside, the eight-inch infotainment screen is slightly smaller than it should be, although focusing on that would miss the point of this car. Rear headroom is also not that great – I’m about six feet tall and I didn’t have a lot of space – but again, pretty insignificant in the bigger picture.
On the other hand, the interiors are very well furnished in terms of fit, finish and features. There are heated and cooled seats with lumbar massage and very pleasant. Everything you touch and see, with a few exceptions, looks great. The physical controls all make sense and, of course, the driving inputs – throttle, steering, brakes, clutch and most importantly the gearbox – have been fine-tuned to perfection.
CT4-V Blackwing features, options and competition
To top it all off, 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 model from 2023. The Cadillac I drove was a 2022 that started at $ 59,990. Yes, the car had a small price increase for 2023 that brought it to $ 60,390 to start, but it’s still $ 10,000 cheaper than the BMW. At the time of writing, BMW is among the M2 models but, for what it’s worth, the previous generation M2 competition has started at around $ 60,000.
But who wants a basic model? Let’s add some options. If it was my money, I’d want a sunroof, heated / cooled lumbar massage seats, orange paint, and a head-up display. Ticking off all the packages needed to get these things and the total is still $ 69,890, still nearly three thousand dollars less than an M3 with no options. 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 has a V8. The Audi RS3 also costs about the same, starting at $ 59,995.
Each of these competitors is worthy in their own respect. Want a V8 and Japanese refinement? The IS500 is a good choice. Likewise, the sound of the Audi RS3’s five-cylinder engine is hard to beat. None of them, aside from the M3 and Cadillac, are offered with three pedals, though. For many enthusiasts, this is a headache, especially considering that manual gearbox sedans like this are most likely going away soon.
This is a high-performance car, so sustainability isn’t as relevant as it would be on other vehicles, but it’s worth mentioning. The official EPA fuel economy figures are pretty dead. Expect 15 to 17 mpg in the city. On the freeway, it can be squeezed for a little more than the EPA says, but not by much. I saw around 23-25mpg quite consistently. This is where most other cars in its class land, so it’s not particularly good or bad. The Blackwing CT4-V does not have an auto stop-start nor does it have any kind of “eco” driving mode.
Value and verdict
At MSRP, the Blackwing CT4-V easily beats the M3. But how is the market at the moment? It’s a total mix-up. One dealer might sell you a larger and overall superior Blackwing CT5-V for what another scores a CT4 at. Speaking of the CT5-V Blackwing: I’ve only had a chance to drive one of them briefly, but it’s the only other manual gearbox sports sedan I’ve driven that is considerably better than this one in many respects.
It was never guaranteed that Cadillac’s sports sedans would eventually end up like this, but the CT4-V Blackwing comes close to sports sedans perfection. Cadillac did it: it beat the Bavarians at their own game. The problem is that it only stays for a generation and everyone, especially retailers, is all too aware of it. We finally have our cake, but eating it is complicated.
That won’t stop me from arguing that this is a big hit, though. Be prepared for resale values to never go down.
Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org