You know what idiom always grinds my gears? The notion that you can’t “have your cake and eat it, too.” Sure, I understand the logic behind it, but the saying just feels silly. What exactly is the point of having a cake that you can’t eat? The 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, however, sees your silly cake proverbs and rips them to shreds, blending two things that a whole lot of other automakers seem to treat as mutually exclusive: Massive speed and glorious driving feel.
Think about it. BMW will sell you a manual, rear-drive M3, yes, but only in the base, 473-horsepower guise. Porsche, meanwhile, still offers the GT3 with a manual, sure. But the top-dog GT2 RS? PDK or bust. The Aston Martin Vantage is indeed available with three pedals and a seven-speed dogleg … as long as you go for the regular V8. Want the V12 Vantage? ZF eight-speed auto for you. Hell, even the freakin’ Mazda 3 restricts its stick shift to the standard 186-hp model.
You get the idea.
Thankfully, Cadillac seemingly does not because it’s fitted the CT5-V Blackwing—the most powerful sedan General Motors has ever produced—with a six-speed manual transmission. And it’s beautiful.
2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Review Specs
- Base price (as tested): $86,015 ($104,965)
- Powertrain: 6.2-liter supercharged V8 | 6-speed manual | rear-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 668 @ 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 659 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
- Curb weight: 4,123 pounds
- Seating capacity: 5
- Cargo volume: 11.9 cubic feet
- EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city | 21 highway | 15 combined
- Quick take: A gloriously raw and competent take on the luxury super sedan niche, the CT5-V Blackwing is a V8 family car for the ages.
- Score: 9/10
I’m not gonna dredge up how unnecessarily confusing Cadillac’s current naming scheme is, so here’s all you need to know: the CT5-V Blackwing is the most powerful and extreme version of Caddy’s bigger of two sedans. Think of it as GM’s answer to stuff like the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63. It earns its top spot on Cadillac’s sedan totem pole by way of a 6.2-liter supercharged LT4 V8 making 668 hp and 659 lb-ft of torque. Unlike pretty much all of its direct competition, though, it can be had with a six-speed manual transmission—a Tremec unit, to boot—and remains stubbornly rear-wheel-drive-only.
In black and with the bronze wheels, it’s a massively sinister-looking sedan. Its grinning face is one of mischief while its vaguely Cruella De Vil-esque rear end really sells it as a car made for sociopaths. Even without the carbon splitters, wings, and quad-exit exhausts, CT5 is well-proportioned and way more handsome than its smaller CT4 sibling.
Inside, a fully digital instrument cluster and a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen are accompanied by a whole lot of performance car touches such as carbon on the dash, carbon on the front seatbacks, and a 3D-printed shift knob cap that really does make the whole affair feel like something special.
Driving the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
One of the first things I noticed setting off in the CT5-V Blackwing is just how heavy its clutch is. Thankfully, tall-ass gears mean you can do most city driving without ever shifting past third. You do get used to the weight and it does indeed add a bit of gravitas to the whole experience—no casual clutch users allowed—but, because I am a weak lil’ soy boy, I probably would’ve preferred a more approachable left pedal.
Once you get used to the macho inputs, it rewards with one hell of a powertrain. Dig into the gas and the Blackwing hits back with properly mighty acceleration and a menacingly wonderful noise. Zero to 60 mph arrives in 3.6 seconds with the manual (opting for the 10-speed auto cuts it down to 3.4 seconds) and the car tops out at over 200 mph. It does all of this, too, without the traction and general security of all-wheel drive that most of its competitors get nowadays. Even so, the CT5-V Blackwing is only as scary as you make it. There are a boatload of traction options and settings that, even after a week, I have not fully wrapped my mind around and, on the road, I’m not sure I’d want to. At this point in my life, I have nothing to prove and traction control stays fully engaged on public roads, especially in a rear-drive car approaching 700 horses. Pair that with a very well-engineered chassis and the big bad Caddy is actually quite manageable, handling-wise.
Steering response and ratio are both very on point and there’s even a decent amount of feel and feedback coming through the rim for a car of this type. Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires wrapped around reasonably sized, 19-inch wheels—as well as standard Magnetic Ride Control included—mean loads of grip and a perfectly comfortable ride that didn’t feel especially rougher to me than a regular, non-performance sedan. This makes it a great highway cruiser, a fact that’s aided by a sixth gear that deliberately keeps the revs hella low at speed.
The brakes are quite strong—as high-performance slotted Brembos are wont to be—and are operated by a pedal that’s adjustable in sensitivity via drive modes but remains smooth in all of ‘em. In the most aggressive setting, it’s even got whiffs of the old-performance-car brake feel where the bottom of the travel is super short but still inexplicably, intuitively adjustable via pressure. Clutch in, grab the nubby shifter by its 3D-printed hat, slot it into the next gear, and you’re rewarded with a shift action that’s rudely substantial and well-defined, like an iron-milled, less delicate-feeling version of a shifter you’d get from Honda. Auto rev match works perfectly as advertised and the blips come with some hilariously fiery-sounding burbles on the overrun.
Speaking of sound, the noise that comes out of the LT4 really is a highlight. It may be supercharged but not audibly so. There’s no Hellcat-like whine, just the rumbly, gravelly, overpowering sound of a bunch of tiny explosions happening inside eight cylinders. As a backroad corner carver, I don’t think it’s quite as sharp and buttoned down as, say, the competing BMW, but makes up for it with a much more charismatic and involving powertrain.
The Highs and Lows
It’s a 668-hp, manual, RWD luxury sedan that can seat five comfortably, has a very good AKG sound system, and massaging seats. There. That’s it. That’s all the “High” you need.
I am fully aware that knocking an American car for having a subpar interior is a little played out at this point, but there is a reason for the stereotype. Granted, Cadillac has come a long way from its bailout-era Dark Ages and, in a vacuum, the CT5’s cabin can be quite a nice place to be … as long as you’ve never been inside, say, a modern Mercedes or Porsche product. The screens aren’t quite as big or sharp in the Caddy, and little things like how the doors shut feel a bit limp-wristed. As items, current-gen Porsches, Mercs, and Bimmers still feel a bit more robust than this.
Also, and I cannot recall another manual transmission car that did this: why do I have to press the clutch and brake every time to start it up?
Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Features, Options, and Competition
The 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing starts at $86,015 but optioning it up as close as I could get it to this Canadian-spec press unit yielded a car that would cost $104,965. According to GM Canada’s price sheet, the car you see before you cost exactly $112,753 CAD. Options included the à la carte dual-pane sunroof, more than $10,000 CAD worth of additional carbon fiber, full semi-aniline tan leather seats for $7,000 CAD, bronze brake calipers, bronze wheels, and the assisted parking package.
I may have griped about this car not having an interior that’s quite as nice as the foreign competition, but things start to make more sense when you realize it also isn’t quite as expensive. Its loaded-up as-tested price, for example, is still a few grand less than where the Mercedes-AMG E63S and BMW M5 start, to say nothing of the $140,000 M5 CS, the only version of the latter that can hold a candle to the Blackwing in terms of raw excitement.
Sustainability may very well rank right at the bottom on the list of the CT5-V Blackwing’s priorities, but, for the record, the EPA has rated it for 13 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 15 combined. Marginally less efficient than the aforementioned M5 CS but practically just as thirsty as the Widebody Dodge Charger SRT. Premium fuel is recommended, of course, and there’s no auto stop-start function.
Those looking for an uber-sedan that doesn’t glug nearly as much fuel can look into plug-in Turbo S E-Hybrid versions of the Porsche Panamera, or full-electric alternatives like the Taycan Turbo S or Tesla Model S Plaid. But even though those cars are still technically big-ish luxury sedans capable of excessive speed, gas-powered cars like the Blackwing, Charger, and M5 provide a very different, much more analog experience.
Value and Verdict
It’s more physical. And, honestly, it’s the sort of car that’s hard to put a price on. The entire thing—its 668-hp powertrain in particular—feels too special for that. It feels meticulously crafted for true driving enthusiasts rather than outright lap times, although it’s still ridiculously quick. The thrills here feel … dirtier than what you get from the more scientifically engineered competition. The noise it makes just comes off as extremely American and the shift action is delightfully gnarly. It’s downright devilish in its personality and I’m kinda disappointed Cadillac didn’t tune it so that it made exactly 666 hp purely for the shits and giggles. (Or, y’know, 669 hp if we’re gonna be real immature.)
Endearingly wild and wildly endearing, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing will go down as one of the last great gas-powered American performance cars. When future generations who don’t know any better pontificate about what exactly was so great about internal combustion, the eight-cylindered Blackwing would be the perfect case study.
Blending properly absurd performance with luxurious tractability and old-world analog charm, it’s a car that truly lets you have your cake and ea—ugh, I can’t even say it.
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