Let’s all rise and give the folks behind the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing a hearty round of applause, because those of us with even a passing interest in performance cars owe them our appreciation.
Given the popularity of SUVs these days, it’s surely a tough sell to produce a small, rear-wheel-drive sedan, much less one with a sizzling engine and a manual transmission, yet here we are. Better still, it’s not priced so that only the top earners out there can afford one – this thing’s a proper bargain.
Now, you might be thinking you’d rather have a BMW M3, and that’s entirely fair; after all, it’s a great machine. Heck, that was my knee-jerk reaction, too – but here’s the deal: that sedan starts at some $20,000 more than this Blackwing’s $68,698 point of entry.
Never mind the M3 – even a comparably-equipped M340i, a car that isn’t even offered with a stick shift anymore, costs more than this Caddy. This tester had $4,875 worth of options, and omitting all of them would do nothing to diminish the driving enjoyment even a little bit.
I drove the CT4-V a few years ago and came away underwhelmed by its 2.7L turbocharged engine and often confused 10-speed automatic transmission. However, adding the Blackwing designation sees the CT4-V’s four-cylinder ditched in favour of a Cadillac-exclusive twin-turbocharged 3.6L V6 that whips up 472 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque.
That pesky (and pricey) M3 ekes out one more horsepower (or 30 more with the Competition package), but gives up 39 lb-ft of torque to the CT4-V Blackwing. The M340i is down 90 hp and 80 lb-ft of torque, reinforcing the Blackwing’s performance bargain status.
On paper, the CT4-V Blackwing can rip from a standstill in about four seconds flat, which isn’t bad considering there’s no all-wheel drive traction (the Blackwing is rear-wheel drive-only) – and that’s when rowing your own gears, too. Surely the optional 10-speed automatic could do it fractionally quicker, but it wouldn’t be as much fun. For those with their own private stretches of highway, the top speed is claimed to be 310 km/h.
On the road, the smaller Blackwing has plenty of character with its V6 growling – and while it’s not quite as melodic as the M3’s inline-six it’s at least as aggressive. Throttle response is crisp, and with a long-ish clutch take-up it proved to be challenging to be smooth at low speeds; however, once underway and driven in anger, the CT4-V Blackwing rushes forward with authority and surprising smoothness for a V6. The twin turbos ensure the engine has ample oomph from just off idle and up through the rev range.
Driving Feel: 9/10
The six-speed manual is definitely one of this car’s highlights. The shift throws are short, and the action is firm and precise. There’s a configurable launch control, automated rev matching, and a line lock so a driver can vaporize those rear tires if desired.
But it’s not just a straight-line one-trick pony. Even the four-cylinder CT4-V has decently communicative steering and composed suspension, and with the Blackwing that remains the case, it’s just a more engaging overall experience thanks to the better drivetrain. The steering is quick without being flighty, giving the Blackwing great responsiveness, but the suspension is still compliant enough even in its firmest setting so as not to skitter or bounce around when cornering on poor pavement. It’s a wonderfully composed machine that’ll turn demonic with the traction control switched off (a task done via the rotary switch on the steering wheel).
Cadillac has also fitted the CT4-V Blackwing with great brakes that offer serious initial bite, a firm pedal, and strong, progressive stopping power. This car encourages fun and high-speed driving, serving up one of the more fun and likable driving experiences of any new car today.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
As is typical of high-performance cars, you’ve got to pay to play when it comes to fuel consumption, and the CT4-V Blackwing is rather thirsty for a compact sedan. Around town it’s particularly voracious, rated at 15.0 L/100 km, 10.2 on the highway, and a combined average of 13.0, with premium-grade gas needed.
While the usability of a compact sport sedan still betters a coupe or convertible, the CT4’s interior is rather cramped, especially in the rear seat where head- and legroom fall well short of the M3. The Cadillac’s trunk is also notably smaller, offering up only 303 L of volume.
The CT4’s interior appears somewhat dated compared to competitors that have moved to vast expanses of glass screens for their dashboard controls, but this Cadillac is all the better for its relatively old-school layout. The gauge display is now a full digital affair and can be configured in different ways, most of which feature a prominent round tachometer, just as it ought to be in a performance car. The eight-inch infotainment screen is quaintly small, but it does everything the screen needs to do, with seamless Apple CarPlay integration and a pair of small knobs for volume and tuning situated immediately below.
The climate system is controlled by actual buttons, while the manual gear shifter falls nicely to hand. The meaty steering wheel feels good, and the overall driving position and outward visibility make it a really decent driver’s car, although I’d much prefer a traditional handbrake to the small push-button unit situated down to the left of the steering wheel.
The Blackwing comes standard with all the features to make it the high-performance car it’s meant to be. The exclusive high-performance engine, magnetic ride control suspension, plus an electronic limited-slip differential and differential cooler are all part of every CT4-V Blackwing.
This tester also had a head-up display, a performance data and video recorder, and a sunroof, but they were all equipped optionally. A heated steering wheel and heated seats are also standard, though this car did not have the cooled and massaging seats that can be optioned with different material finishes. On a brighter note, the standard 15-speaker stereo offers solid audio performance.
This magnetorheological suspension setup has long been celebrated for years for its uncanny ability to keep body motions well controlled without offering a punishing ride, and the CT4-V Blackwing benefits from that lineage. Beyond that, the seats are supportive and multi-way adjustable, proving to be comfortable even on a lengthy road trip to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and back to Hamilton, Ont.
For highway cruising, the Blackwing behaves like a traditional Cadillac, offering decent smoothness and good wind-noise suppression, though the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires emitted considerably more road noise than expected. Larger occupants will find the rear seats less comfortable due to their fairly tight constraints on head- and legroom.
Cadillac has fitted this car with front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, and its suite of OnStar connected services. Blackwings fitted with the automatic transmission can also get a more advanced automated braking system.
Where the European and Japanese competitors have gone for monstrous, gaping grilles, the CT4-V Blackwing looks almost demure by comparison. Its design is understated and attractive, but for the attention-starved, there are a few flamboyant paint shades available, like the test car’s bold orange hue.
The front and profile views are particularly handsome, while the CT4’s droopy, blobby trunk lid is its weakest visual, with the Blackwing getting – appropriately enough – a black wing. (Well, it’s a carbon fibre deck-lid spoiler, but you get the point.)
Restraint was also exercised with the Blackwing’s wheels that, while offered in three shades and styles, all measure 18 inches in diameter – considerably smaller than absurdly large 20- and 21-inch units found on some of the competitive models that not only add cost and mass but diminish ride quality, too.
The interior is sensibly laid out, but it doesn’t feel as nicely finished or posh as its European competitors. The door panels in particular feel decidedly low-rent for such a costly car.
There aren’t many years left for pure performance sedans like this with snarling engines and stick shifts. The 2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing is a sensibly-sized – and sensibly-priced – premium sport sedan that reminds us that driving can be a fun activity, not just a mundane chore. It handles well, makes good sounds and great power, and, for folks who love driving, it’s a heck of a choice. Priced as it is, there’s no other premium four-door that can match it. Cadillac has given us a rock star of a car in an age of synthesized easy-listening, and for that, the folks behind the Blackwing should take a bow.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo V6|
|Peak Horsepower||472 hp @ 5,750 rpm|
|Peak Torque||445 lb-ft @ 3,500–5,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||15.2 / 10.2 / 13.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||303 L|
|Model Tested||2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing|
|Price as Tested||$75,973|
$4,875 – Sunroof, $1,295; Technology Package, $840; Blaze Orange Metallic paint, $900; Performance data and video recorder, $1,840