Back in 2016, I had plenty of nice things to say about Cadillac’s flagship performance model of the day, the third-generation CTS-V. But while Cadillac’s naming conventions have become much more convoluted over the past six years, on paper the CT5-V Blackwing seems like more of the same: A big, boosted V8 still remains under the hood, and it’s still underpinned by an updated version of GM’s Alpha platform. The interior still isn’t on par with its German rivals, and because it’s still rear-wheel drive, it’s still a few ticks behind its all-wheel-drive competition in the sprint to 60 MPH.
Yet despite these objective facts, the CT5-V Blackwing proves to be a stone-cold revelation. Yes, the re-introduction of the six-speed manual transmission plays a significant role in that, but there’s much more going on here than just the availability of a third pedal. Not only has Cadillac addressed virtually all of the shortcomings that held the CTS-V back from venturing into instant-classic territory, they’ve refined and improved the formula in so many subtle ways that the CT5-V Blackwing feels like a totally different car.
The automotive press, ourselves included, has been hard on Cadillac in recent years. But the brand is making strides back to respectability.
Unfortunately, the journey is long and incomplete.
For evidence, I submit the CT5. There’s a lot to like about it. But every day I spent with it revealed more and more flaws.
Cadillac is upping the ante on the CT4 and CT5 for the 2021 model year. As both cars were introduced last year and the upgrades represent fairly comprehensive changes to both vehicles, this refresh is quite curious. Either General Motors spent the pandemic being more productive than we initially presumed or this is a desperate effort to make these cars more appealing to Americans. U.S. Cadillac sales decreased by 41.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020, so we’re inclined to believe either scenario.
The biggest change the manufacturer would like you to know about the ability to option GM’s Enhanced Super Cruise system. While still limited to divided highways, it technically offers hands-free driving on a limited basis… though that’s technically true of all vehicles with decent wheel alignment. Super Cruise is a bit fancier than that and will offer the ability to changes lanes and is no longer limited to the V-Series trims, starting in 2021.
Cadillac’s CT5-V debuted so far away from its predecessor that you have to wonder what the brand’s marketing team was thinking. Whereas the CTS-V represented a monumental jump in performance over the CTS, its modern-day replacement barely offers more than the Premium Luxury trim with an upgraded engine option.
Stepping out of the CT5 and into V territory is only slightly more meaningful than purchasing an appearance package. The turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 is tuned to make an extra 25 horses in the CT5-V, offering a grand total of 360 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque. The brand has clearly tried to soften its V-badged models for broader appeal, but enthusiasts cried foul. This wasn’t because Cadillac had built a cheaper, softer sedan but due its overt use of the performance emblem. There’s not enough distance between a V6-equipped Premium Luxury model and the base CT5-V for it to seem truly special.
Don’t be disappointed if you were considering one. General Motors has promised that completely insane performance Cadillacs are still to come. While the presumed Blackwing variants appear to have been scrapped, CT5 test mules have been spotted running mystery V8s in the past and new rumors have all but confirmed a variant with a manual transmission.
With the launch of the new Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V models, enthusiast balked at the mild power outputs and engine configurations. The CT4-V provides 320 horsepower from its 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mill, while the CT5-V’s turbo V6 makes 355 hp. Both figures are significant degradations from the previous ATS-V and CTS-V models, respectively.
Fear not, dear readers. The V-Series moniker has simply moved down-market, effectively replacing the V-Sport line. But this has made room for a new top-tier performance line: Blackwing.
It’s a period of flux for Cadillac’s sedan lineup, one that mirrors the changes occurring across the segment as a whole. Old models are out, and in their place, a range of updated and restyled offerings aim to rekindle America’s love for traditional four-doors.
Fewer restyled offerings, one should note. As nameplates bleed out of the marketplace, Cadillac’s passenger car range will shrink from four models to three next year. We’ve already seen Caddy’s plan for its CTS successor — the Escala-inspired CT5 seen above — but the brand’s second sedan shoe has yet to drop.
You won’t have to wait long for the ATS’ replacement. The CT4 drops the curtain on May 30th, and, as many expected, both it and the CT5 will appear with V-badged performance editions.
Last month, Cadillac digitally unveiled the all-new CT5 sedan — leaving little to the imagination. We learned Caddy’s upcoming model will come with either a turbocharged 2.0-liter four or a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6, though General Motors decided to stop short of sharing output figures and pricing.
While the cost continues to remain a mystery, GM provided output specs and loads of additional details for the CT5’s physical debut at the New York International Auto Show.
If you’ve been on the internet lately in any capacity whatsoever, you’ll recognize the term ASMR. Deployed in everything from driving videos to mildly NSFW speaking sessions, the use of autonomous sensory meridian response is designed to trigger a physical response in viewers via sound. Cadillac has chosen to bake this into its reveal of the new 2020 CT5 sedan.
We’ll leave judgement of that decision up to you. We’re here to talk about the car, a machine which – glory of glories – is not another crossover.