Just about every person that finds out that I review vehicles will ask me the question: What’s my favorite car? Well, that’s a purely loaded question, and I commonly give them many of my favorites in each segment as a roundabout answer, but nothing really stuck out as being an all-time favorite, until now – at least not in the sense of what I would spend my money on and call my own.
Yes, you’ve found me out. The new Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing has won me over as being a favorite of mine that I would purchase, maybe even over the new BMW M5. Now, with that caveat of being “a vehicle I would purchase,” my favorite pick tends to eliminate many of my ‘other’ favorites at the upper echelon of the pricing scale. Sure, I would love a Bugatti Chiron, or maybe a McLaren 765LT, but at the moment, my financial advisor has strongly advised against such purchases, while something like a Bugatti is just out of the question unless someone’s willing to buy a body organ or two for a few million. What is in the playing cards is the new Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, a vehicle that I have absolutely fallen in love with after experiencing a full week of all it has to offer. What does it offer, you may ask? Connected driving bliss in a powerful luxury midsize sedan package!
Interestingly enough, I was on the fence about the Cadillac CT5 when I first reviewed it a few years back. The qualities that I liked were in its decent chassis that felt nicely balanced, along with an agreeable ride quality and a respectable V6 engine. Otherwise, there was something missing, which the new CT5-V Blackwing addresses in every way for a diehard automotive enthusiast like myself. Part of that formula starts with the CT5-V Blackwing’s engine, a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that pumps out 668 horsepower and 659 lb-ft of torque to power the rear wheels. To make things even better, Caddy offers a 6-speed manual transmission in the CT5-V Blackwing, which comes equipped on my test vehicle. That hand-built LT4 engine, which is a reworked return of the engine found in the old C7 Corvette Z06, previous CTS-V, and Camaro ZL1, is a menacing powerplant that’s chock-full of power all through the rpm band. Even so much, you get a nice kick at RPMs as low as 1,300. There’s no lag here, just pulling power all the way up to its 6,500 rpm redline.
Driving the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is a delight, one that isn’t as life-threatening as piloting a Dodge Charger Hellcat. The CT5-V Blackwing is balanced and well-planted. The 305-section rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires wrapping 19-inch wheels do great to hook up with some controlled wheelspin provided you carefully modulate the clutch or dump it with launch control enabled. Traction and stability control reacts fast, and the V drive mode’s performance traction management modes dial up the proper amount of stability/traction control based on your environment, which can be quickly accessed through a steering wheel knob.
There’s a natural connected feeling you have at the bite point of the clutch, and the Tremec 6-speed manual transmission is rewarding for landing in each gear, in addition to making things easier with a rev-match system that blips the throttle upon downshifts to seamlessly match your revs and retains the proper rpm on upshifts. There’s also flat-foot, no-lift-shifting, which allows you to keep your foot planted on the throttle while the system sorts out retarding ignition/engine speed and landing your next gear without loss of power or getting any over-torqued/over-rev drivetrain feedback.
The delight of rowing your own gears goes beyond the initial excitement in the CT5-V Blackwing. There’s just something special about the rewarding feel of the Tremec manual transmission landing in each gear. The balance of the chassis coupled with the remarkable magnetic ride control adaptive dampers (magnetorheological dampers) allows for excellent control of the CT5-V Blackwing, where it mitigates unwanted body motions that may upset the balance when going into turns. The suspension setup is remarkable, and the normal and sport settings are both ideal for everyday driving, leaving the track mode reserved for track duties as it is rather firm.
In a way, the CT5-V Blackwing feels like what a 4-door C7 Corvette Z06 would feel like, only you can tote your friend or family around in luxury. There’s a special theme in the CT5-V Blackwing, one that still retains the expected luxury side of things but allows you to open up the exhaust through the drive mode settings and ‘My Mode’ customization to listen to the rumbling exhaust and continuous pops and burbles when decelerating. The experience is intoxicating and plays the tune of my people.
Who needs the crisp-sounding 16-speaker AKG sound system when you have the LT4 Supercharged V8 under the hood? While you can’t hear the supercharger whine on the inside, you get a whiff of it on the outside, followed by the growing exhaust. When you hit 6th gear, things tend to quiet down as you would expect, as 6th gear is pretty tall and reserved more for cruising the highway or interstate. Still, even in 6th gear at highway speeds, with the engine humming along around 1,400 rpm, there’s plenty of passing power and torque on tap from the get-go.
The use of the automatically enabled launch control when in the V drive mode, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing hits 60 mph in 3.6 seconds with the manual transmission. Opt for the 10-speed automatic, and you’ll tick 60 mph off in just 3.4 seconds.
The multiple personalities of the CT5-V Blackwing is what sell it for me in that you can hoon around on the track, pick up the groceries, have outings with the family, and drive it every day to work with no problem. That multi-persona translates into how much fuel you want to burn from getting averages as low as 9 mpg to as high as 22 mpg when you’re cruising on flat highway roads here in Florida. The EPA estimates of 13 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined is exactly what you’ll expect to get in the real world. If you’re continually putting a huge smile on your face, you must be ready to visit the pump several times to fill up that smallish 17-gallon tank with premium fuel.
The interior of the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing takes all the best qualities of the CT5 and tends to enhance some with carbon fiber trim and the surprisingly comfy high-performance bucket seats up front. At first glance, the high-performance bucket seats look like they aren’t friendly for bigger people having aggressive bolstering and a fixed headrest. However, after first sitting in them and spending a couple of hours behind the wheel, the seats prove to be very comfortable, in addition to having heating, ventilation, and a back-area rolling massage feature.
Out back, the CT5-V Blackwing’s rear seating area is accommodating and proves to be just the right size for someone who may be 6 feet tall for the outboard seats. The rear 60/40-split seatbacks can be folded down to open up additional cargo space instead of using just the 11.9 cubic feet of space in the trunk.
The 10-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, which I’ve covered in my 2020 Cadillac CT5 review, is very responsive and user-friendly. The integration of wireless, or USB-connected, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto works well and tends to connect every time wirelessly to my iPhone. The control layout for the dual-zone automatic climate controls utilizes a row of physical buttons, and the audio system utilizes convenient volume and tuning knobs.
The Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing does away with adaptive cruise control if you opt for the manual transmission. Otherwise, you have the full bundle of expected active safety features, including forward collision warning/emergency braking w/pedestrian detection, lane departure warning/keeping assist, blind-spot monitors, the option of a digital review camera mirror, and a 360-degree camera system with a performance video recording feature that can act as a dashcam.
What partly makes the new Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing a favorite vehicle of mine is its price, which starts at $90,995. While that is a lot of money, such a price is a good point for all that you get in a vehicle that’s the very last of its kind offering a manual transmission. In knowing that the Caddy CT5-V Blackwing will be somewhat of a collector’s item gives it a longstanding value, and many won’t mind spending the $100,860 price of my nicely equipped test vehicle. The only other option I would add is the Carbon Fiber 1 Package adding a carbon fiber splitter and rear carbon fiber spoiler, which adds $5,350 to the price.
In my opinion, Cadillac has created the ultimate performance sedan for purists in that you can get with a manual transmission. While I was late in getting my hands on one to review, I will try not to be as late in buying one considering next year may be the very last year of production of this jewel.