Cadillac saves its best for last: The 2022 CT4-V Blackwing
ALTON, Va.—The age of the internal combustion engine is drawing to a close. Cadillac is marking the occasion with a pair of V-series performance sedans that will be the last of their kind to run on gasoline. We have to wait another week to tell you about one of them, but as of today, all discussion of the 2022 CT4-V Blackwing is fair game. That means I am now allowed to say that Cadillac’s final-ever V6-powered performance car might actually be its best-ever performance car. Like other cars of this kind, the Blackwing is overkill for the street. But when clad in downforce-generating carbon fiber dive planes and splitters, it will engage and reward you on track like few others.
V-Series makes its last gasoline cars
First introduced in 2004, the V-series cars are Cadillac’s answer to Audi Sport’s RS cars, the machines of BMW’s M Division, and the mighty Mercedes-AMGs. But when the American luxury brand first revealed the CT4-V to the world in May 2019, I declared it “more jalapeño than habanero.” That was because its 2.7 L V6 offered just 320 hp (240 kW) compared to the 464-hp (346 kW) ATS-V it was replacing.
At the time, GM’s vice president of global products told us that “not all customers want track time.” That was the explanation Cadillac gave for watering things down (or alternatively broadening its appeal) with less powerful, cheaper V-series cars. But evidently Cadillac realized that some of its customers very much wanted track time—or at least something comparable to a BMW M3 or Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio—which is why it developed the $59,990, 472 hp (352 kW), 445 lb-ft (603 Nm), 3.6 L twin-turbo V6 CT4-V Blackwing.
The pandemic and then the global chip shortage got in the way of Cadillac’s plans to bring the CT4-V Blackwing to market in 2020. But Cadillac has worked through those problems, and last week we got to know the car at one of our most favorite ribbons of asphalt, Virginia International Raceway.
Three pedals and six gears, or two pedals and 10 gears?
Cadillac has made the CT4-V Blackwing available with a choice of transmissions (both of which are rear-wheel drive). As standard, there’s a six-speed manual gearbox from Tremec, mated to a dual-plate clutch.
“We spent a lot of time making sure that the brake pedal, the steering, the clutch, the way the vehicle responds—everything is matched that gives you that character,” said Mirza Grebovic, performance variant manager at Cadillac. “That involved ergonomics as well. We spent a lot of time on making sure that the pedals are spaced right for heel and toe, as well as we redesigned the shifter linkage to make sure it’s in a great place,” he said. He added that the side bolsters on the seats were another area of focus to make sure the driver is held properly in place when the Gs begin to increase.
If (like me) you’ve gotten rusty at heel-and-toeing, there’s also an active rev match feature that blips the throttle as you downshift to make sure the engine is at the right rpm to accept the lower gear. And for those full-throttle moments, there’s also a no-lift upshift function, too. “When you do a normal shift, as soon as you move the throttle away from 100 percent, they would open the wastegates and prepare the engine to run in a more efficient mode,” Cadillac chief engineer Tony Roma told me.
“When you hold it at 100 percent in the Blackwing, we use the clutch position sensor to tell the computer ‘OK, we are doing a performance shift, allow the engine to overboost, keep the cams in the high rpm power position,’ and it anticipates where the engine speed is going to be in the next upshifted gear, and it gets ready to make peak power, expecting that you’re going to move the lever and drop the clutch,” he told me, adding that the engine also cuts ignition very briefly as the shift is happening. Each no-lift upshift might only save 0.05 seconds, but when you think of how often you have to shift during a lap, it begins to add up.
The alternative is a 10-speed automatic, which Cadillac says is capable of changing gear ratios even faster than Porsche’s fastest PDK dual-clutch transmission. You can control the gear selection via the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, or you can leave it to its own devices, letting the performance-shifting algorithm do its thing instead. You’ll know when it’s in this mode as a green gear icon appears on the dash. Older readers with memories of what three- and four- (and even five- and six-) speed automatic transmissions used to be like will probably find this hard to believe, but the programming on the 10-speed is truly remarkable, refusing to get wrong-footed even when driving hard on track.