The Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing is one of the best sedans I’ve driven in years but so few know anything about it. I get quizzical looks, furrowed brows, and expressions of bewilderment when I mention it’s a great car. No one has any such notions when I bring up, let’s say, the BMW M3. That car is known by young and old, car enthusiast and average driver.
Lack of awareness has been a Cadillac problem for a while, unless we’re talking about the Escalade. Everyone knows the Escalade. It became a pop culture icon overnight, featured in music videos riding on 24-inch rims. It spawned a litany of big, luxury SUVs from other automakers that saw an opportunity in the market. That was more than 20 years ago, and even though the interest in massive luxury SUVs has grown and the competition intensified, the Escalade is still just as popular.
The rest of Cadillac’s lineup? Not so much. I barely ever see either the CT4 or the larger CT5 sedans on the road. I’ve driven both, including most recently this Blaze Orange CT4-V Blackwing with a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 and a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. There are only five sedans for sale that still have a manual transmission today, and two of them are Cadillacs. The BMW M3, Volkswagen Jetta GLI and Subaru WRX are the others. Cadillac should be celebrated for even making it an option.
Both Blackwings, the larger CT5 and this CT4, are phenomenal examples of drivers’ cars. The CT4 is compact, about the size of the BMW M3. It makes 472 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque, delivered directly to its meaty rear tires. Hefty figures for a car with its footprint. The CT4-V Blackwing is a fast car, period. Power comes on quickly and strongly as the turbos kick in and the car lets out a melodious roar through its black-chrome quad tipped exhaust.
While not as obnoxiously loud and powerful as the V8-powered CT5-V, the magic of both of these Cadillac super sedans lies in their chassis tuning. The steering is crisp, clear and quick. Body roll is negligible and you get all the right feels through the seat of your pants. It’s a confidence-inspiring drive that just gets better the longer you drive it.
It won’t embarrass you at the track, either, with massive brakes and settings that allow you to tailor the car’s stability and traction systems to the conditions on the track – and more importantly, to your skill level.
Ultimately, the BMW M3 is a better performer with a beautifully tailored interior, but it’s missing much of the Cadillac’s personality. It’s also more expensive, and because it’s so well known, your neighbour might have one. You’re definitely not going to have that problem with the Cadillac.
2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
- Base price/as tested: $68,698/$75,973 plus $2,300 freight and predelivery inspection, plus taxes
- Engine: 3.6-litre DOHC V6 twin-turbocharged with 472 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque
- Transmission/drive: Six-speed manual (optional 10-speed automatic) / Rear-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 15.2 city, 10.2 highway, 13 combined
- Alternatives: BMW M3, Mercedes-AMG C43
Subdued, refined and elegant are words that come up when looking at the CT4-V. It’s difficult to distinguish from the less-powerful models, so it’s also got that “sleeper” quality with only a few “V” badges providing clues as to what it is. The front bumper is the most aggressive bit with large openings to keep engine temperatures in check for sustained track work. Cadillac wisely capped the wheels at 18 inches, which bodes much better for performance and comfort.
This is where you can really tell where BMW spent the money and Cadillac didn’t. The CT4-V Blackwing is well equipped, but there’s a lot of cheap-feeling touchpoints, and poorer quality materials than you’d find on its European competition. The infotainment is easy to use and quick, but the graphics are outdated; likewise, the AKG sound system is good, but it’s nothing to write home about.
This is a car that will carry four passengers in comfort with the added bonus of terrifying them at a moment’s notice, if you so feel the need.
Like its bigger sibling, the CT4-V is a beast. A refined beast, but a beast nonetheless. Power delivery is strong and linear. Under most circumstances, there’s so much grip that you never feel that it’s purely rear-driven. With all the drive mode settings turned to max, the magnetic shocks are much less forgiving and the throttle response is edgy. The CT4 Blackwing is also stupendously fast with a top speed of 304 kilometres an hour. Find the nearest twisty road and drive this car as it was meant to be driven. You’ll thank me.
With auto rev matching that can be turned on and off at the touch of a physical button to allow smoother transitions to lower gears, an aerodynamic package that produces actual downforce, magnetic ride control, performance traction management and a performance data recorder, the CT4-V Blackwing’s best tech is all in the name of performance.
The trunk can hold 303 litres, and the rear seatbacks can fold, making the CT4-V Blackwing a practical car for four, maybe five passengers. The BMW’s trunk is much more voluminous, in case you were wondering.
Cadillac probably knew the CT4-V Blackwing was never going to fly out the doors. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a great driver’s car with a rare manual transmission. Its main ethos is to go fast wherever possible. The CT4-V Blackwing drips with character and personality. It’s fun, thrilling to drive, and if pushed hard, it will scare the daylights out of you.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated there are four sedans for sale that have a manual transmission. There are five. This version has been updated.