Enough of the niceties and pussyfooting around, let’s just get to the heart of things. That’s the essence and the beauty of the CT5-V Blackwing. It’s not what you might call subtle, but that’s the appeal. This not your Granddaddy’s caddy. It is in fact the most powerful sedan in the history of the Cadillac brand.

The Blackwing in the CT5-V version is the latest iteration of the racing inspired V-series line-up, a high-performance flagship, aimed squarely at the German M and AMG marques. It is a beast of a machine particularly with the manual transmission and it takes some taming, if your brave enough, but it is also immensely fun and rewarding.

As with most things American, however, the CT5-V is considerably more direct. It’s stripped of the layers of complexity that sometimes make the European products feel just a bit too technical. What you see with the Cadillac is very much what you get, this is a purposeful high-performance sports sedan with whopping amounts of power in a clean, stylish design and that promises a hugely entertaining driving experience, particularly when equipped with the manual transmission. Having driven the BMW M5 Competition, AMG E63S and the Charger Hellcat Redeye in the last year, I was hugely looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the manual Blackwing and this car certainly did not disappoint.

First impressions of the CT5 are that this is a big car, but dimensionally it almost identical to the M5 Competition and E63. Cadillac has used extensive wind-tunnel testing and validation on the racetrack to optimize form and function, with the goals of reducing lift and enhancing cooling. Considerable care has been taken to maintain design integrity and authenticity and the design elements of the V-Series have been purposefully developed to optimize performance and reinforce the powerful signature design. Some of the unique exterior elements include detailed primary and secondary grills to direct airflow to the multiple radiators and the brakes, a front splitter, rocker extensions and rear spoiler. The mesh pattern on the grills has also been designed to improve airflow by including secondary reeds that influence the back draft angle and more precisely direct the air to radiators and coolers. 

I would highly recommend the optional exterior carbon fiber aero packages that included the front splitter in the form of a beautifully designed carbon fiber blade, which is one of my favorite design features of this car, as well as the rear spoiler, rocker extensions and the rear diffuser. These carbon fiber accoutrements add a hefty $12k to the base price of the Blackwing, not only do they really add to the aesthetic, Cadillac claims that the aero packages contribute a 75% reduction in lift, which is pretty impressive. Out of sight, the Blackwing also has an ‘underwing’, what a fabulous concept, which is series of underbody panels that have been specifically designed with airflow channeling strakes to support drag reduction and improve track performance. 

My demo car came in the elegant Rift metallic, which worked perfectly with the black grills, carbon fiber exterior trim and the optional 19-inch alloys, 19 x 10 on the front and 19 x 11 on the rear, in a satin graphite finish with laser etched V series logos. The red Brembo brake calipers added a pop of color and worked beautifully with the red seatbelts on the interior. I do love it when collar and cuffs match. 

Stepping inside the CT5-V Blackwing, the racing inspired seats are a thing of beauty, particularly in the Jet Black, quilted stitched leather and the carbon fiber front seat backs. They are also incredibly supportive and comfortable, with 18-way adjustability, heat, ventilation and lumbar massage. The seats offer plenty of lateral support and the upgraded seats also offer a slim headrest design to accommodate a helmet for track use. The carbon fiber trim extends across the door panels, transmission tunnel and performance designed steering wheel, which includes a well-placed and tactile V Mode button on the left and a Performance Traction Management switch on the right side. The steering wheel also features V badge with a serialized number plate that corresponds with the VIN. 

The instrument cluster comprises of a 12-inch diagonal HD display that is clear and offers different display themes for Tour, Sport and Track modes and the left and right sides of the display can be configured based on driver preferences. There are some very cool performance features in the track layout, particularly the shift light for the manual transmission versions and the obligatory performance timers for 0-60mph, 0-100mph and lap timers, g-meters and the the essential Launch Control and Line Lock. The head-up display, is clear and unfussy with a tachometer on the sport setting and shift lights on the track mode. This unfussiness extends to the 10 inch touch screen on the infotainment display, which is easy and intuitive and also includes an optional Performance Data Recorder that includes real-time audio and front camera video recording with 34 channels allowing for detailed analysis, with performance timing overlays, display of traction modes and dash cam functionality. Sound comes from an excellent 15 speaker AKG premium audio system with brushed aluminum speakers that are neatly integrated into the doors and dash. 

Power comes from a 6.2L supercharged V8 that produces 668 horsepower and 659 lb-ft of torque, making the CT5-V Blackwing the most powerful production Cadillac in history. The engine is hand-built at GM’s assembly plant in Bowling Green Kentucky and each unit bears the signature of the assembly technician. The power unit includes a heat resistant Rotocast aluminum cylinder head, lightweight titanium intake valves, the 1.7L four lobe Eaton supercharger, that supplies boost at lower rpm for more immediate response, and a wet sump oil and vent system with an external separator and drainback for the demands of the track. The result of all this is a top speed of over 200mph and 3.7 seconds from 0-60mph and the ability to withstand sustained high-performance use.

The real joy of the Blackwing is the six-speed manual transmission that comes as standard and incorporates a twin-disc clutch to cope with the fierce amount of torque and retain pedal feel and sensitivity. This will never be a light clutch, but travel and engagement are precise and there is active rev-matching that can be deployed on a toggle switch on the center console to sync engine speed on the downshifts as well as a no-lift shift function that allows shifting while keeping the accelerator firmly planted. The transmission and rear differentials have also been designed to maximize cooling for track use. The CT5 is also available with a 10 speed automatic transmission, but why bother and lose all the fun.

The Blackwing also incorporates significant advances in the chassis and suspension systems, with the fourth generation Magnetic Ride Control, which Cadillac describes as the world’s fastest reacting suspension technology, effectively optimizing the CT5-V for daily use as well as more aggressive track use resulting in an incredibly lithe and agile feel for the size of car. The CT5-V also boasts the largest factory-installed brakes in the history of the brand, and can be upgraded to a carbon-ceramic package for an additional $9,000 that reduced the weight by over 100lbs, improves heat management and resistance to wear.

The Blackwing comes with 19×10 inch wheels on the front and 19×11 at the rear and is equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport 4s tires that were specifically developed for the V-Series Blackwing. 

Pricing for the 2023 CT5-V Blackwing starts at $92,390 for the 6 speed manual version and my demo car came with the Rift Metallic paint $625, Alloy with the Satin Graphite dark finish $600, red brake calipers $595, the Jet Black Full Semi-aniline leather seats with custom quilting and carbon fiber front seat-backs $8,090, torch red seat belts $400; the Carbon Fiber 1 and 2 packages which added $11,830; performance data and video recorder $1,600; ultraview sunroof $1,450 and parking package $710. Which brought the total price to $118,290. 

For more information visit the Cadillac CT5 V Blackwing Webpage here.

Photographs by James Henderson.