Humm… grocery store? Or the local road course for some hot laps?
A Review by: David Ray, Hooked On Driving
Hey there folks! Sorry for being absent from writing reviews for you for two years. I was stoked when GM cleared the way for the CT4-V BLACKWING loan. Especially when I gave them my driver resume and they bought it!! They’re letting me track it!!
Chapter One: Essential Specifications
– Four door sedan
– Twin turbo V6: 472 HP, 445 Ft lbs Torque
– Rear wheel drive
– Brembo performance brakes
– Six-speed manual transmission standard. Demo equipped with optional 10-speed automatic.
– Performance Traction Management System with Line Lock and Track modes
– Curb Weight: 3860 lbs.
– Michelin Pilot Sport 4S: 255/35X18 front, 275/35X18 rear
– Promotional program for performance driving at Spring Mountain included in purchase
– Gas mileage: 15 mpg City, 23 mpg Highway
Chapter Two: David Drives the BLACKWING on Public Highways
The Caddie was delivered to me at a secret meeting place (Starbucks) in Stockton, CA, where the car immediately caused a stir. While the Blackwing is a handsome modern sedan, I was truly surprised by the hubbub the car created. Starting with the barista at the Starbucks drive-through who about spilled my latte as he handed it to me. Then, guys in the parking lot wanted to confirm that this was, not only a CT4-V, but a Blackwing!! At the Chevron, when it was time for a top off, the guy in the pickup behind me freaked out and had to take pictures. You’d have thought this was a vintage split window Corvette, or a Huracan…but nope, this Cadillac has a following amongst young car people for sure…fun stuff.
First impressions behind the wheel in the real world. Crisp. Taught. Interior well-laid out. Seat adjustments very generous to accommodate the non-track driver who might be petite, AND the larger dimensioned track driver – both with good lines of sight, appropriate pedal spacing and steering wheel adjustments. Being of the slightly less young demographic, I began arguing with some of the user interfaces, and even the switch gear (power seat adjustment awkward). Like Congress arguing about the debt ceiling and having meetings to solve these issues, could we have the manufacturers gather to agree on some things like up is up and down is down? How about when you push a lever forward that this would mean you want to go forward? Ah…but this is useless moaning and I have to assume that an owner would get accustomed to operating the switches, gears and adjustments in due time.
The real point to be made here is that the V makes a GREAT first impression as a comfortable driver’s car. GM Performance credentials and the momentum they have is clearly present with this car. A crisp ride without any sense of harshness. They’ve tuned the tire sizes, spring and shock rates and sway controls to deliver an extremely livable car that allows one to only imagine what those track modes can accomplish when the time comes.
The front seats are truly driver seats in this V. You’ll sit down pretty low, so some will need to max out the vertical adjustment. And these are truly buckets – almost Recaro race seats in style and form. I’m 6’ 1” with a long torso and could find the perfect fit for cruising, and later – performance driving. I asked a friend who is a bigger guy than me, thinking the seat might crimp him a bit, but no – he liked it just as much as I did. What I’ll say is that these seats won’t be for everyone, but they sure are great for what I’m going to do with the V – both interstate and apexes.
Driving into the Sierra Foothills, the V shines as a very comfortable cruiser. The angular shape of the V brand has been tuned on the Blackwing to produce zero detectable wind noise. Combine this with a firm ride without harshness, light steering with feel, and precise response, without any wandering at dead-center, I was ready to head to Des Moines. All this had me thinking that the steering wheel in the V could actually be 1” smaller in diameter and provide an even more intimate driving experience. The conclusion on the touring capabilities of the V is simply – awesome. A great mix of feel and comfort, feedback and control, and quiet when appropriate. I’ll give the sound system a passing grade while not setting the world on fire.
And then there was the power…YIKES! With the power afforded the V, and ten gear ratios through which to drive, there is an argument that this car was designed more for the Autobahn than the Interstate 5. Suffice it to say we look forward to dropping the hammer on the track, cuz if you do it on the public highways, you are jailbait in about 3 seconds.
Taking a moment to evaluate the room in the cabin, as the four doors provided is a key part of a buying decision, we are pleasantly surprised, but skeptical about the back seat. If someone wanted a performance car and didn’t need room for four adults, they’d buy a Corvette, or another sportier coupe, right?
So, I set the driver seat for my frame – representing the real world and climbed into the back seat. OK – it’s a bit tight. I’d ask the driver to move the seat forward at least 1”, maybe 2” so I could find a comfortable seating position. Yeah, I’ll just say it – the back seat is a bit cramped for many adults. But wait, I’m thinking that a buyer of this car is needing those back seats for a run to a concert with friends, NOT a tour with the kids to Yellowstone. Thus, it’s very possible to rationalize the back seats as adding utility to a sports car that will make the V more useable more of the time. And actually, you’ll be right…the back seat is usable, just not spacious.
The trunk, with the backs of the back seat dropped (with a very simple and accessible lever) is very deep longitudinally to start with, a bit shallow, yet super cavernous in the picture shown.
Finally, within the Chapter 2 agenda of evaluating the V for the real world, I’ll conclude that Cadillac has a world-class sport sedan on its hands. And drivers of Euro model sport sedans should take a GOOD look at this car, as well as the CT5. Cadillac, with its commitment to the V series cars while providing huge support for the IMSA Prototype racing program, is now a long-term player in the sports sedan market. Cadillacs are no longer for Grandmama, or Grandpapa…they are for those who are Hooked On Driving!
Chapter 3: Driving on a Road Course: Thunderhill East 3mile OVER the Cyclone
With thanks to a private driving club that loaned us some track time, I was able to stretch the legs of the V over three full-throttle, albeit brief runs on a near-empty track.
It’s time for a disclosure: HOD is a national sponsor of the Cadillac V Club. GM is helping support the Club, and is encouraging members to drive their cars on track. This is clearly a reason for me to have pushed for this loan. I/we needed to see if this is a nice track cruiser, or truly a car that would be appropriate for track driving beyond a beginner level. I also promise to tell the truth!
The CT4-V BLACKWING IS a TRACK CAR!!!
My jaunts on track were all at an advanced level. While not able to stay with the GT4’s on Cup 2’s that I shared the track with, there were NO issues having this big-ish, handsome, sedan, mixed up with a group of experienced drivers in track cars.
Driving impressions flooded in as I confidently moved the car up near its limits within a few laps.
The power is awesome and sneaky fast. With the many shifts going on upon full throttle, the driver better be paying attention or things could get out of hand fast…literally. And, THE V TURNS! Understeer is probably the number one limitation to most street cars when taken naked to the track. The Blackwing has the best turn-in of any street car I’ve driven, short of high-end exotics or track-exclusive models. I literally felt the BITE of the front tire on the loaded side upon initial steering input…no tendency to push! Certainly, I must have found a speed that the V liked, but I felt I was carrying good speed and was prepared to modulate with any understeer, but it was not a problem. Just unwind, wait on the throttle, let it rotate, and squeeze throttle…a proper handling car!! Trail braking was very rewarding with the V. At Thunderhill, in turns like 2, a carousel, 14, a sharp right hander after a heavy braking zone, and 1, which takes a good brake tap, but then needs to bit of throttle at 90 mph to make the upsloping, soft 90 degree left hander, all felt natural to trail off the brake as I transitioned to throttle. Never did I feel that I’d overpowered the entry, and always I felt the car come around under control to catch apexes. (Maybe I could push it a bit harder? But this is a review…not gonna shred tires). Yes, this is a tall car to be on the track, and there is body roll to manage. In that way, that back seat and trunk are a price to pay…the lean does provide a limit when the suspension seemed capable of doing more. But – yes – this is a nearly 4000 lb car, and yes, there is inertia that must be dealt with. By the way, the seat is GREAT for gripping for dear life while restrained by only a three-point belt.
How did the V6 Twin Turbo do? Awesome. Having driven several different forms of automatic trans on the track, the drivetrain in the V is the best behaved, and most predictable that I’ve experienced. The shifts are where they belong, allowing the driver to find a rhythm without surprise upshifts…The engine sound was surprisingly quiet, with the only aggressive element was a very cool BARK on each upshift.
Track modes: As I did not have a blank check to drive the car all day and kill the tires, I started out with the most aggressive setting: Track 2. You can immediately feel the V pump up its muscles. Harder steering, stiffer springs and shocks, and faster shifts with no interference if you want to let the tail out just a bit. This is the setting for an advanced driver to have advanced fun. But after two sessions, I went out for my final run and stopped to move to Track setting #1. And behold, setting #1 was clearly more civilized, and basically a scaled down suspension and transmission feel. This would have been ideal for the third day HOD driver who is moving to the Intermediate Group. Or, for an older guy like me who is winding down a bit on his last session of the day and wants to save his tires. By the way, the Michelin 4S seemed ok on the V. I think they are a good match for the purpose of the car. Mainly – be reasonably fast and predictable on the track, but still there at the end of a track day to drive home. While I’m curious to know what it might do to have slightly wider tires on the same wheels, I’m sure the engineers tried that and feel the sizes provided are the best overall solution. Ah…one more thing – the Brembos are monsters. They did not fade, and I promise that I gave them an opportunity to…
Lastly – we don’t do lap times at HOD track days, but I know individuals use them to judge their progress. And speeds on straights are only partially related to lap times…but I will do a comparison here. I own a 2022 Mach 1 Mustang with a 5.0 liter V8 and the same 10 speed trans as the V. My Mach has all the performance options including Brembos, trans and diff coolers, and 4 track settings. It has much larger tires. On the straightaway at Thunderhill, the Mach 1 achieves 128mph before tapping for T1. On 4S rubber, the CT4 Blackwing was making 133mph at the same spot. I believe that this is the tuning of the engine to the trans, and the quick boost feeding the acceleration with faster shifts. The shifting on track with the V6TT is MUCH more precise than the Ford 5.0. While I love my Mustang, this was a clear differential between what felt like an older technology powerplant in the Stang, compared to a hyper-efficient powerplant delivering more results with less drama.
In conclusion, I now “get” the V cars. I drove one a couple of years ago and liked it a lot. But I didn’t get to drive that car on the track. GM/Cadillac has truly built these cars to directly compete with the M, AMG, and other import manufacturers’ performance models, while living in an entirely different price range. It’s just plain cool to see GM get behind the HPDE phenomenon in building a true track weapon that can hold its own on any track out there. The V cars are worth a serious look, no matter your budget, if you need a street-able car that is at home on the track as well.
Probably a bit over the top…
Picture taken at Samuel Clemens cabin where the
“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was written.