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Cadillac Blackwing goes to battle against German super sedans

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Cadillac is upping its firepower in the premium performance wars with a track-focused variant of its CT4 and CT5 sedans called the V-series Blackwing.

Aimed at Europe’s iconic BMW M, Mercedes AMG, and Audi RS greyhounds, the CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing were first revealed — sans badging — at the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle last year. Bristling with state-of-the-art aerodynamics and chassis tuning, they will likely cost $30,000 north of the standard sedan models.

However, they will not feature Cadillac’s state-of the-art, 4.2-liter, twin-turbo V-8 Blackwing engine that briefly appeared in the now defunct CT6-V sedan. The Blackwing engine appears to be homeless for now, but the name will live on as Cadillac’s pinnacle of performance.

“The Blackwing name has come to represent the very best of Cadillac performance engineering, craftsmanship and technology,” said Cadillac executive chief engineer Brandon Vivian. Slotted above the performance, V-series models, the Blackwing weapons will complete the rear-wheel-drive CT sedan lineups.

GM VP for Global Product Ken Morris drives the blue CT4 performance variant around Belle Isle in 2019. In production trim, the car will be called the CT4-V Blackwing.

The CT4 will start at $33,990 when it arrives this year — well below the similarly-sized $36,490 ATS that it replaces — as it moves down a segment to compete against the likes of the BMW 2-series and Audi A3. The CT4 will be available in Premium Luxury and Sport trims. Buyers with a need for speed can then step up to the $45,490 CT4-V which makes 325 horsepower. The CT4-V Blackwing version will likely get the same 464 horse, 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6 as the ATS-V it replaces — though expect the $68,790 sticker price to get slashed.

The CT5, currently available for sale, follows a similar path over little brother CT4 with a starting price at $37,890, well below the $47,990 of the CTS it replaces. That price also undercuts German competitors by some $5,000 before the CT5 options Premium Luxury and Sport models. The Blackwing will be priced above the $48,690 CT5-V which debuted this spring to critical acclaim from the motoring press.

The CT5-V Blackwing will likely get the same 640-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 monster stuffed in the outgoing CTS-V. That similarly-sized beast started at $88,990 and could top out at over $100k as it competed against the BMW M5. Expect that price to drop by maybe $20 grand as the Blackwing lines up against the compact BMW M3.

The Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing will likely carry a 650-horse, 6.2-liter V-8 in its belly - a carryover from the Caddy CTS-V.

“The CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwings should be fantastic cars,” said IHS Markit senior auto analyst Stephanie Brinley, who has a lead foot and owns a Cadillac ATS-V. “Based on the same architecture as the CTS and ATS, they have great bones to work with.”

Brinley does not see the absence of the brand’s 4.2-liter V-8 Blackwing engine creating any confusion with the new badge. “The CT6-V was so short-lived,” she says of the brand’s flagship super-sedan that was introduced with much fanfare at the 2018 New York Auto Show.

The car’s 550-horsepower, 4.2-liter twin-turbo V-8 was the most advanced engine the brand had made — but it was shelved after just one model year as the CT6 was discontinued to make way for electric vehicle production at GM’s Hamtramck plant.

Cadillac offered a sneak peek at the future of Cadillac’s V-Series as two prototypes took a lap around the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear track in 2019. GM President Mark Reuss drives the lead, red CT5 and GM VP for Global Product Ken Morris drives the blue CT4. In production trim, the cars will be called the CT5-V Blackwing and CT4-V Blackwing, respectively.

Blackwing sedans, however, will still come with plenty of juice as Car and Driver reports that spy videos of the cars testing confirm the powerful V-8 and twin-turbo V-6 engines from the outgoing CTS-V and ATS-V will carry over. At a surprise, on-track appearance at the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix — with GM President Mark Reuss and Global Product VP Ken Morris at the controls — media onlookers noted the familiar V-8 and V-6 exhaust notes from the two fully-camouflaged cars.

In addition to their bespoke engines, the Blackwings will feature specially-tuned chassis  likely including the Performance Traction Management system found in the Corvette C8 and CT5-V. Cadillac says the new cars have proved faster than their predecessors in track testing at Virginia International Raceway.

Motorheads can rejoice, too, as the Blackwing cars will be optioned with rare manual transmissions. Some Corvette faithful bemoaned the end of the manual in the mid-engine C8 cyborg that went on sale this year.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.