Car Reviews First Drives

2019 Cadillac CT6-V Review: The 550-HP Blackwing V-8 Has Arrived

Cadillac’s latest V-8 bruiser

Cadillac’s latest V-8 bruiser

Remember the Cadillac CTS-V? The supercharged, Corvette Z06–engined burnout monster that Cadillac set loose on the world a few years back? The 2019 Cadillac CT6-V is not that car.

First Cadillac V-8 Since The Northstar

Let’s start with the powerplant. The twin-turbo V-8 in the CT6-V is no crate engine, no parts bin special. It’s a clean-sheet build exclusive to Cadillac, and Steve Felix, program manager for the Blackwing engine, tells us it doesn’t share parts with any other General Motors engine beyond non-mechanical bits like the crank position sensor. The newcomer is a 4.2-liter unit—down two liters on the supercharged lump in the CTS-V—but what it lacks in displacement it makes up for in forced induction. Two identical turbochargers (hence twin-turbo, not bi-turbo) lie in a valley between the two cylinder banks, and they cram up to 20 psi of boost into the all-new V-8. Compared to a traditional outboard turbo setup, the “hot vee” configuration makes for more compact dimensions and less lag because the exhaust gases don’t have to travel as far to spool the turbos.

It’s called the Blackwing, after the ornate trios of black, legless birds that adorn the original Cadillac crest from 1906. Not the most powerful namesake to call upon, but the name itself is rad. (Not to mention it’s way more creative than some alphanumeric character jumble like CT6.) The Blackwing isn’t the first hot-vee V-8 from a luxury manufacturer—Mercedes, BMW, and Porsche use them in performance versions of their bigger sedans—but it’s exciting to see new-school engine tech from a parent company that still swears by the pushrod.

The 2020 Cadillac CT6-V is pictured here; for the 2020 model year, each CT6 trim gets additional standard content.

Here are the numbers for the CT6-V: 550 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the previous top engine in the CT6, a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, the Blackwing is up 146 horses and 227 lb-ft of twist. Plus, that engine has been dropped from future CT6s; the only non-Blackwing option moving forward is the non-turbo 335-hp V-6 that powers the XT6 SUV and a myriad of other GM products.

The Blackwing’s output is just shy of that of the 603-hp V-8 in the Mercedes-AMG S63, but keep in mind that this Caddy doesn’t start at $150K USD like the big Benz. It helps the CT6-V charge from 0 to 60 mph in an estimated 3.8 seconds—1.2 seconds quicker than the last turbo V-6–powered model we tested. Each Blackwing is hand-built by one of six Blackwing engine experts, and the passenger-side intercooler wears a badge etched with the builder’s signature. Ours was built by a talented engine builder named Kathy. Thank you, Kathy.

Drive Time

Because the CT6 is a larger, all-wheel-drive machine, the CT6-V drives like a different beast than the rear-drive CTS-V. On the road, the driving character of the Blackwing Caddy is less ostentatious and less shouty, more retired Super Bowl–winning lineman who can still squat 500 pounds (227 kg) and lift a woman from her overturned car with one arm. (Lookin’ at you, Vince Wilfork.) No burnouts, no tail-happy cornering, just a friendly, relaxed four-door that’s massively capable when called upon. As a full-size luxury car, the CT6 is packed with tons of sound insulation and clever tech like the noise-cancelling wizardry we see in the best over-ear headphones, with the goal of transporting its occupants in total isolation. And when you’re just cruising along at low rpm, the CT6-V is just that: isolated. Save the bronze-woven carbon-fiber trim inside, it can be easy to forget that you bought the one with the stonking new V-8—until you flex your right ankle.

Oh, the torque. It’s ever-present. Cadillac tells us that at just 2,000 rpm, just above cruising speed, the Blackwing is producing 90 percent (576 lb-ft!) of its peak torque output. That means you’re never more than a couple inches of throttle pedal away from the smile-inducing, speed-gathering, face-pulling capabilities of this new powerplant. Despite two turbos muffling the exhaust, under full throttle the Blackwing absolutely delivers on the V-8 shout we know and love. Yes, some of the sound is amplified through the CT6-V’s 34-speaker Bose Panaray audio system, but no, that’s not a bad thing.

There seems to be just a hint of lag before the Blackwing delivers full boost, but once the turbos spool, this engine is a beast. Active rear steering combined with the CT6-V’s relatively low weight make for a car that drives smaller than it is, and we never felt like there were another 8 feet of sedan behind us. The seats are comfortable, but they sit high and are not as laterally supportive as we’d like, plus they’re no different from the thrones in other CT6s. Standard Brembo brakes are strong and capable, if a little overboosted. Modulation is easy at high and low speeds.

Summer tires are your only option on this hi-po version of the CT6. It was difficult to approach the car’s cornering limits on public roads, and when we did, it defaulted to understeer. That might be a problem solvable with Track mode and its 5/95 front/rear torque split, but I wasn’t ready to find out in someone else’s car on a tight country road. We didn’t have the opportunity to drive the CT6-V on track, but we assure you, there was more than enough grunt to get us in trouble on the tightly monitored roads of Virginia. It’s no coincidence that our drive loop crossed the border into Maryland.

The Blackwing is paired with a 10-speed automatic that GM co-developed with Ford a few years back. Cadillac won’t advertise this, but it’s a version of the same transmission that swaps gears in the Ford Raptor pickup. It works well here; gear changes make little interruption in the Blackwing’s unrelenting thrust, and the shift programming is intuitive enough in sportier drive modes that buyers will rarely find themselves reaching for the tall magnesium shift paddles behind the steering wheel. Even on 20-inch wheels this car rides fabulously, largely thanks to the implementation of MagneRide adaptive suspension. In a straight line or midcorner, road imperfections are handled with aplomb, and the CT6 is quick to settle after an initial body movement. I’d call it floaty, but that would be a disservice to this car’s ride quality. It’s comfortable, composed, and fitting for a luxury performance car.

The Platinum Problem

I have few complaints about the CT6-V. I love the way it gathers speed, the way it sounds, the way it rides on rough pavement. The steering is light but accurate. That 34-speaker audio system sounds excellent. I won’t even diss this latest version of the CUE infotainment system we’ve complained about in the past—the new one is genuinely usable. To me, the only glaring issue with the CT6-V is another car in Cadillac’s portfolio. Not the CTS-V—it’s the CT6 Platinum.

Moving forward, the top luxury trim of the CT6 replaces that 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 we mentioned earlier with a detuned version of the Blackwing, making “only” 500 hp and 574 lb-ft of torque due to a more restrictive single-mode exhaust. Sure, there are features on the V you can’t get on the Platinum: unique suspension tuning, a touch more sound, summer tires, a little carbon spoiler, and of course more power. But having driven the two back to back, I can tell you the driving experiences are near indistinguishable. At least on the road, the Platinum goes, stops, and handles just as well as the V.

Spending a few extra grand for the Platinum, you get the same engine and MagneRide suspension you get in the V, plus Cadillac’s excellent Super Cruise hands-free driving capability and extra luxury features such as massaging seats. The CT6-V just doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from its more luxurious, more convenient, slightly less powerful sibling. Had the V been blessed with aggressively bolstered seats, unique body work with flared wheel arches and a vented hood, or a more noticeable power increase, things might be different. The Blackwing is an absolute winner, and I hope it finds itself under the hood of many future Cadillacs, but as far as the CT6 is concerned, I’m going Platinum.