Cadillac’s Blackwing V8 Is Great, But It Won’t Save the 2020 CT6
A twin-turbo V8 arrives just months before the CT6’s factory is scheduled to close. But this is engine is bound to show up elsewhere soon.
Engine (CT6-V): 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8, 550 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque / Transmission: 10-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive with rear-biased torque distribution / Fuel economy: 18 mpg EPA combined (est) / Base curb weight: 4,600 pounds (est) / Base price: $95,890
In the grand GM tradition of doing a car a big favor just before killing it, the Cadillac CT6 goes into what might be its final year of production with an enticing new engine option: a hand-built 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8 named Blackwing.
Why, it was 26 years ago that Cadillac dropped its new Northstar V8—32 valves, 300 horsepower—into the 1993 Allante…which was also the last Allante. This car could receive a similar fate.
A New Kind of CT6
Available in either 500-horsepower or 550-horsepower flavors, the Blackwing transforms the character of the CT6. Besides dropping the 0-60 time beneath the 4-second mark, the V8 gives the CT6 the right soundtrack to play against the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi—the deep bass burble at idle sounds proper, and there’s no contrived popping on the overrun.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Alas, the CT6 still doesn’t have the interior to challenge any of those cars (or, for that matter, a Ram 1500 or a Mazda 6), but perhaps the painfully visible button-supplier chiseling freed up some money to spend on forged connecting rods and twin-scroll turbos. The engine itself is handsome, with no cheesy plastic cover on top. Although that was less a matter of aesthetic choice than a practical matter: there was no extra room under the hood because double-overhead-cam V8s are tall.
The Blackwing is named after the black ducks found on the family crest of Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac, the founder of Detroit. How’s that for a deep cut? Fun fact: those ducks are depicted with no feet. But “Cadillac Footless Fowl V8” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
The Blackwing is hooked to a Hydra-Matic 10L90 transmission, a variant of the 10-speed automatic co-developed with Ford. This particular model, beefed up for wicked power, is the same one used in the Camaro ZL1. All-wheel-drive is standard, but when you’re driving hard, you don’t notice it—in Track mode, only five percent of the torque goes to the front axle.
More Than Expected
This Blackwing V8 was built by one Durek Neblett, whose signature we swear we’ve seen on some AMG engines.
Cadillac produced a hype video for the Blackwing, which is notable in that amongst the swelling music and dramatic panning shots, the voiceover guy quotes the wrong number for torque. I asked Cadillac how they managed to misquote their own specs, and the answer is that the engine simply ended up making more torque than they expected. Look, this hot-vee turbo thing is new territory.
The engine certainly feels immensely strong, whether or not it’s in V guise. In fact, I’d probably opt for the non-V Blackwing (the Platinum trim) simply because you can’t get Super Cruise on the CT6-V. This isn’t a hardware compatibility issue—Cadillac just thinks that people who buy a driver’s car will want to, you know, drive it themselves.
And I see that rationale, but I also see the appeal of relaxing a bit while Super Cruise handles the highway driving en route to the actual fun roads. Personally, I’d trade the 50 horsepower that you won’t usually notice for the driver-assist system that you’d use all the time. Which will gain more than 200,000 miles of compatible roadway by the end of the year, more than doubling the territory where you can go hands-free behind the wheel.
Super Cruise Blues
While Super Cruise is the best driver-assist system currently in production, it still requires attentive human supervision. Twice in the Washington, DC, metro area, I encountered situations that required me to wrest the wheel from the CT6.
First, I hit a stretch of highway where there was some sort of work being staged on the left side of the road. So the DOT had temporarily coned off the left two lanes of the highway, with traffic cones (not barrels) denoting a merge to the right two lanes. I waited to see how Super Cruise would interpret the situation, and at the last possible moment I grabbed the wheel and steered right to keep the CT6 from plowing into the cones.
AS I GRABBED THE WHEEL, I YELLED, “SUPER CRUISE, NO!”
It was clearly staying in its lane, cones or no cones, and wasn’t canceling or asking for help. As I grabbed the wheel, I yelled, “Super Cruise, no!” Perhaps the system should log verbal reprimands with an eye toward avoiding the circumstances that precipitated them.
And then later there was a broken-down Volvo taking up half the right lane, such that drivers in both lanes had to cooperate to squeeze past, and that situation basically caused a meltdown as the CT6 drove right up the afflicted XC60 and then slammed on its brakes and canceled as I again grabbed the wheel. So tell me again, how cars are going to be fully autonomous any day now?
The Latest? Or the Last?
But anyway, nice engine, Cadillac. It’s modern and appropriately refined and it would surely be great in an Escalade though that’s going to require some staffing up at the factory in Bowling Green, since each Blackwing is hand-built by one person.
You have to think, given multi-year automotive lead times and the industry push toward electrification, that this might not just be the latest new V8 for Cadillac. It might also be the last.