The new 2022 Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwings look unequivocally excellent. With 472 horsepower (the twin-turbo V-6 CT4) or 668 horsepower (the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 CT5), both of these cars will deliver sub-four-second runs to 60 mph and riotous fun on a racetrack. GM even came through with six-speed manual transmissions for both. So why was this debut also a little bit bittersweet? Because Cadillac concurrently announced that these will be the last internal-combustion V-cars.
It’s unusual for a car company to announce that its highest triumph is also a final gasp of obsolescent technology, but that’s where we’re at in A.D. 2021. Plus, if anyone was going to do that, it was General “Enjoy Your 1988 Fiero, It’s Canceled” Motors.
Of course, GM claiming that it will phase out gas and diesel engines within 14 years carries a distinct whiff of “we’ll believe it when we see it,” given that this is the same company that was not long ago campaigning for a reduction in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (and getting more than it bargained for). I will not be surprised if GM manages an EV transition by 2035. I will also not be surprised if the Chevy lots of 2035 are stocked with Tahoes powered by 5.3-liter V8s.
But the industry is trending toward an EV takeover, especially in the realm of performance machines. Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis recently alluded to a future where supercharged Hellcat V-8s are replaced by something else with equivalent performance (and we don’t think he means turbo V-6s). Volkswagen has pledged to invest $91 billion in EVs. An electric car—the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak—owns the Pikes Peak record, and plenty more records are sure to fall in coming years. Ford says its upcoming electric F-150 will be quicker than any other F-150 on the market. The EVs are coming, and they’re gonna be good.
So then, what do we make of the better-than-ever traditional cars that keep rolling out, year after year? Well, we appreciate them. We drive them. They are still, at this particular inflection point in automotive development, the reigning rulers of overall performance. But that will change, and quickly. Hummer is an illustrative example of what we can expect over the next decade. The last best Hummer (according to me) was the 2009–2010 H3T Alpha. It had front and rear locking diffs and 300 horsepower. The 2022 GMC Hummer EV is pushing 1000 horsepower and has four-wheel-steering and removable roof panels. Can anyone logically claim that any prior internal-combustion Hummer was “better”? No, but you can get nostalgic for them, if you’re so moved. Nostalgia will be the reason these new Blackwings retain their luster 15 years from now, or beyond.
To put the current moment in V-8 terms, so to speak, we’re in the mid-1980s. Enthusiasts are used to the idea that old stuff (late 1960s) is better than more recent stuff (1970s and early ’80s). That notion can apply to the first generation of EVs, even the best of which (Model S) required some sacrifices compared to internal-combustion competition. But as those EV demerits—range, charge time, price—continue to diminish, the old tech will just seem . . . old. Only the best of it, like these Blackwings, will remain relevant.
And even in their case, the appeal will be like that of an analog watch—objects of mechanical fascination. On that front, the new Blackwings look good. When you bring your 2022 CT5-V Blackwing to a 2040 Cars & Coffee, you’ll be able to talk about its titanium intake valves, its four-lobe Eaton supercharger, and its A356T6 aluminum cylinder heads. Maybe you can point out the twin-disc clutch, if you’re lucky enough to have a manual. And no matter what happens with EVs, a 200-mph (claimed) top speed should always mean elite company.
But if we’re on the verge of seeing 1000-hp trucks right now, ponder where we’ll be once the horsepower race is decoupled from fuel economy or emissions considerations, from the constrictions of intake and exhaust and fuel flow, from the need to keep hundreds of precisely arranged components from flying apart. The game is going to change in a way we’re not yet calibrated to understand. GM predicts that the CT5-V Blackwing, the most powerful production Cadillac thus far, will do zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds with the 10-speed automatic transmission. (Presumably, it’ll be a little bit off that pace with the six-speed manual.) Meanwhile, both the Hummer and the Rivian R1T are claiming 3.0-second zero-to-60s. We’re about to see electric pickup trucks that will outdrag the most fearsome V-8 Cadillac ever built. Imagine what’s going to be pulling into that Cars & Coffee by the time GM quits internal combustion.
We’re still at the point where the old way is, usually, the better way. You could probably lap VIR in either of these new Blackwings until you need to stop for fuel, and the same cannot be said of a Porsche Taycan. But the time will come when the performance advantages accrue disproportionately to the electric side. And then, the old cars will be all about the experience—tactility, smells, the nostalgia of noise, and a lumpy cam.
So, if you have the notion to get a Blackwing and hold onto it long term, get a manual. It’ll age better, because it’s already closer to its destiny.
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