Serious American muscle in a very stylish package

Cadillac: The name carries great meaning. It may surprise you to know that Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French coastal trader, founded the site that later became Detroit in 1701 and provided the name recognition for the motor company that was formed some two centuries later. Interestingly, Cadillac, the company, had its start when Henry Ford dissolved his first motor car company (to resolve a dispute with early investors) and the people charged with selling parts and other items left over decided to buy it all and start their own company, Cadillac, in 1902.

What Cadillac means these days depends on a few factors, but mostly it’s defined by your generation. If you (and your parents) were born before the mid-1940s, it no doubt means a motor car par excellence. It was the aspirational vehicle of that generation, and it had amazing creature comforts and features. Many members of the next generation saw Cadillac as their father’s (or grandfather’s) car, having no performance cred and simply being recognized for being large, luxurious, and grand. (It may also have been the first time the moniker “lux barge” was used.) But the current generation of car buyers have met an entirely new Cadillac, starting with the CTS-V models of 2004 to 2019, which eventually included a 2-door coupe, a 4-door sedan, and a wagon, all of which basically performed like “Cadillac Corvettes,” which wasn’t surprising given that they had engines similar to the most powerful Vettes. With big V8s that in the early years pumped out 400 hp—but in the later years upped the ante considerably to 640 supercharged horsepower—they were the luxury hot rods of their time.

Personally, I was surprised to see the CTS-Vs end production, but into the gap left by their departure has stepped a worthy successor, the subject of this story. The 2022 Cadillac CT5 V-Series Blackwing is the ultimate of Cadillac performance cars. Not only did Caddy go all-in with the power (now an eye-popping 668 hp), but it is offered with the choice of an automatic transmission or a 6-speed stick. Let that sink in fora minute — Cadillac, 668 hp, 659 lb-ft of torque, six-speed trans …oh, and 0 to 60 mph inunder3.5 seconds and a top speed of over200 mph.

All 250 of these BMW-, Mercedes- and Audi-fighters were spoken for within a couple of minutes after online reservations commenced. The story is that 2023’s model year will have a similarly limited production run. And that was before people were able to experience just how special this car is. With a custom, tuned suspension, the purpose-built interior of a performance car, a great exhaust note, and amazing responsiveness, I found the car a joy to drive … and to hear. What is it about a big V8 and a stick shift transmission that makes one pine for an In-N-Out double-double with cheese and grilled onions? Is there any car more American than a performance sedan with more power than some countries once had? Does it make sense? Of course not. But is it fun? Abso-caddy-lutely. “My” Blackwing (for a week) was a beautiful “Electric Blue” with options galore. Starting with carbon ceramic cross-drilled rotors($9,000); blue brake calipers, leather seats with custom quilting and even carbon fiber seat backs ($6,090); and a carbon fiber package for exterior bits here and there ($4,100); plus a few other goodies, the sticker on mine was $108,115. But with a base of $83,995, the price-per-smile and thrills-per-dollar are very, very reasonable.