American take on BMW M3 leaves no stone unturned to ensure it thoroughly thrashes its rival both on road and track

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This certainly isn't the horrible reclothed Saab we were punished with in the mid-2000s. The new Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing is nothing less than a thoroughbred performance saloon created to battle it out with the  Alfa Romeo Giulia QuadrifoglioBMW M3 Competition and Mercedes-AMG C63 S.

Based on General Motors' Alpha platform, it follows on from the well regarded ATS-V. But in a last hurrah for both high-powered petrol engines and sports saloons, Cadillac's engineers have thrown everything at the new Blackwing flagships, which also include the BMW M5 CS-rivalling CT5-V Blackwing.

The BMW 3 Series-size saloon misses out on its bigger brother's glorious supercharged 6.2-litre V8, instead getting an uprated twin-turbocharged 3.6-litre V6 with an upgraded lubrication system, a new intake, a new exhaust and fresh turbos. This is combined with either a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox or an even swifter Ford-GM 10-speed automatic.

Four-wheel drive isn't an option; instead the 472bhp and 445lb ft of torque are channelled to the rear wheels via an electronically controlled limited-slip differential.

Up front, there's the usual pseudo-MacPherson strut, while at the rear there's a five-link independent suspension set-up combined with GM's latest fourth-generation Magnetic Ride Control system.

Cementing its status as an engineers' car, the CT4-V Blackwing shuns the usual big wheels, coming with 18in staggered rims that are wrapped with specially formulated Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber.

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Unlike the CT5-V, which has a set of mighty carbon-ceramic brakes that were developed largely in-house, the small CT4-V gets a set of Brembo stoppers that are clamped down with six pistons up front and four at the rear. Boosting feel is a brake servo lifted straight out of the Chevrolet Corvette.

Unusually, Cadillac has tapped into its motorsport heritage (or more likely Chevrolet's) and developed a big aerodynamics package (a £5300 option) that adds a carbonfibre front splitter, front dive planes, a rear diffuser and an extended rear spoiler to reduce lift by up to 214%. No claims for downforce have been released, but the big rear wing is vital to offset the dumpy rear looks that inflict the standard CT4.

Against the clock, the CT4-V Blackwing is evenly matched with the M3 Competition, taking 3.9sec with the 10-speed auto to smash the 0-60mph sprint (versus 4.2sec to 62mph for the BMW), although the top speed is claimed to be above 189mph.

Priced from just $58,995 (£43,500), the CT4-V Blackwing is nothing short of a performance car bargain beside the £75,660 charged for the M3 Competition, especially since the only need to visit the Cadillac's options list is for the bodykit. We would also stick with the no-cost manual rather than the £1700 auto.

Climb behind the wheel and the CT4-V Blacking instantly impresses. Drive it back to back with the sublime CT5-V Blackwing and you will initially miss both the soundtrack and almost EV-like torque-everywhere qualities of the supercharged V8, but get past that and there's lots to love.

Despite it being down on a couple of cylinders and sounding a little uninspiring around town, there's no doubting the energy of the V6, nor the performance it dishes up when combined with the auto.

While the two-pedal transmission can throw in a couple of duff changes at low speeds, it comes into its element on faster country roads.

Since it's built for track driving as well as road, the CT4-V Blackwing is equipped with a multi-stage traction-control system that works along with different driving modes.

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In all honesty, the system is largely best left alone on the road, with the small Blackwing optimal in either its Tour or Sport mode or a combination of the two.

Impressively, ride quality on its modest rims is never an issue, and nor is a lack of body control, even on the nastiest Californian roads we could find.

In fact, push on and the trick magnetic dampers have an uncanny ability to shrug off all manner of horrors, while the grip dished up by the bespoke tyres borders on astonishing, giving the impression of far stickier Cup rubber at times.

Throw in precise steering and powerful brakes that cope with unbelievable levels of abuse and the small Cadillac bestows huge confidence in you. It also has a playful side that's best explored on track, rather than dusty canyon roads.

It's a crying shame that you can't and never will be able to buy either the CT4-V Blackwing or its even more outrageous CT5-V sibling through official channels in the UK.

Both feel like the pinnacle of the sports saloon in a way that the BMW M5 CS and Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm are in Europe.

Although the beauty of the CT4-V Blackwing is in its wide breadth of abilities and levels of engagement, all wrapped up into a package that can be enjoyed every single day, at little more than half the price of its closest German rival.

The only fly in the ointment is that if you can sacrifice its sharp looks, some practicality and the more prestigious badge, the Camaro with the 1LE Track pack offers most of the CT4-V Blackwing's trick chassis hardware but throws in the added bonus of a V8 for just £38,000.

John Mahoney

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.