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Blackwing Isn't Dead Quite Yet

Illustration for article titled Blackwing Isnt Dead Quite Yet
Photo: Cadillac

Cadillac’s Blackwing, a twin-turbo, 4.2 liter V8 that it only put in the CT6-V and CT6 Platinum, is definitely cool, even if the concept of it is a thing a lot of automakers have been doing for a long time. Cadillac said Tuesday that it was keeping the name Blackwing around but not just for the engine.

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The days are numbered for the engine after Cadillac said in February that it had “no additional plans” for it, even though you can still get it in the aforementioned cars for now. The Blackwing name, meanwhile, will live on in the form of cars themselves. This is all a bit of a marketing exercise, but I don’t really blame Cadillac because after some contemplation I think the name itself is about 50 percent of the reason the engine was cool to begin with.

Cadillac today announced that the fourth generation of its V-Series sub-brand, currently spearheaded by the 2020 CT4-V and CT5-V, will eventually include ultra-performance variants that carry the Blackwing name. The future, track-capable vehicles will be called CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing, representing the apex of Cadillac performance and driver engagement.

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Cadillac did not release details on what will power these cars, but it did say, “Earlier this year, at Virginia International Raceway, each car set lap times seconds faster than the legendary ATS-V and CTS-V.”

More importantly, emphasis mine:

The V-Series Blackwing models will feature specially tuned chassis, vehicle control technologies and engines. Each model will also be offered with a manual transmission – a feature most luxury brands no longer offer but continues to be a strong desire for many performance driving enthusiasts.

I respect Cadillac’s smugness here about continuing to offer a manual compared to other automakers, but what the company isn’t mentioning is that automakers are offering fewer and fewer manual cars because people simply aren’t buying them, in the U.S. at least.

I also respect Cadillac’s insistence on leaning into performance sedans after the so-so sales performance of the ATS-V and CTS-V. Remember that Cadillac will also be GM’s lead brand for electric, while Escalade continues to roll on. Most days I can’t tell if Cadillac is extremely hapless or the work of some kind of misunderstood genius, given all of the different directions it throws itself toward.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

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DISCUSSION

ash78
Ash78, voting early and often

automakers are offering fewer and fewer manual cars because people simply aren’t buying them, in the U.S. at least.


There’s a ton of chicken/egg effect here. There will always be three-pedal enthusiasts, but manufacturers have to be very choosy about the economics of developing a manual for each model or platform...so most manuals (today) are limited to very niche products like BRZ or Miata.

Second, it for many decades it was a given that a manual would be lighter, faster, cheaper*, and have better fuel economy than an automatic. Today, only the first one is a guarantee. Back to the economics side, some performance cars charge MORE for a manual; and with efficient DCTs and 8+ gears in traditional autos, the efficiency and speed gap have been closed in most applications.

Another key practical use of the manny tranny was to make driving an underpowered car more tolerable. And I don’t mean “WHARGH teh Neessan Versa is totes weaksauce!”. I mean the sub-100hp cars that were the norm for a very long time. A three-speed auto would be horrendous.

So what’s left? Aesthetics and tradition. And I sure hope both of those are strong enough to hold on.

(*cheaper up front and in the long run. A couple predictable clutch replacements are still generally much cheaper than a single rebuilt automatic)

Corrolary: 20 years ago, when the “mainstream car” was a sedan, you could still easily find manuals from Nissan, VW, and a few others in the mix of slushboxes. Today with the crossover taking over that spot, I just don’t see the same representation — nor could I even envision that. Small crossovers with a manual are just so rare...first-gen BMW X3 and maybe a handful of others.