Cadillac's Future Is Electric. But It's Headed There in One Last Manual, V8 Performance Sedan

The trinity of automotive perfection is here, and this might be the last time we see it.

Cadillac

The future is electric. But that's not news to you, or me, or automakers, or stakeholders—even if it stings fans of gasoline-fed horsepower. The next few years will push through a series of substantial changes to the automotive market, all aimed at providing battery power at scale and eventually phasing out the internal combustion engine. Though we can expect a lot of crazy fast electric sedans and even trucks, this future also means boring hybrids, connected cars, and even the addition of dreaded nanny devices, all in the name of advancement. But what about aren't ready to say goodbye to traditional performance just yet?

With the debut of the Cadillac CT4-V Blacking and CT5-V Blackwing, Cadillac—a luxury brand that has explicitly said its future is completely electric—made a bold proclamation to those people last night: "We're not done with you yet." 

via Cadillac

General Motors has already made clear that it "aspires" for all of its brands to end the production of internal combustion powertrains by 2035. Cadillac will be the brand that leads this charge. But with these two models, it's seeking to end this era not with a whimper, but with a bang.

While both the CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing models are genuine performance sedans, the CT5-V Blackwing is equipped with the holy trinity of features: rear-wheel-drive, a six-speed manual gearbox, and a V8. Specifically, a supercharged, 668-horsepower 6.2-liter motor with the highest output of any factory Cadillac V8 offering to-date.

How often do you see that combination of features today? Essentially never, and that's including competition from overseas.

The last sedan in GM's entire product line to offer a V8 and a manual transmission was the Chevrolet SS, and that was discontinued in 2017 after a too-short stint in the States. Previously, Cadillac did offer its flagship CT6-V paired with the 4.2-liter twin-turbo Blackwing V8, but it was only offered with an automatic transmission. Even the last CTS-V "only" had an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. And today, GM's only remaining rear-wheel-drive coupe with a V8 and manual transmission is the Camaro SS, since the C8 Corvette famously dropped the row-your-own option.

The CT5-V Blackwing is Cadillac's Corvette—and I'm not talking about the XLR. And it comes at a time when Cadillac has long been battling an identity crisis. The brand has been having a tough time deciding what kind of customers to cater towards, how it should be marketed, and what kind of cars it should produce. Since Cadillac has chosen to pivot to the sale of battery-powered vehicles, one in six dealerships have ditched out, perhaps fearful of what another identity shift could mean for the automaker's future.

All other things considered, Cadillac remains forward-looking in its shift to electrification. Other brands seem to agree with this, as even Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has forecasted the death of large-displacement American V8s. In an interview with CNBC, he claimed that "the days of an iron block supercharged 6.2-liter V8 are numbered" due to compliance costs. This should come as a surprise to no one. 

And as much as Cadillac pushes that Americans want a car with a manual transmission, it's hard to deny the industry-wide take-rate which doesn't back up that sentiment. But at least the introduction of mass-market EVs has sparked the return of rear-wheel drive. We have that going for us, at least. 

It's probably too late to save the manual, and the V8 is on borrowed time. While the death of the big engine has been incorrectly predicted for decades now, and it's entirely possible that gains in efficiency will make internal combustion stick around longer than we think, electrification means the end is truly in sight. It's very, very hard to imagine GM coming out with a V8-powered successor to this car in five to 10 years. That isn't what the future looks like anymore. 

Fortunately, Cadillac is giving American V8 fury what may be a final, proper sendoff with the CT5-V Blackwing, and it's likely the last time that will ever happen in America. Let's enjoy it while we can. I think with 668 hp on tap, that shouldn't be too difficult. 

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