Cadillac’s Blackwing V8 was supposed to be the halo engine that finally pushed America’s luxury brand to fully compete with the best of what Germany had to offer. The state of the art engine supposedly cost over 16 million to develop, but it only ended up in a limited run of around 1,500 Cadillac CT6-V sedans. Now, thanks to Road and Track, we can finally understand the story of the Blackwing’s development, what led to its sudden demise, and why we won’t see it in any Corvettes, V-Series Cadillacs, or any performance vehicles in between.
First, a little background. The Blackwing engine is a 4.2 liter, dual-overhead cam twin turbo V8. Like the beloved 4.0L motor from Mercedes AMG, the engine is handmade and the turbos are in a “hot V” configuration, meaning they are housed inside the two cylinder banks. With these credentials, it was one of the most advanced engines General Motors had ever made (so far), and was built to be Cadillac’s centerpiece.
In the beginning of its development, that was certainly the plan.
In 2015, theCadillac CT6 was introduced on a Cadillac-only Omega platform. It was nothing short of an engineering marvel, as its architecture was meant for the dimensions of a full-size luxury sedan, with the driving characteristics of a smaller one. In fact, the base curb weight of the full-sized CT6 was lighter than the midsized CTS, which was already the lightest vehicle in its class. Nothing came close to the Omega platform in its segment when it came to vehicle dynamics. Whether or not customers in that space actually cared that much about vehicle dynamics (compared to an opulent interior) is another topic for another day.
At any rate, from the get-go of the CT6, the plan was always to create a range topping V8 model, with the Blackwing of course.
In 2016, Cadillac previewed the Blackwing V8 in the stunning Escala concept car. This model was intended for production on the Omega platform, and signaled the expansion of the top level platform in the Cadillac lineup. An SUV was among the planned vehicles.
Essentially, the Blackwing V8 would go into the flagship Cadillac models on the Omega platform to further distance them from the rest of GM. But this fell through as customer tastes shifted away from sedans to SUVs. First the beautiful Escala was canceled, and GM couldn’t even see the point of investing more money into a platform that would only spawn one SUV and a slow-selling sedan. Further dissolving the vision was the next-gen Escalade, which was on the drawing board at the time, and far more detrimental to survival of GM, due to its high margins and economies of scale shared with other vehicles like the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe. “Escalade” is also an iconic name at this point.
At the end of it all, GM just didn’t have enough engineering resources to justify further investment into the Omega platform. Leadership had it’s doubts about the profitability of the platform, and development of the more important full-size, body on frame family of GM SUVs and the C8 Corvette took away most engineering resources.
With the Omega platform already slipping away, GM also didn’t agree with the massive time and money Johan de Nysschen required to push Cadillac ahead and into the global market against the Germans. For reasons not entirely disclosed, JDN left the company in 2018 (and has since joined Germany’s Volkswagen), and with him left all plans for the Blackwing engine to go in anything more than the CT6-V.
Strangely, the upcoming CT5-V Blackwing won’t have twin-turbo Blackwing V8 but carries the name. Instead, it’ll have an updated version the CTS-V’s 6.2 liter supercharged V8 out of the C7 Corvette Z06. The Cadillac Escalade is also going to disregard this DOHC V8 engine for the more ubiquitous 6.2L L87 V8, and 3.0L LM2 Duramax diesel engine (in Q4 2020). It will eventually feature the LT4 V8 like the CT5-V Blackwing, as we first reported.
In what feels like a bit of a kneejerk strategy, Cadillac is instead positioning itself as GM’s spearhead for its electrification strategy, but a full-EV lineup may take years to fulfill, if not decades. So while GM “believes in an all electric future,” one could say they’re also hedging their bets.