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The Cadillac Blackwing V8 Was an Unappreciated National Treasure, Here's Why
It's V8 Month here on autoevolution. A month where everything with eight cylinders in a V-arrangement gets some time in the spotlight for our reading pleasure. The V8 we'd like to show today is one of those "blink, and you'll miss" its GM performance engines that tried to parallel the LS/LT engine but barely stuck around for people to realize its significance.

The Cadillac Blackwing V8 Was an Unappreciated National Treasure, Here's Why

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To understand why it's such a big deal for Cadillac of all brands to have a flagship V8, one needs to be aware of and respect just how long they've fitted them under the hoods of nearly all their flagship models. 1914 was the year Cadillac fitted its first ever 90-degree V8 engine into one of its luxury automobiles. From then until the 1970s, the Cadillac V8 spent its days growing ever larger. Culminating in the gargantuan, 500-cubic inch V8 in 1970.

From then on, the OPEC gas crisis of 1973 caused all American V8s, Cadillac's included, to spend the next few decades getting smaller, less powerful, and choked by emissions restrictions. The subsequent Cadillac High Technology engine built from 1982 to 1995, while ambitious in nature with its cylinder deactivation to increase fuel efficiency, turned out to only make it less reliable. If anyone wants to understand why the Cadillac Allanté was a monumental flop, its 4.1-liter V8 is suspect numero uno.

Then there was the Northstar, beginning in 1992. An engine that also found its way under the hood of an Allanté before it bit the dust. An engine that Top Gear presenter and avid lover of raking American cars over the coals, Jeremy Clarkson called "an absolute gem" in the 1998 Seville STS. Even if he thought the rest of the car should be set on fire and shot out of a cannon back to the U.S. Little did he know then, and as we know well now, that 4.6-liter, 300-horsepower V8 was hiding a devilish surprise.

That being that, the head gaskets loved to fail well before any self-respecting engine ever should, especially in the years 1996 to 2000. Even aftermarket head-stud fixes and an eventual OEM fix in later engines didn't save the Northstar V8 from infamy. The last Northstar left the factory floor in 2011. For the bulk of the 2010s, Cadillac performance engines were little more than GM LS V8s derived from brands other than Cadillac like the Corvette, and Camaro, among a slew of others. As brilliant as the Cadillac CTS V of the late 2000s and 2010s may have been, its engine shared with a Chevrolet did detract from its uniqueness factor.

And so, that brings us to the Blackwing, a 4.2-liter, twin-turbocharged monster exclusive to the Cadillac brand debuting in 2018 for the flagship CT-6 sedan. With dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder to go along with forged steel connecting rods and crankshaft, the Blackwing was by far the most advanced V8 engine native to the Cadillac brand. Ironically enough, it was leaps and bounds better than the High Technology V8 the company was peddling a few decades ago. They finally managed to figure out cylinder deactivation. It only took them 35 years.

In the two years that it was on the market, the Blackwing V8 made the CT6 luxury sedan it was attached to so much more than it would have been with another LS/LT V8 from a Corvette for the umpteenth time. Test reviews from the time revealed an engine that was happy to rev in spite of its turbocharger. A peppy Hydra-Matic transmission developed as a joint venture between GM and Ford, of all people, ensured as close to a sporting driver experience as an automatic gearbox could give.

500 horsepower and 574 lb-ft (778 Nm) of torque were on offer in the lower tier V-Sport model, and 550 horsepower with 640 lb-ft (868 Nm) of torque in the flagship CT6-V. With gasoline direct-injection spraying fuel at 5,000 psi (345 bar), this engine was built to tolerances no bespoke Cadillac engine before or since ever was. In fact, raise that to any passenger car engine General Motors has ever produced. But as it turned out, all these advancements came at a cost.

GM estimated it cost as much as $20,000 just to build these Blackwing Twin-Turbo V8s. When said engine is attached to an uber-exclusive luxury sedan sold in low volume to wealthy customers, there's not much room for profit in the whole deal. And so, in 2020, the Blackwing V8 was axed before it could be mounted in the Escalade SUV as so many anticipated. The CT6 itself was sunsetted alongside its engine. As the brand gears up for an all-electric brand shakeup in the near future, they can at least say in confidence their last flagship V8 finally left a legacy befitting of its 500-cubic inch ancestor.

Check back soon for more from V8 month here on autoevolution.


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