Car and Driver have recently released their Lightning Lap results for 2022. For those unfamiliar with this test, it gathers up some of the best performance cars and SUVs on sale to sort out which is fastest on a race track.
The usual contenders, like Porsche’s 911 GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, were present. As were super-sedans like the BMW M5 CS and Cadillac’s Blackwing cars. One car participating in the test, the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, had an off-track incident that did some damage. That revealed something very interesting about the vehicle.
Let’s discuss the CT4-V Blackwing, the crash, and what it means for you if you buy one.
Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap, how it works
Every year Car and Driver takes a bunch of high-performance vehicles to the Virginia International Raceway (VIR) for a multi-day test. The goal is to determine the fastest, sharpest, and best performance machines.
All of the cars taking part have engineers from the manufacturer present, who prepare them in an ideal state of tune. They also come with spare parts, like brakes and multiple sets of tires. In 2022, only BMW failed to bring additional tires with them. Those cars got less time on track than the others.
In the case of the Cadillac, the engineers are on hand to deal with problems, make repairs, and ensure that the car is operating at its peak performance.
Multiple Car and Driver journalists drive the cars over three days to achieve the best lap time. Handling, braking, and overall driving experience are noted, which gives an overview of how the car performs on a race track.
The Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing incident
According to Car and Driver, this is what happened, “After we went in a little hot and missed the turn-in point, the CT4-V Blackwing went into a lurid slide down the hill that ended in the grass, where a beefy right-front suspension member folded like a taco. The damage was more than the Cadillac engineers on site could rectify.”
In essence, the driver of the CT4-V Blackwing misjudged the corner entry speed and line. That caused the car to lose traction. That loss of traction let the Caddy slide off the circuit and into the grass. The wheel then dug into the dirt and ultimately bent the suspension.
Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Car and Driver’s seemingly contradictory statement reveals a lot about the CT4-V Blackwing
Car and Driver go on to describe the CT4-V Blackwing this way, “Errors erode confidence, even when it’s not the car’s fault. The smaller Blackwing is a track star with rich feedback and secure handling. Sure, if you go directly from a 911 GT3 to the Cadillac, the sedan’s turn-in response feels relatively sluggish, which could cause a late corner entry. But that’s not the car’s problem. Even with a second driver behind the wheel, we couldn’t commit to taking the Esses the way Cadillac assured us was possible.”
There is a lot to unpack in this statement, so let’s dive right in.
First, whenever you have a crash, even if it’s minor, it can ruin confidence in yourself and the car. Especially if you don’t understand what the problem is. That lack of confidence in the car and your own driving will cause you to slow down.
Car and Driver are quick to say that a lack of confidence is not the car’s fault. Later in the same paragraph they say that a second driver could not muster the confidence necessary to take the racetrack’s Esses as fast as Cadillac says is possible. That is every bit the fault of the car. The fact that both drivers did not feel confident driving fast in the CT4-V Blackwing suggests that it is a difficult car to get a feel for.
Ultimately, all of the driver’s decisions are made using the information that the car provides. From braking to cornering to how soon you can get on the throttle, all of that is dependent on the car communicating to the driver in a way that they can use.
The statement claims that the Caddy has rich feedback and secure handling. But that it also feels relatively sluggish and not confidence inspiring enough to drive hard. That contradiction, secure handling but not confidence-inspiring, means that the car is not doing its job. That job is to transmit information to the driver. That is what erodes confidence and is an inherent characteristic of the vehicle.
The car has the potential to go faster, in this case through VIR’s Essess, but that potential cannot be realized. That is due to the CT4-V not communicating well enough with the driver.
What does this mean for real-world owners of the CT4-V Blackwing
Car and Driver’s experience with the CT4-V Blackwing suggests that it takes a while to get a feel for the car. It is not as intuitive or communicative as some of its rivals, like the BMW M3. This means that the average driver will take longer to learn how to drive it fast.
During everyday driving, this problem is non-existent. You are not, nor should you ever, be driving as fast as you would on a race track, so the speed and quality of the information being given to you from the car are less critical.
The tangible takeaway is this: the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing is incredibly capable and extremely fast but is let down by not providing enough high-resolution information to the driver. Because of this, the driver does not have the confidence to drive the CT4-V Blackwing as fast as possible. This is an area that Cadillac’s rivals have mastered. It will be something that GM’s engineers will need to improve if they are to win next year’s Lightning Lap.