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Cadillac's Blackwing V8 was the best engine at the worst time

Road & Track outlines the turbulence that grounded the TTV8

2020 Cadillac CT6-V exterior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V
  • Image Credit: Cadillac
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V exterior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V exterior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V exterior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V exterior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V exterior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V exterior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V wheel
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V taillight
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V interior
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V instruments
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V engine
  • 2020 Cadillac CT6-V engine

It should be clear that GM knows how to innovate and engineer excellent products when it wants to. Cadillac's 4.2-liter twin-turbo Blackwing V8 is recent proof of that. Yet, as related in an extensive Road & Track piece, the Blackwing became victim to some of The General's bugbears, like the reticence to — for whatever reasons — unleash its excellence everywhere, fund that excellence, and be consistent with that excellence over the long term beyond the Corvette and full-sized pickups and SUVs. The R/T story relates tales told by "several people deeply involved with the Blackwing project" about how an engine 18 years in the making was deprived of its reasons for being in less than three.

Starting around 2000, GM spent a dozen years building Cadillac up to the point where the American luxury brand could rationally flip to the chapter called, "Taking the Fight to the Germans, but for Real this Time." The first steps in the plan meant an exclusive platform and an exclusive engine. The platform was called Omega. You know the engine's name. They were going to be the aluminum-blocked fist and velvet glove enabling Cadillac to break on through to the other side of luxury — proper luxury to global standards, that is — with a range of beautiful and dynamic crossovers and sedans.

An engineer involved in the project estimates GM poured $16 million into the Blackwing's clean-sheet development. Many more seven-figure sums went into creating the first sedan on the Omega platform, the CT6. The automaker dropped millions again poaching ex-Audi and Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen, and moving Cadillac's headquarters to New York City in 2014. Further pallets of cash funded the development and debut of the Escala concept at Pebble Beach in 2016.

In 2018, GM revealed its dramatically named DOHC twin-turbo V8. Considering what came before, the Blackwing clearly wasn't designed for cars. It was designed for world domination.

However, against the backdrop of plummeting sedan sales, the CT6 didn't sell like GM had hoped. The automaker hesitated to marshal another fleet of Brinks trucks to fund entries into a cratering bodystyle. Removing sedans from the world domination equation created more difficult math for the crossovers and the Escala. Cost-cutting and restructuring killed the Omega platform, the Blackwing doesn't fit in the Alpha platform carrying the CT4 and CT5, and the independent rear suspension for the new full-sized SUVs reportedly burned so much money that GM passed on trying to get the Blackwing into the 2021 Escalade.

We know how the story ends, with the Blackwing a decorated orphan. There's a lot more to what happened and why, though, so check out Road & Track for the story.

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