From the November 2021 issue of Car and Driver.
September 6, 2021, was the last day for Wicked Twister. The roller coaster, an anchor attraction at Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park, opened in 2002 with an unusual premise: Instead of sending riders around a loop, it would use linear induction motors to launch them out of a station—zero to 72 mph in 2.5 seconds—and up a 215-foot-tall vertical, spiral track.
The 32-seat train then plummets back down through the station, where the motors goose the ride in the other direction, sending it backward up an identical tower on the other side. The track looks like a pair of giant deformed yellow goal posts and not like the wooden coaster on the previous pages. Wicked Twister’s warnings include lines like “Guests must have a minimum of three functioning extremities.” That’s our kind of ride.
And if you’re going to make a pilgrimage to ride a soon-to-be-decommissioned roller coaster, what better way to get there than in a four-door car packing a 600-hp V-8? Better yet, round up three of them: the 2021 Audi RS7, the 2021 BMW M5 Competition, and the 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing. The 591-hp Audi is a known quantity, having bested the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe and Mercedes-AMG GT63 S in a recent C/D comparison test of raked-roof four-doors [“Outrage Machines,” May 2021]. This time around, we decided to pit the Audi against more conventional sedans closer to its price range. Enter the 617-hp M5 and 668-hp Blackwing. The M5 got some worthwhile revisions for 2021, including retuned dampers and a new Track mode, while the Blackwing is a new model replacing the CTS-V. We also invited the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, but Benz didn’t have a car available; supply shortages may cause that and other V-8 Benzes to sit out the 2022 model year. Maserati thought better of sending a Ghibli Trofeo into this meat grinder.
Somehow resisting the drifting and donut possibilities of Cedar Point’s vast empty outer parking lots, we made our way inside and patiently waited our turn for Wicked Twister. It didn’t disappoint—you know a ride will be good when the staff confiscates loose-fitting shoes before it takes off. After being Wickedly Twisted, we rode a bunch of other stuff, including the 93-mph Millennium Force and the barrel-rolling Maverick, because we had to condition ourselves for the g-forces soon to be delivered via forced-induction V-8s and big, sticky tires. Yes, going on more rides was the responsible thing to do.
Normally, heading for the exit gates at an amusement park is a bummer. But we had 1876 horsepower and 24 cylinders out in the parking lot and a plan to take the long way home via the roller-coaster roads of southern Ohio’s Hocking Hills area. Contemplating our stacked trio of four-doors, one tester declared, “It’s not like there are actually any losers here.” Nonetheless, we all agreed on a favorite ride.
2021 BMW M5 Competition
Highs: From luxury sedan to hellion at the touch of a button, rear-drive mode, 10.8-second quarter.
Lows: Checked-out steering, subdued exterior, a bit too removed.
Verdict: A luxury sedan with a rocket strapped to its trunk.
Yes, the quickest car came in last, separated from the Audi by a single point. On paper, the M5 Competition trails the CT5-V Blackwing by 51 horsepower, but one prod of the throttle reveals that its rated power is probably conservative. “This engine is an absolute reactor,” one tester wrote in the logbook. “It makes 617 horsepower on its worst day. So strong from idle to redline.” And the M5’s exhaust gives it an exotic voice, sounding almost like a Ferrari or a McLaren on a cold start. It pulls like an exotic too. In fact, the M5’s 2.7-second time to 60 mph edges an old McLaren 570GT by 0.2 second, and its 10.8-second quarter-mile is right on top of the McLaren’s 10.7 seconds. All-wheel drive has its benefits. This, in a big four-door with 20-way massage seats with shoulder articulation and one of those motorized rear-window shades that discreetly folds away when you put the car in reverse. You can have it all, says the M5.
That attitude extends to the car’s many adjustable performance parameters. An M mode button on the console allows you to select Road, Sport, or Track. More often, you end up using the M1 and M2 programmable buttons on the steering wheel, and that’s where your choices get daunting. Drivers can dial in responsiveness from the engine, transmission, chassis, steering, stability-control system, all-wheel-drive system (including whether to go rear drive), and exhaust. “Be careful with the M2 button,” one tester warned as we set out for Hocking Hills. “I programmed it for rear drive.” Good to know.
On the sinuous roads of our Hocking Hills loop, we put most of the systems in Sport Plus mode to ascertain whether the M5 can fully hulk out and transform itself from sedate luxury cruiser to back-road assassin at the touch of a button. Answer: almost. With the exhaust in its louder setting, you can feel the pulses through the center armrest. The eight-speed automatic transmission goes clairvoyant, picking the perfect gear for any corner and shifting with near-dual-clutch quickness. The engine, as always, dominates the car’s personality. Straightaways evaporate like a drop of water hitting a hot skillet. Good thing the M5 also has the strongest brakes, hauling down 4243 pounds of BMW from 70 mph in just 147 feet.
Despite its hyperbolic acceleration and stopping power, the M5 isn’t quite as happy in the corners. This is all relative, given that this is a car that pulls 0.97 g, but the M5’s steering simply isn’t as good as the rest of the car—like BMW just couldn’t bring itself to add a dash of M2 CS to the recipe and allow more of the road to filter up through the wheel. The revised suspension is more comfortable over bad surfaces, but it feels like BMW used comparatively firm springs with soft dampers, leading to pogo-stick motions over bumps.
The M5 also wears the highest as-tested price, at $141,045. For that kind of money, maybe they’d let you buy Wicked Twister and set it up behind your house. Just spitballing.
2021 Audi RS7
Highs: Beautiful design inside and out, nimble for its size, accessible performance.
Lows: Off the pace, about as expensive as the M5, skews more luxe than sport.
Verdict: As quick as it is, it needs even more power in this crowd.
The heaviest and least powerful car here, the Audi eked out a second-place finish thanks to impeccable execution. It looks beautiful inside and out. Its 4.0-liter V-8 is a perfect combination of bellicose and sophisticated. And its chassis is deftly tuned, its rear-axle steering delivering wheelbase-shrinking agility while its torque-vectoring rear differential and all-wheel-drive system instill confidence right up to the limits. The only car here with air springs, the RS7 can glide imperiously down the road when it’s not being called upon to hustle.
When you’re in a thrill-seeking frame of mind, simply push the RS button on the steering wheel and the big Audi readies itself for action, dropping down a gear or three and unleashing a hearty bellow from the exhaust. One logbook note read, “On a long corner, the dash g-meter read 0.93 g with the tires howling, but the car was totally confident and composed.” Another said the RS7 “drives a lot smaller than it is thanks to the chassis technology.” Our skidpad testing revealed a limit of 0.95 g, the lowest in the group, but you can use all of that grip.
Testing revealed a 3.0-second time to 60, good for second place, and an 11.3-second quarter at 121 mph. And yet, the RS7 doesn’t seem that quick out on the road. Its 5-to-60-mph time, 4.3 seconds, underscores the effects of turbo lag. The Audi leverages its traction off the line, but this is a 4877-pound car with a horsepower number that begins with a five. At 100 mph, the M5 has a 1.2-second lead, and the Caddy has overcome its traction deficit to pull ahead by 0.3 second.
The numbers bear out the impression that the RS7 is playing a different game from the M5 and Blackwing. It’s slightly more reserved and refined, polished in every way, a vehicle you’d happily drive every day for the next 10 years or 200,000 miles. “Such an enjoyable car,” read one RS7 comment. “More luxury than hardcore but plenty alive. The interior is sophisticated, simple, and easy to use with some exposure.” But in this group, the RS7 feels almost like a steppingstone to another model, something with 700 horsepower and even more attitude. Lacking an RS7-RS, we’ll just have to be content with an everyday all-wheel-drive hatchback that can hit 170 mph during a television commercial break.
2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
Highs: Instant supercharged responses, best steering, lowest price.
Lows: Thirstiest, some crummy interior materials, this one didn’t have the manual.
Verdict: A four-door race car that’s fun at any speed.
Everyone loves the Blackwing, the most visceral car here. You don’t need to push a button to access the CT5-V’s rowdy side—it’s always there, sometimes lurking just below the surface and sometimes blasting through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man. One cam, 668 horsepower, oh yeah!
Of course, there is a V button on the steering wheel. It effects less of a personality change than the RS and M buttons in the other cars, simply because the Caddy is a bundle of aggression by default. It’s the lightest, the most powerful, the loudest at wide-open throttle. It pulled 1.01 g’s on the skidpad. It’s the sole car in this group to offer a manual transmission (an auto is tested here). And it’s the least expensive, costing $35,380 less than the BMW. The Blackwing never lets you forget what it is—it’s the only one with a top-dead-center stripe on the steering wheel—but it’s not obnoxious about it. It can calm down, smother the bumps, even give you a little driver’s-seat back massage (not as good as the BMW’s, but please). Then you drop the hammer and it erupts.
In the lower gears, the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 doesn’t seem to rev so much as explode. Mat the throttle and unleash an 85-decibel braaappp-braaappp; suddenly you are doing 100 mph. With no lag and instant reactions from the throttle and 10-speed automatic transmission, the CT5 trashed even the mighty M5 in both 30-to-50-mph and 50-to-70-mph passing tests. The M5 and RS7 have all-wheel-drive traction off the line, but the Blackwing doesn’t take long to assert its horsepower. At the quarter-mile—dispatched in 11.4 seconds—the Caddy’s 128-mph trap speed is just behind the M5’s 130 mph.
The CT5’s logbook was filled with praise. “The Blackwing was clearly developed by people who care about cars,” one entry reads. “Dynamically, it’s near perfection. The ride control is amazing. The steering is honest-to-God great, like the man upstairs developed it himself. And the electronically controlled limited-slip differential and performance traction management make wrangling 668 horsepower with a pair of 305/35R-19 lassos a not-scary experience.” Those rear tires are wider than the Audi’s and BMW’s by 20 millimeters, giving the Caddy the stance of an escaped IMSA GT4 car. If there’s a letdown, it’s the interior, which isn’t up to Audi or BMW levels of luxury. But the joyousness of the Blackwing driving experience has a way of blinding you to Chevy Trax–grade lower door panels.
When we strapped into Wicked Twister, we knew its days were numbered. We can say the same about these snarling V-8 anomalies, elite performance machines straddling the gas-powered past and an electrified future. They’re all outrageous fun, but the Cadillac is the car we’ll reminisce about decades from now.
Maybe Cedar Point should replace Wicked Twister with a track and a CT5-V Blackwing. We’d be willing to wait in line for that.