2022 BMW M3 Competition vs. Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing: Last in Line

We’re at the end of an era for luxury sport compact sedans. The segment that BMW invented with the 1986 M3 has long embraced change. The little four-cylinder homologation specials that matured the segment beyond icons such as the 2002 eventually became V-8-powered cruise missiles in the early ’00s. The engines have since downsized to forced-induction sixes as times changed, and with nearly every automaker now promising to electrify their lineups in the near future, we’re witnessing yet another transition. But thanks to cars such as the new 2022 BMW M3 Competition and 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, the internal combustion luxury sport compact sedan is going out with a bang.

Spec Rundown

Pitting the M3 Competition (the top dog of the M3/M4 lineup) against the CT4-V Blackwing (effectively a reskinned ATS-V) may seem like a mismatch, but there’s a method to our madness. The ATS-V, despite never winning a comparison test, had always been one of our favorite vehicles in the segment. The new CT4-V Blackwing, simply put, makes the ATS-V better. Its 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6 gets a small output boost, now churning out 472 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque, and it’s paired with an optional quick-shifting 10-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is standard). It’s also crucially fit with the latest generation of MagneRide dampers, and well, that’s really about it. Prices start at $59,900, but the CT4-V Blackwing you see here stickers for $80,235.

With 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque spilling forth from its 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6, the standard M3 seems to be an even matchup for the Cadillac. Except when we drove the latest manual-equipped M4 (the two-door version of the M3) back to back with the CT4, it was no competition—the Caddy was just plain better to drive. More fun, more planted, and more capable, it made the M4 feel like a midgrade M440i. So, with an M3 Competition on hand and in the interest of making things, well, interesting, we decided the M3 Competition would take the M4’s place.

The Competition turns the wick up a bit on the basic M3/M4 formula. Thanks to more boost and upgraded cooling, output rises to 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of twist. To make the most of the newfound power, BMW equips the Competition with an eight-speed automatic, and on our test car, defeatable all-wheel drive (meaning you can force it into a rear-drive-only mode). Prices for the M3 start at $70,895, while the all-wheel-drive M3 Competition xDrive starts at $77,895. A good chunk of our M3 Competition xDrive’s $108,545 sticker is eaten up by optional M carbon-ceramic brakes ($8,150) and the dividing (literally) M Carbon bucket seats ($3,800), though the vast majority of the options on our test car are inconsequential cosmetic and luxury options.

Hitting the Road

Although the outright performance of both the CT4-V Blackwing and M3 Competition is what will get buyers into showrooms, how they drive in the real world is what will sell them. So let’s ignore the numbers, shall we? May the most fun-to-drive car win—because after all, “fun” is what this segment is all about.

Riding on GM’s rear-drive Alpha platform, the Cadillac is, as senior features editor Jonny Lieberman puts it, “a stud.” Aided in part by the latest MagneRide dampers and more accessible Performance Traction Management (PTM) modes (now handily operable via a switch on the steering wheel instead of buried in fiddly menus), the CT4-V Blackwing shines on a good back road. Steering is quick and communicative; the chassis feels light, poised, and well balanced; and the car is damn near impossible to upset. The Cadillac’s brakes are worthy of praise, too. Despite lacking fancy (read: expensive) carbon-ceramic brake rotors, we are enamored by the steel rotors’ stopping power and the CT4’s brake tuning. “Makes the M3 Competition feel like it has 320i brakes,” features editor Scott Evans said. “Immediate bite, perfect modulation, and it stops so much harder than the BMW.”

If the Cadillac has a weak spot, its low-revving V-6 is a good candidate. We weren’t taken with this engine back when it first appeared under the hood of the ATS-V, and the addition of 8 extra horsepower hasn’t made it any better. That’s not to say the CT4-V’s powertrain is bad. The twin-turbo V-6 is punchy and delivers a broad torque curve, while the 10-speed auto is among GM’s best performance automatics yet, with quick, decisive up- and downshifts, and bang-on tuning for hard driving. It’s just so … incredibly uninspiring, with a dull, flat exhaust note and a relatively low 6,500-rpm redline. A naturally aspirated V-8—like the one currently available in the CT4’s Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE platform mate—would do much to wake the CT4-V Blackwing up.

The M3 Competition, on the other hand, feels as if its “engine runs on Tannerite,” as deputy editor Alex Stoklosa puts it. The Bimmer is explosively powerful and gloriously unhinged. Capable of revving to 7,200 rpm, the M3’s inline-six feels like a Minuteman missile on a hair trigger, throwing its power down so violently that we question its 503 horsepower rating.

But the M3 is more than just an underrated engine. In a welcome change of pace from modern BMWs, steering is quick, and feel is light but direct. The all-wheel-drive system is impressively neutral, too, helping tame the manic engine without negatively impacting steering feel. “The chassis feels very balanced front to rear,” Stoklosa said, “and I found it very easy to transition between over/understeer. It’s supremely easy and satisfying to meter out just enough throttle to tuck the nose in or kick the M3 into a controllable, easily placed slide.”

Still, it’s not all roses for the BMW. For starters, there are way too many adjustable settings in the M3 and no easy way to cycle through them while on the move; it is much easier to find your Goldilocks setting in the Cadillac. Some editors found the BMW’s carbon-ceramic brakes difficult to modulate smoothly when driving hard, though we were all impressed by their stopping power.

Do Numbers Even Matter?

With any car—but especially performance cars—it’s really tempting to get bogged down in the numbers. Surely, they must tell us something, right? Honestly, though, they really don’t in this particular case. There will always be cars that are quicker or faster than a BMW M3 Competition and Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing. These cars—among the last of their kind as we approach widespread electrification—are about the way they feel, the way they drive. The emotional response rises above other considerations.

You’re more than welcome to geek out over performance numbers by scrolling down to the chart at the bottom of the page, but spoiler alert: The more expensive, more powerful, grippier M3 comes out ahead in all of our instrumented tests. But again, in this particular case, so what?

Which Car Is Best?

When it comes to picking the winner, ignoring everything but the way these vehicles make us feel when unleashed on our favorite roads, the BMW M3 Competition earns the victory. The Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing is a fantastic riding and handling car that’s ultimately held back by an uninspiring engine and a general lack of fireworks. The M3 Competition, on the other hand, is everything we’re going to miss about internal combustion—loud and unapologetic but also an absolute joy to drive. It’s an engaging and organic powder keg and a return to form for BMW. Just a shame about that nose, no?

2nd Place: 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing


  • Well-balanced chassis with great handling
  • Superb brakes
  • Relatively cheap


  • Uninspiring engine
  • Could handle more power
  • Boring exhaust note

1st Place: 2022 BMW M3 Competition


  • Unhinged engine
  • Transparent all-wheel-drive system
  • Exceptional steering


  • Pricey
  • Carbon-ceramic brakes aren’t worth the upgrade
  • It’s quite rough to look at

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