Conventional wisdom is Americans don't like wagons, imagining them as transportation for unwashed masses of rugrats driven by people who've given up being cool. The Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon resoundingly shreds that stereotype.
The rise and fall of minivans and then SUVs and social pressure towards more responsible and fuel-efficient options is making the time right for the return of the wagon. They offer the gear-toting capability of SUVs, the step-over height, performance and fuel-efficiency of cars and they take nothing from the minivan, thankfully. Their major weakness has been styling, considered the more staid option compared to their sedan bases. The CTS Sport Wagon takes the wagon form to a level of sexy rarely seen in the segment.
An easy gauge of public interest in a car is how many times you're goaded into rolling down the window at a stop light by a dumbstruck motorist excited to know more about it. We knew Cadillac had done their job the fourth time someone stopped us to talk in the same day. The fellow behind the wheel of a Mercedes C-class wore a wide-eyed expression of an eight-year-old at the toy store, which told us what we already knew. This wagon is hot. It takes everything we like about the Cadillac CTS and somehow makes it even better. The long roof-line makes it seem sleeker, more finished — as if this was the original design, and the sedan was cut from it.
Like its CTS brother, the Sport Wagon is one of the best luxury cars on the market. It does absolutely everything right. The interior is beautifully finished, the wood, leathers, technology and quality are everything we expect of a Cadillac reclaiming its position as a global luxury power player. The car benefits from all 2010 CTS upgrades, including 6.5 lbs of additional sound damping and completely redesigned transmission mounts to remove harshness at certain engine speeds.
The base 3.0-liter V6 makes 270HP and our optional 304 HP direct injection 3.6-liter V6 balanced power and smoothness; there's significant thrust underneath the grown-up physique. Sadly, the manual transmission won't be available in the Sport Wagon, but the automatic transmission is well sorted. It's equipped with a manual mode activated by buttons on the back side of the steering wheel, but we recommend leaving it in full auto, as the shifts in manual are a bit sluggish for our tastes. The car is expected to return 18/27 MPG figures, and we saw 16.5/25.5 MPG with aggressive driving, so we're certain it'll do those numbers without trouble. Turn off the traction control and the car will happily indulge your mischievous side — donuts and oversteer are only a throttle stab away and the car is predictable as a go-kart, just like the CTS.
Then you pull into the driveway, fold down the seats, and toss your bicycle in the back. Or a month's worth of groceries. Or the dog. There's 58 cubic feet of storage back there with the seats down, 25 up. The only concession you make to get the massive storage is reduced visibility out the back window. The blind spots are there, but are no more intrusive than the sedan, and the backup camera and proximity sensors eliminate those in tight spaces.
Production on the Sport Wagon started last Monday, and with a starting price of $40,485, the car thoroughly crushes its remaining German rivals for the price. Our optioned-out performance package came with heated and cooled seats, XM radio, 18" Contisport 3 summer tires, more aggressive suspension tuning, a faster steering ratio and stiffer anti-roll bar. Well worth it in our opinion. The CTS Sport Wagon is everything a luxury wagon should be, it's refined and comfortable, not afraid of a little work on the side, and very importantly, fun to drive. After the CTS-V, the Sport Wagon is the best car in the Cadillac lineup right now. Well, until the CTS-V Sport Wagon. Hello, GM bean counters, are you listening?