Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon: First Drive

Get your sports car outta the way of this Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon. I'll outrun you, and then, when you're crying about it, I'll offer you a tissue from the jumbo Kleenex box I've just picked up from Costco.

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(Full Disclosure: Cadillac put me up at the Ritz Carlton in LA for the auto show and then flew me to Monterey, California to drive wagons around Laguna Seca. On the way to the track they had an Escalade full of snacks. Mint Chocolate Cocoa Quaker Oats Granola Bars are my new jam.)

Each CTS-V variant (wagon, coupe and sedan) is a leather-wrapped cruise missile targeted with laser precision at those still insisting America can't beat the world's best, let alone be the world's best.

But given the choice, we're taking the one with the big ass.

If an M1 Abrams tank is to a Roman chariot what Dallas Cowboys Stadium is to your middle school soccer field, do you really need to question why Cadillac built a CTS-V Sport Wagon?

A Halo Wagon

Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon: First Drive

The engineers at GM went out of their way to make the V-Wagon as much like the sedan as possible, and were unwilling to call the vehicle a "V" if they had to make any compromises. Looking the part was easy given how much sheet metal it shares with the sedan. Swallowing the same 6.2-liter supercharged and intercooled V8, which enthusiastically pumps out an identical 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque across the range, wasn't much of a challenge either.

Where the engineers had to work was in the suspension department. The CTS-V coupe and sedan regularly bitchslap Sir Isaac Newton with their magnetorheolgical dampers, but if similarly aligned in the wagon they'd end up poking through a support in the cargo space. A tiny laser-cut hole, as well a slightly smaller anti-sway bar, helped give the Sport Wagon the same handling prowess it needed to be a true V.

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All told, the Sport Wagon will hit a top speed of 190 mph and lunge to 60 mph from a dead start in 4.0 seconds, making it quicker by four-tenths than the Shelby GT500 and on par with a Tesla Roadster (neither of which can haul a small refrigerator). There's torque everywhere, meaning you can throw down in any gear.

At $62K a piece, all three variants are supposed to be equal, but that won't stop many from arguing the CTS-V Coupe is the real halo vehicle for the brand. These people are wrong. Or old. Lots of companies will sell you a high-powered 2+2 coupe. Only Cadillac is audacious enough to offer America a wagon this fast.

And audacity, as we all know, is the one true quality that sets America apart from the rest of the world.

This Is Your Wagon On Track

Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon: First Drive

Laguna Seca is a holy place. You've got to drive across a mountain pass into the clouds to get there. Pulling through the front gate it was like entering heaven... if heaven had a nicely catered buffet and the Michelin Man waiting for you.

Ten years ago there wouldn't have been a single Cadillac sedan you'd have even considered taking into the parking lot of this track. Now there's a wagon from the General's luxury brand designed to tame it.

After a few orientation laps, including a remarkably poor one with a producer from Motorweek I'm relieved has a sense of humor about our recent jokes at their expense, I head back out to the track with the intention of proving, if only to myself, that having five doors isn't a disability.

(In the clip above you'll notice I've never seen an apex I wanted to meet.)

Around turn four all the CTS-V's remarkable dynamics are there. A touch of understeer gives way to an easily controlled swing of the ass accomplished with a righteous application of acceleration. The wagon adheres to the time-honored horsepower maxim: In thrust we trust. With the stability control set to "competition mode" it'll do this all day without letting you get too far out. If someone turns all the nannies off without telling you, as happened to me, you can rotate the hatch all the way around.

Up the hill I quickly climb close to 110 mph then scrub some speed before slamming on the brakes into the corkscrew. Contemplate that for a moment. This isn't a Lotus. In fact, at 4,390 pounds of luxurious weight, it's more like two Elises, yet there's so much power available it can drag you it into the sky with ungodly speed.

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One thing I should probably mention at this point: If you've only driven Laguna Seca in a video game like Forza 3, it's really built on the side of a hill. This means that you're dropping all that mass down the slope of a track that feels like a cliff. However, even on a too-fast lap, the Sport Wagon never bottoms out. Its unpronounceable dampers keep it as taut as a USC Song Girl with an addiction to crunches.

Cadillac offers six-speeds in both automatic and manual flavors, and sadly, most will probably choose the former. There's nothing wrong with it, except it's just not as tight as the sublimely straightforward six-speed twin-disc manual that shifts like a hot suede-handled knife through butter.

If there's one part of the car that eventually gave out after repeated laps it was the brakes, which finally tired of the abuse we'd given them. But only after dozens of hot laps did the giant Brembos start spewing smoke and exhibiting a touch of fade. A couple of cool-down laps and they were again ready to take more clamping.

At some point, the CTS-V Sport Wagon's going to end up at the Nurbürgring and it's going to put down a time close enough to the sedan to prove a little added weight and a lot of extra sex appeal don't contribute to anything less than the world's most fearsome production station wagon.

Enough Of This Q-Ship Crap

Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon: First Drive

Every time someone comes out with a quick vehicle that's even slightly subdued in the looks department it's hailed as a "Q-ship" in honor of the Anglo-American naval practice of arming cargo ships to look like regular merchant vessels so they can surprise and kill some lazy Germans.

This cliche term's been used to describe everything from a Honda Accord V6 to a Mazdaspeed3. Both times by Motor Trend. In the same article. Those are not Q-Ships. The former isn't deadly and the latter isn't stealthy.

We've already covered how the CTS-V wagon will kill you, but now it's time to get into how it's stealthy. Up front you'll maybe notice the power bulge (as small as they can get away with) and the spaced out grille (those intercoolers need air). The exaggerated-yet-subdued rocker panels from the CTS-V sedan are also present along the side.

But if you're driving it correctly people won't get a chance to see much of these angles. They'll see the rear. And the rear is identical to the CTS Sport Wagon with the V6, which means exhaust tips are the same diameter. This was done as a money-saving measure, but the result is great. Other than the slightly lower stance and giant PS2 Michelins poking around the rear fascia, it looks stock.

This doesn't mean you can't make it scream power. They're offering both yellow Brembo calipers and black wheels, and I promise you someone will buy white-on-black-on-yellow. It'll look great, but those who end up with a silver V-Wagon with black/silver rotors will fly off into the distance leaving so many 370Z owners scratching their heads.

Show me another car with more than 550 lb-ft of torque that doesn't look like its got more than 550 lb-ft of torque.

Thank The Mighty Lord Lutz

Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon: First Drive

The Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon almost didn't happen. First, the bean counters killed it. Then the Carpocalypse killed it. When GM emerged from bankruptcy each division was given a green light to resurrect old projects. Completing the CTS-V triumvirate with a wagon was at the top of then Product Czar Bob Lutz's list for Cadillac.

Cadillac's not saying how many they need to build to turn a profit, but I believe they're being honest when they say it doesn't really matter. How many times do you have to go into space to be an astronaut? How many times do you have to bed a Victoria's Secret Angel to claim you had sex with a supermodel?

The day I'm driving the CTS-V Wagon with a select group of automotive journalists is also the same day GM launched the world's biggest IPO. It's the next step in freeing itself from the psychological burden of a government bailout.

Since the world would've likely been deprived this wagon without it, I'm declaring "Mission Accomplished."

And now, for some burnouts!

First two photos courtesy of GM, other large shots copyright the author.