He came to us from White Harbor. Never failed in his duty. Kept his vows best he could. He rode far, fought fiercely. We shall never see his like again.
In the world of Game of Thrones, the men of the Night's Watch are given to epic eulogies when they lose one of their own in battle. I think such a eulogy is more than appropriate for the 556 horsepower 2015 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon.
This wagon is the last of its breed. A new CTS-V is due to hit the pavement soon, based on the all-new CTS sedan that happens to be pretty outstanding and fun on its own. It will be more high tech. It will be more refined. And it will probably be even faster.
But it won't be a wagon, because Cadillac doesn't go in for that sort of thing anymore. That alone makes this last CTS-V Wagon worth eulogizing, along with its mighty V8 and its equal skill at hauling stuff and hauling ass.
This was a very special car, and it will be missed very dearly.
(Full disclosure: Cadillac invited me to a CTS-V "last drive" at Circuit of the Americas to give the car a proper sendoff, but I had to decline because I was already on the way to Los Angeles with Jason. Instead they asked if I wanted one of the cars for a week when I came back. Getting asked if you want a CTS-V Wagon is like getting asked if you're a God: you say yes.)
I say "was," but right now now there are still a few CTS-V Wagons available as new cars before the model is retired. This is your last chance, and it may be one you want to seize.
The CTS-V has been an important car for Cadillac. It was just as vital as the base model in bringing about the brand's modern day renaissance in the mid-2000s.
Just as the normal CTS proved that they could make a competitive luxury sedan, the V proved that they had the chops to run with the Ms and AMGs and the rest of the best from Germany. Everyone knows you need a performance car to be taken seriously in that market, and now everyone knows that underestimating a V is a very foolish thing to do.
Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.
This particular model, the second-generation car, drove that point home even harder. When it debuted back in 2009, it packed goodies like Magnetic Ride Suspension, Brembo brakes, and a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that was the most powerful engine ever put into a Cadillac.
Back then Bob Lutz swore it could beat any production sedan, and when we challenged him to a duel, he promptly kicked our asses, and it wasn't helped by the fact that the only car we could get was a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Against the CTS-V, that's like bringing a Hattori Hanzo sword to a gunfight. Good, but not nearly good enough.
After spending a week in a CTS-V in our most favorite of bodystyles, I can tell you that it is indeed an amazing machine. Not a perfect one, mind you. It has many flaws. But most of those flaws are in the service of speed, and they help to create that thing that is so elusive in modern cars — "character."
That all starts with the engine, a mighty weapon in the battle against inertia. The wagon may weigh a stout 4,400 pounds, but the blown V8 makes it launch like a rocket. The speed it delivers is hard and seemingly endless, the kind that easily pins you to the back of your seat when your foot gets heavy.
It provides acceleration far in excess of what is considered acceptable by polite society at large and it's fucking beautiful. There's a reason the LSA sent me to jail once.
Granted, the CTS-V doesn't feel quite as fast as a Camaro ZL1 because it's heavier, more luxury-oriented, more insulated, and has 24 fewer horsepower, but it still feels like a bomb on wheels. Zero to 60 mph still comes in just 3.9 seconds. It's an exotic fighter in wagon form.
I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls.
I just wish it was a little louder. Stock, the CTS-V is a little soft in the noise department, with engine noise fairly minimal besides some supercharger whine at wide-open throttle. A more aggressive exhaust note should be in order for the next car.
Still, I found myself not caring too much when I took the wagon around some tight, twisty roads near Lake Travis. You feel the CTS-V's weight and girth in the corners, but the Magnetic Ride Suspension does wonders and makes the car feel balanced and neutral overall. The steering is a bit on the numb side, but it's direct and well-weighted.
The V takes technical corners better than you'd expect for its size, and I found myself taking it easy on my speeds more because I was on a public road and not because the car didn't have more to give. It's easy to see why it's such a popular track choice; that's where its performance belongs.
A proper CTS-V sendoff isn't complete without slo-mo burnouts. Video credit William Browning III
My car came equipped with the six-speed automatic gearbox, with shifts manually controlled by little nubby buttons on the back of the steering wheel. It makes immediately clear just how good modern automatics have become even in recent years; compared to the new eight-speed auto in the Corvette Stingray, this transmission feels downright lazy, and often overrides your downshifting choices.
I'm sure it was fine in its time, but time waits for no slushbox. If you decide to pick one of these up before they're gone, my advice is to get the manual instead.
You know what else? It looks great no matter how fast it's going, too. I got a ton of compliments on the CTS-V wagon's striking good looks, especially with the Stealth Blue paint job, graphite black wheels and yellow "V" brake calipers.
Angular, muscular, and elegant at the same time, the car looks classy, but it looks like it means business. It's unapologetically a wagon, too; not a hatch, not a crossover, but a wagon. It's even in the name.
Inside, things get a little dicier. In my first assessment, I said that it's laughably bad. After a week I realized this was unduly harsh, but it still lags behind the new CTS and never really feels like a $70,000 luxury car. In terms of fit and finish and materials, there really is a difference between new General Motors and old. The interior was surprisingly rattly on those backroads, too.
But while you deal with an outdated navigation system and no streaming Bluetooth audio (the USB connection wouldn't work with my iPhone 5S, either), on the plus side, it all just works.
The panel of buttons may not look as fancy as the CUE haptic panel on newer Cadillacs, but it's a hell of a lot easier to figure out. There's no lag or frustration here; you just find the button you want. And the 10-way, microsuede-lined Recaro seats are among the best I've used.
Also, I loved that the traction control off switch is right there on the steering wheel. Because priorities.
In a way, the CTS-V has a lot in common with the men of the Night's Watch. If you follow that story, you know they aren't white knights. They're thieves and bastards and disgraced noblemen. They're taking the only honorable path they have left, but in doing so provide a necessary service.
The CTS-V is far better than that, of course, but it's not a perfect warrior. Still, despite, the lack of adequate hoon-y noise, and an interior that felt dated when it went on sale, the good far outweighs the bad in this car. Even with all the flaws, there were moments driving this car where I said to myself: "I am in a 556 horsepower, rear-wheel drive American luxury wagon fast enough to rival many dedicated sports cars that are vastly more expensive."
And that's what makes this car so amazing all around. With it, I can get all the incredible performance of the CTS-V and still stuff it full of stuff thanks to the wagon opening and nearly 60 cubic feet of cargo space. This car can do anything. It laughs at any challenge you throw its way and says "Bring it on."
It's a true shame we won't be getting another CTS wagon, especially since Cadillac talks so earnestly about being taken seriously in Europe. This wagon fought bravely, put fear into its competition, and made all the American auto industry as a whole look good by extension.
The second-generation CTS-V was one of the best there ever was, and it even came in wagon form.
And now its watch has ended.
And now its watch has ended.