Cadillac Builds a Performance Wagon

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“High performance station wagon” sounds like an oxymoron. After all, wagons are utilitarian family vehicles, and high performance cars are usually low-slung coupes or trim sedans.

There have been station wagons in the past that offered up some potent horsepower, namely the big Detroit wagons of the late 1960s, when your Chevy, Ford or Dodge could be ordered with a 427, 429 or 440 cubic inch V8, respectively.

And Volvo offered up a limited run of hot wagons in the mid 1990s under its R sub-brand. About a decade later, Dodge would let you buy its Magnum wagon in SRT-8 guise, packing a big Hemi V8 that churned out over 400 horsepower, and of course there was the insanely expensive Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon a few years ago.

Those former top-of-the-heap performance wagons have been dethroned by the new king of station wagon speed: The Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon. Hold onto your hats, as this speedy luxury ride boasts a supercharged V8 that packs 556 horsepower. And the icing on the cake is that it can be backed up by a 6-speed manual gearbox.

These are good times for General Motors’ luxury division. Cadillac has been on a roll with its full line of CTS models, starting with the sedan and then adding the Sport Wagon and Coupe models. The CTS-V sedan bowed last year to accolades from the motoring press, and rumors of a wagon version flew fast and furious around the Internet.

The cat was finally let out of the bag earlier this year when it was announced that yes, there would in fact be a CTS-V Sport Wagon, with all of the mechanical goodies that come on the sedan.

In addition to the muscular engine and good old stick shift gearbox (you can choose a 6-speed automatic at no extra cost, and most buyers probably will), the V-series upgrades include a revised suspension, massive Brembo brakes, and sticky 19” performance tires on forged aluminum wheels.

Inside, further enhancements include nicely bolstered bucket seats with suede-like inserts, a thick steering wheel rim, and a special instrument cluster that includes a boost gauge to monitor how much assistance the engine’s supercharger is providing. The dash area is trimmed in shiny black material for a rather sinister look.

I got a very brief turn in Caddy’s new muscle wagon, and wow, what a car. Never mind the dismal fuel economy (I never got the average fuel mileage into the double digits in two days of spirited driving, even though official ratings are 14 and 19); this car is an absolute blast. The ride is firm but still luxurious, the engine makes a nice mechanical whine when you ask for more power, and it just flat out moves down the road.

Like the regular CTS Sport Wagon, practicality abounds too. The power rear liftgate opens wide to offer access to a surprisingly roomy cargo area, augmented by a hidden compartment beneath the fold-up floor section. For a high performance car, it’s really pretty practical. (And for a practical car, it’s a heck of a performer.)

You’ll have to have your finances in order to own this car, and not just for the frequent stops to replenish the smallish tank with premium unleaded fuel. Base price for a 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon is $62,165, and with the $1,300 gas guzzler tax and destination, the total becomes $64,290. There are a couple of options you can add, though the car is very well equipped to begin with.

I have a feeling that this special Cadillac won’t be offered for long, due to its narrow buyer base and heavy thirst for fuel. Act now, as they say, or you might miss out.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net.

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