Bob Lutz is one of the true car guys in the auto industry. Even approaching the age of 80, he shows no signs of slowing down, having recently gone back to work for GM as a consultant. Previously in his career, he worked for GM, BMW, Ford, Chrysler, a technology company, GM, and now GM again.
Lutz is one of those people who appreciate performance. He flies his own vintage military jets, rides high-performance motorcycles, and is well known as someone who can put the pedal to the metal when out on the road.
I recently saw Mr. Lutz interviewed on a racing-themed television show, partly to pitch his new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters. At the end of the interview, he was asked what car he would buy if he could only have one. He replied, “If I could only have one car for the rest of my life, it would be the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon … six speed manual.”
That was pure Bob Lutz, a gearhead’s gearhead. And his mention of that vehicle was perfect timing, as I had a chance to take one exactly like he described on a little getaway vacation. If you want to enjoy the road, have amazing power under your right foot, and have plenty of room for luggage, you’d be hard pressed to find something better than the CTS-V Sport Wagon.
The CTS line has been a real winner for Cadillac, showing the world that an American car can run with the best from Europe or Asia. Available as a coupe, sedan or wagon, even the base CTS is quite a sporting car with a high-tech V6 engine under its hood (propelling the rear wheels).
But the CTS-V is a whole different animal. Behind its stylish mesh grill and Cadillac badge stirs a thumping beast of a powerplant. A detuned version of the supercharged 6.2 liter V8 found in the ultimate Corvette, the ZR-1. Detuned to “only” 556 horsepower, that is. Yep, exotic car power levels, in a domestic car that’s somewhat reasonably priced. And the best part is, they put it into the wagon too.
As a car to hit the open road in, Caddy’s high performance wagon is hard to beat. The sporty bucket seats are both comfortable and supportive. The car is also very quiet, until you mash the loud pedal to pass another car. Then you hear the muted whine of the supercharger, and a throaty growl from the large exhaust pipes, combining to let you know that this isn’t the Brady Bunch’s old station wagon.
The rear cargo area isn’t as capacious as that of a large SUV, but it can still swallow quite a bit of luggage. One slick feature is the ability to set the power tailgate to only open three quarters of the way, in case you’re in a parking garage with a low overhang. A small hidden compartment beneath the load floor is handy for keeping small valuables stashed.
Fuel economy isn’t what you’d call amazing, but it’s acceptable considering the CTS-V’s performance. Estimates are a thirsty 12 mpg on the city cycle, and 19 on the highway. I averaged over 17 on my jaunt up the 101 and back, taking a bit of liberty with the posted speed limit during the post-summer weekdays and their light traffic.
There’s no doubt that the conventional CTS Sport Wagon, with its “mere” 318 horsepower, wouldn’t do the job about 95% as well as its fire-breathing V8 associate. But oh, that other 5%. It’s well worth the extra fuel consumption and sticker price if you dig performance.
And about that sticker price. This hot rod wagon isn’t cheap, with a base price of just over $63,000, though almost everything is standard. Nevertheless, my test car carried such upgrades as Recaro sport seats and slick looking black wheels with yellow brake calipers behind them. These little morsels, as well as the $1300 gas guzzler tax, brought the tab to over $70,000.
But I have to agree somewhat with Bob Lutz. If I had to choose one car to do it all (and I had Mr. Lutz’s assets), it’d be this one, hands down.
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 Twitter: @dave_kunz