Not Your Father’s Station Wagon
One of the success stories out of General Motors in recent years has been the Cadillac CTS. Now in its second generation, the crisply styled sedan shows that an American company can build a world-class car to compete with the best from Europe and Japan. People who would never have considered a domestic car in the past are drawn to this athletic Cadillac.
And there’s even more athleticism available in the CTS-V, a rip-roaring 4-door hot rod with a glorious supercharged engine under the hood, and performance that wasn’t even dreamed of in a road car just a few years ago.
Now Cadillac is expanding the CTS line with the 2010 CTS Sport Wagon. Aside from coach-built ambulances and hearses, GM’s luxury division has never produced a wagon before (the exception being the European-market BLS, based on the Saab 9-3). But times have changed, and Cadillac thinks this may be the right time to bring out a different kind of station wagon.
Years ago, wagons were a stalwart vehicular servant of suburban life. They held lots of people and cargo, but were essentially lumbering hulks of metal that didn’t produce any kind of driving enjoyment, nor were they meant to. The wagon gave way to the minivan and the SUV for people who wanted the ability to carry things.
There’s a good reason General Motors chose the name “Sport Wagon” for this car. It’s essentially identical to the CTS sport sedan underneath, which means that if you don’t look in the rear view mirror and see the cargo area behind the rear seat, you’d pretty much never know you were in something designated as a wagon.
To get people to consider a station wagon, Cadillac also had to make it look stylish too. The CTS sedan has a purposeful stance, with a sloping roofline and chiseled rear flanks. The Sport Wagon keeps those themes, and successfully morphs them into one of the most stylish station wagons ever to hit the road. I might dare say that the best view of this car is from the offset rear flank.
Obviously a station wagon has to have at least some measure of practicality, and the CTS Sport Wagon really shines here too. The cargo area can swallow 25 cubic feet of whatever you might need to carry. Cadillac’s engineers even did a nice job with what’s known as “cargo management,” with sliding tie-downs on parallel rails, and a slick cover for the lower compartment that doubles as a divider to keep things from rolling or sliding around.
The lift-gate is power-operated (as a standard feature), and has a clever trick that should garner acclaim from owners. Using the switch on the edge of the gate, or the one on the driver’s door panel, the opening height can be set to a specific stopping point. Shorter drivers won’t have to strain to reach the lift-gate when it’s open, and it also can be set for limited overhead clearance situations. No more dents in the back of the car thanks to a low-hanging parking garage sprinkler system.
The Sport Wagon does drive very much like the sedan. I got to take a brief drive on the twisty roads near Agoura and found that, as promised, I almost forgot I was in a wagon. Standard wheels are 17” with all-season tires, and there are suspension and tire upgrades available up to a package called FE3, which includes 19” performance tires for maximum grip during spirited cornering.
Standard power for this wagon comes from a 3.0 liter V6 with direct injection and 270 horsepower. The Sport Wagon I drove had the optional 3.6 liter DI engine with 304 horsepower, which is just enough. I think the smaller engine would be okay if you drive mildly, but for lots of hills or heavy loads, the 3.6 is the one to have. Both engines are designed to run just fine on regular unleaded gasoline, and both come standard with 6-speed automatic transmissions.
Rumors persist that there will eventually be a CTS-V version of the Sport Wagon, perhaps sometime next year. That would really be something; a station wagon with a 550 horsepower supercharged V8 engine and the option of a 6-speed manual transmission. Some sources have said that it’s a done deal, though officially Cadillac hasn’t announced it yet.
The regular CTS Sport Wagon should be a success for Cadillac. While there have been sporty wagons available before, they’ve only come from European companies, as wagons have a much stronger acceptance across the Atlantic. This Caddy challenger is on sale now, with a base price of $39,830.
Though it’s the smallest Cadillac in the range, the CTS is the new face of General Motors’ luxury brand. The array of variants will further expand next year with the introduction of the CTS Coupe, a very rakish take on Cadillac’s signature styling theme.
Wagons aren’t what they used to be, for sure. Today a car like the CTS Sport Wagon is a nice combination of the things that make a sporty sedan so appealing, with the practicality of a roomy cargo hold in back. The wagon of the future looks pretty much like this new Cadillac.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7. He’s also a car enthusiast and owns several classics. Dave can be reached at TVCarz @ pacbell.net.