Driving NW: Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

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by TOM VOELK / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Updated Thursday, May 26 at 2:38 PM

It’s great to own something rare. A Frank Lloyd Wright home. A Calder sculpture. A first edition copy of Catcher in the Rye. These things are pricey and the same can be said when it comes to cars made in small volume. Aspire to something you don’t see 20 times on the way to punching the time clock and you’re looking at spendy imported brands from Italy, Germany and the UK.

Cadillac now offers up a performance ride for those who want their transportation to evoke that same kind of rarity- The CTS-V Wagon. Rare? Well, consider that high performance V models account for a fraction of CTS sales. Then there’s the station wagon component of the equation. Americans don’t go for wagons and a family truckster that packs a 556 horsepower supercharged V8 and Recaro seats can only be met with quizzical stares and head scratching. This can’t be for real, can it?

Real As a Heart Attack

Cadillac may only sell ten of these rigs for all I know, it’s admirable that they’re offering a wonderfully perverse product that’s more exotic than a Maserati (if you’re going by sales volume). A warning to those who test drive one on a whim, you’ll be seduced by the astonishing acceleration, tenacious cornering and the ability to swing by Best Buy to haul an entire home theatre back to the ranch. Why buy the TV? The real entertainment is waiting in the driveway.  

Rare often means expensive and while the V Wagon’s base price of $63,235 isn’t chump change, it’s reasonable when you look at the offerings from BMW, Mercedes and Audi. And if you don’t think it competes in that league, you haven’t been paying attention.

Power Trip

Whether it’s the coupe, sedan or wagon, CTS-Vs get a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 stuffed into the sharply chiseled nose. 556 horsepower and 551 ft-lb of torque makes it the most powerful engine ever bolted into a Cadillac. The Twin Vortices Series supercharger by Eaton has two four-lobe rotors that are twisted 160 degrees (100 degrees more than usual). This design offers smoother airflow into the engine which reduces noise and vibration.

CTS-V is rear-wheel drive. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual (not a typo). BMW is the only other brand in the US to give you that manual choice in a performance wagon. The shifter action feels smooth and solid. The clutch, slightly on the heavy side, has a nice linear take up though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to stalling it occasionally the first day. A six-speed automatic is optional and from what I understand offers slightly faster acceleration.

Go Ahead. Drag Race a Porsche. In a Station Wagon.


Just like the V sedan and coupe, the wagon has Corvette velocity, only here there’s soccer mom utility. 0-60 blows by in just over four seconds, slightly slower than the coupe since the wagon is heavier.  Speed isn’t much good if the chassis can’t tame the curves. No problemo for CTS-V. It has magnetic ride control so the suspension can firm up instantly, keeping this Caddy flat in hard cornering. You’ll need a racetrack to explore this wagon’s limits, drop the kids at daycare first. When you do, you’ll find the performance Brembo brakes to be exceptional.

The cabin is not library silent at speed, but because the sounds that are allowed in are terrific, that’s a good thing. The engine note is deep and throaty, wonderful stuff. Overall, the motor isn’t as smooth as a BMW M3 or Audi S4, but the slightly more raw dynamic is very appealing, something that needs to be experienced.

 “The Same Old Thing” is a Good Thing

Up front the CTS interior is very familiar. There’s a fancy light show on start up as the gauges sweep through their arcs and the nav system rises up from the instrument panel. The dashboard gets nice detailing with hand stitching and soft white light piping that glows at night. Phones and iPods are supported and the Bose sound system is solid. If you have to leave the car in the middle of a close ballgame, record it for later playback. The steering wheel is heated and covered with grippy suede. 

Only mom hugs better the optional heated and cooled Recaro sport seats. They are infinitely adjustable but that fact is lost on my back which doesn’t like them for long drives. Passengers agree. I find this as surprising as anyone since I generally love Recaro seats.

CTS is keyless using a twist knob not a push button. The parking brake is electric. I like the aluminum pedals, still kind of hard to believe there are three of them here. My testers interior was a smidge dark without a sunroof, at $1,100, spring for the big UltraView glass roof. The interior uses decent materials, still, Audi and Mercedes look a bit better.
 
Passengers and Cargo

CTS has never been known for an overly large back seat, two average sized adults like me will be fine in the outboard positions. A raised seating position in the center and a moderate driveshaft tunnel will keep the center passenger from getting too comfortable. My size 11s Nikes are just fine for foot room. Mesh map pockets and a power port help to keep the kids electronics charged and organized. Seats are nicely bolstered but not heated, which is kind of expected in this class these days.

The rear hatch of the V Wagon is power operated. A clever touch, the load floor articulates to become a divider that keeps things from sliding around the cargo area. Rail mounted tie downs are easily adjustable. Looking for the battery? It’s back here.

CTS coupe holds four bundles of Kirkland brand bath tissue, the sedan swallows seven. Surprisingly the wagon stops at seven too, but remains the utility champ with a big hatch, foldable seats and a ski pass through. This space is not as big as expected

Design?

Well what can I say other than the expected “styling is subjective”? The Art and Science design is very distinctive, I’m a big fan of the sedan and coupe but the wagon leaves me cold at certain angles. This from a wagon enthusiast. It’s more polarizing than the two and four door models with some people really liking it, others really loathing it. In the end I’m glad Cadillac has the guts to offer such a bold wagon, it looks like nothing else on the road. Think of it as an affordable exotic, one that can make trips to Home Depot.

To sum up the CTS-V wagon, the fuel economy is lousy, few can afford it, and Americans don’t like station wagons. That said, anyone with half an enthusiast’s bone in their body will contemplate raiding their 401K after experiencing just one launch. Fun, rare and value are a great combination.

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