PRO’s: All-wheel-drive, great bang for the buck, big style and luxury.
CON’s: Heavy steering at times, ill-positioned window switches.
FINAL THOUGHT: A luxury and performance oriented Sport Wagon worthy of the Cadillac name.
I got my first taste of the new 2011 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon back in early 2010 at the Washington D.C. Auto Show. It was sitting up on a rotating platform with a crowd of googly-eyed onlookers around it. It’s styling was edgy and bold with a presence that was difficult to ignore. The Sport Wagon is the third member of Cadillac’s CTS family and combines the enhanced versatility and extra space of a wagon, with the handling and styling of a first class sports sedan. Back in November I had the opportunity to head out to beautiful California for the press introduction of the new 556 hp CTS-V Sport Wagon, a machine that has the capability of dusting off unsuspecting super cars at will. For those looking for something a bit more subdued however, well then, meet your new ride: The 2011 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon AWD.
Keep in mind that the last Cadillac CTS that I drove was around Mazda Leguna Seca Raceway and it was simply awesome. So when I heard I was going to be getting into another wagon that had 252 hp less, I was a bit skeptical as to how it would perform. Right from the get go I can tell you that this is a completely different automobile and one that is not only satisfying to drive, but one that provides confidence in any climate. I picked up the AWD Sport Wagon a few days after New York had been blanketed with two feet of snow, so being able to test out its all-wheel-drive capabilities was a real treat.
The Sport Wagon’s direct injected 3.6-liter V6 pumped out a respectable 304 hp, which meant that regardless of your situation, power will never be a problem. Plant your foot to the floor and not only are you treated to a nice surge that sets you back in your seat, but your launch is immediate thanks to the AWD. Transmission wise this CTS utilized GM’s Hydra-Matic 6L50 6-speed automatic with paddle controls on the steering wheel. In standard mode the tranny shifted nice and smooth with no drama. Putting it in sport mode does give you the option of playing with the paddles, but in my opinion there’s really no advantage to it, so just leave it in drive and go.
Due to a wagons open space, interior cabin noise can sometimes be an issue, but I have to say that inside the CTS Sport Wagon it was actually quite enjoyable. Road noise was quelled thanks to some great sound deadening materials and the exhaust note was much better here than on some other V6 powered GM products that I’ve driven. There was also not a squeak or rattle to be found, a testament to Cadillac’s build quality.
Tool around in normal driving conditions and you’ll be treated to a nice compliant ride that is sports sedan firm, but in no way uncomfortable. The car feels planted and sure footed. However, throw the Sports Wagon into a corner and you’ll notice that the steering becomes a bit heavier. This is something that I can only surmise is due to the AWD system. Once you get used to that feeling, you’ll realize that the wagon handles well and is actually really fun to drive. I probably put around 500 miles on this thing both in city and highway conditions. Fuel economy averaged out to about 21 mpg, but to be fair I was pretty heavy footed with the throttle. Ease up on the go peddle, and I’ve no doubt that you could average around 23 mpg in combined driving.
Ergonomically the wagon provides ample room for both front seat passengers, but I have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of where they placed the power window switches. Located beneath the armrest means there is a fair amount of reach involved to access them. Shorter drivers and passengers may find this annoying. Thankfully the dual zone climate controls for both front occupants are easy to reach, as are the touch screen audio and navigation controls.
As mentioned, up here in the Northeast we’ve been getting clobbered with frigid temperatures, but if you opt for the Luxury and Convenience package you’ll be treated to, amongst other things, heated seats and an AMAZING heated steering wheel (God I loved that thing). Just a quick note here – the Bose audio system in this sucker will blow you out of the car if you let it and I’d recommend some AC/DC or Metallica to test it out properly. Combine that with the integrated pop-up touch screen navigation and you’ve got one hell of a fun-box on your hands.
Rear seat room is good for those under 6-feet and provides additional riders with some very comfortable bucket seats. At 6’4″ I also had plenty of head room, which is something that I don’t find all that common. A power tailgate is also a nice addition to the CTS Sport Wagon. Click the button on the key fob and the tailgate rises automatically. Click it again, and it lowers just the same. You can also operate it from a switch on the drivers side door or from a switch on the tailgate itself. Another feature that may seem superfluous to some is the addition of faint ambient lighting on the doors and dash when the sun goes down. Believe it or not, but it brings a very warm feeling to the cabin and is something that I’ve really grown to like in many of GM’s newer vehicles.
Let’s face it, you’re buying a wagon for the extra interior space that it provides and because of this you want to be able to access it easily. In the CTS Sport Wagon, the rear seats flip down with the simple lift of a lever on the seat top and then fold completely flat. I say this because in more and more SUV’s and wagons, while the seats do fold down, they rarely lie dead flat. This is especially helpful if you need to load boxes or furniture. In total with the seats folded down you’ll be treated to a total of 58 cubic feet of cargo space.
Many buyers think that purchasing a wagon is a compromise. They think that they’re giving up a bit of youth and luxury for a more family oriented and or practical vehicle. What they need to understand is that, in no way is the 2011 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon AWD a compromise. In fact in my opinion it’s actually the opposite. The Sport Wagon offers you all the style, luxury, performance and features of a sports sedan, with the extra space that makes dealing with everyday life easier. Plus, when equipped with all-wheel-drive, it turns into a vehicle that you can use in any climate.
My AWD CTS Sport Wagon came with a sticker price of $53,250. That’s a whopping $12,770 cheaper then a comparably equipped Mercedes-Benz 2011 E350 4MATIC Wagon and get this… $20,025 cheaper then BMW’s 2011 535i xDrive Gran Turismo! That’s a big difference people. As you can probably tell, I really like the CTS Sport Wagon. It provides a wonderful combination of luxury, performance, safety and style for those looking for an American built performance wagon. Now go forth and drive happy…