Long, long ago, in a time before SUV’s and minivans lived a four-wheeled beast known as the “Station Wagon”. It was a big heavy brute that had a reputation for removing the testicles of any man that was brave enough to plant his tukus behind the wheel. Marshmallow suspensions, fake wood paneling and giant swing-out tailgates were all part of the wagon experience. These were the road beasts that I grew up with, and unfortunately, the beasts that most American’s can relate to. Recently though wagons have started trickling back into the public eye and thankfully for us consumers, they’re not only stylish, but in some cases, full on performance machines.
When Cadillac launched generation two of the CTS-V sedan back in 2009 the automotive public jumped up and took notice. Hell, it was hard not to as they packed that sucker with a supercharged mill producing a whopping 556 hp and 550 lb-ft. of torque in a great looking rear-wheel drive package. 2010 then saw the release of a beautifully sculpted and sophisticated CTS-V Coupe, a car that has a look all its own and a car that I recently fell in love with. We are now coming up on 2011 and with that brings the release of the all new CTS-V Sport Wagon, something that as a wagon lover I was eagerly looking forward to. For the press introduction Cadillac decided to have a little fun with their new toy, so they rented out California’s famed Leguna Seca Raceway, threw a bunch of journalists on a plane, then let us loose to experience what they knew was one hell of a vehicle.
Before hitting the track we started the day by taking a nice ride down U.S. 1 South to Big Sur, a place that is simply magical. Twisty switchbacks, long straights and amazing scenery set the stage for what turned out to be a day filled with tire smoke and g-forces. From a drivers perspective one of the first things you will notice about the CTS-V Sport Wagon is that it doesn’t feel like a wagon. Sure you have more room behind those rear seats, but from behind the steering wheel you’d never know it as the V-wagon gives the initial impression that it is smaller than it actually is. Keep in mind that the new wagon shares its front end styling and interior with the sedan and coupe, but that is where the family resemblance ends. The boxy lines of wagons past have been replaced by a beautifully sculpted silhouette that is almost coupe-like when combined with the elegantly sloping rear roof line. That is of course until you pop the rear hatch and notice the 58 cubic feet of cargo space back there when you fold down the rear seats. Costco anyone?
Sharing the same 556 hp and 550 lb-ft. of torque supercharged V8 as its siblings means that the CTS-V Sport Wagon is a downright bullet in a straight line. The V-wagon comes in both a 6-speed automatic, or a 6-speed manual. The automatic works well enough, but when driving spiritedly even in sport shift mode, you’ll find that it’s a bit of a let down. My advice, opt for the TR6060 6-speed manual as it’s a riot when mated to the monster mill that lurks under the hood. Set the CTS-V Sport Wagon’s magnetic ride control suspension to sport mode, then pop off the traction control, rev that sucker to 4-grand and dump the clutch. Do that and you’ll be rewarded with bellows of tire smoke in 1st and 2nd gear with a nice chirp as you shift into 3rd. The power of this thing is simply intoxicating, although I would have liked a more throaty exhaust note.
After our road test we arrived at Leguna Seca Raceway to get in some hot laps in Cadillac’s newest member to the V-family. Keep in mind that the wagon weighs in at a hefty 4250 lbs. so it’s not exactly a lightweight. That doesn’t mean however that it’s a pig in the corners, actually it’s quite the opposite. Put the wagon in sport mode then toss it into a corner and you’ll see that it responds with a crisp clean turn-in that is void of any real drama. Big 19-inch wheels front and rear shod with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires did a great job of keeping the wagon compliant under hard cornering. Combine that with the monster stopping power of six-pot Brembo’s and 15-inch rotors up front and 14.7-inch rotors in the rear, and you have a wagon that is capable of putting the hurt on quite a few big dollar sports cars. There is also an optional rear-differential cooler available from Cadillac if you want to track this thing. How frickin’ cool is that!
Now as some of you know I’m a wagon guy that owns a Dodge Magnum SRT-8. It’s also a 4200 lb. wagon that’s shod with big Brembo’s, sticky rubber and a good amount of power (425hp/420 lb-ft tq.), I’ve also tracked it many, many times. What I was amazed at though was how much better (sorry Dodge) the CTS-V Sport Wagon was than my aging Magnum when pushed hard. Rotating the wagon into a corner was easy thanks to the abundance of power, great brakes and even weight distribution. Keep in mind as well that we ran these puppies for a good 4 hours straight without a break and not one of them missed a beat. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a big deal when you’re talking about a 556 horsepower grocery getter. Stability at speed and driving confidence is also impressive, something I noticed when we hit over 140 mph. Oh, and did it mention it will do 190 mph?
The Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon is a high performance vehicle with a bad case of multiple personality disorder (but in a good way). It can be a family hauler, cross-country cruiser, track day hammer, drag racer and full-on luxury machine with the only trigger mechanism being the go-go pedal that lies beneath your right foot. It’s also Cadillac’s first real shot at building a wagon and by utilizing the CTS-V platform, they’ve been able to develop a machine that is not only a rip-roaring good time to drive, but one that covers all basis.
I recently wrote a full review on the CTS-V Coupe and at the end I stated:
The key with the CTS-V Coupe at the end of the day is how it makes you feel and for me, it made me feel like I didn’t want to give it back. It also made me feel proud that General Motors is capable of producing a car that can not only compete, but beat the competition at their own game. Way to go Cadillac, you’ve built a rock solid winner that I would recommend to anyone.
Up until now Mercedes, Audi and BMW were the front runners in the wagon game over here in the United States, but now, with the release of the CTS-V Sport Wagon, Cadillac is set not only to take on the Germans, but to blow them clean out of the water. Simply stated, the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon rules… nuff said.