It’s not often that a group of station wagon drivers is asked to quiet down at a track. But that’s exactly what happened when Cadillac rented out Laguna Seca to allow members of the press a chance to experience the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon without a speed limit. It turns out Laguna Seca has a 92 dB sound limit most of the time and our 556-hp station wagons were a few dB over the limit at full throttle leaving turn five. To maximize our time on the track all we had to do was resist the urge to floor the car between turns five and six, but it’s difficult to listen to reason in a car like this.
The engineers and management at Cadillac are incredibly proud of the CTS-V Sport Wagon. This is exactly the type of product that shows GM’s commitment to the Cadillac brand and returning it to glory. Instead of trying to find ways to bring a CTS-V Sport Wagon to market at low cost, the engineers found solutions to the inherent problems that arise from turning a sedan into a wagon -- namely the lack of rigidity that comes with an open cargo area. Cadillac went so far as to cut holes at the top of the shock towers to allow a wagon-specific brace to be added to the rear suspension so the spectacular Magnetic Ride Control system could be used. New GM is paying a lot more attention to these little details because these little details are exactly the sort of things luxury buyers use to justify the huge sticker prices premium cars command.
Cadillac uses the same 6.2-liter LSA V-8 in each configuration of CTS-V and all three offer 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque that is routed to the rear wheels via a six-speed transmission. Perhaps the more impressive part is buyers can choose an automatic or manual transmission for any bodystyle. Yes, a 556-hp station wagon with a six-speed manual transmission is being built by an automaker outside of Germany! Nobody at Cadillac was willing to make a guess on the take rate of the manual CTS-V Sport Wagon, but we’re positive these vehicles will become cult classics and have surprising demand on the used market.
As one would expect, the supercharged, overhead valve V-8 produces as much torque as you’d ever want right off idle and delivers an incredible amount of power at virtually any speed. Those who select a manual transmission could loaf around in top gear at 25 mph and not get any complaints from the engine. Keep the shifter in an appropriate gear and odds are you’ll run out of road (or meet an unhappy police officer) before you need fourth gear. It’s amazing how smooth this high performance powertrain is and the exhaust note is equally civilized unless the accelerator is mashed. One could easily drive this car for several hundred miles at a time without becoming annoyed by the resonance so many high performance cars have at legal highway speeds.
Though the powertrain is mighty impressive, the real star of the CTS-V show is the Magnetic Ride Control suspension. Want to go for a relaxed Sunday drive in your V? Magnetic Ride Control keeps the experience as smooth as possible and you can always change over to Sport mode when it’s time to attack a canyon road or do a few laps at the track. We were supremely comfortable over the roads around Laguna Seca and noticed almost no body roll during our laps on the track, either. Past experiences with CTS-V products on Michigan’s broken roads were also impressively comfortable -- even with the 19-inch wheels and minimal sidewalls on the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires.
The interior of the CTS-V Sport Wagon is exactly what you’d expect in a current CTS. The pop-up navigation unit/rearview camera display is there along with a custom Bose sound system that’s been specifically designed for the wagon’s larger interior volume. We still love the heated and cooled Recaro bucket seats despite their $3400 cost. The other interior option worth its asking price is the sueded steering wheel and shift knob, which really feel luxurious and only add $300 to the tab. A wood trim option is available for $600, but we think the interior looks fine without it.
So far we’ve spent a lot of time explaining how the CTS-V Sport Wagon is just as capable as every other CTS-V. The one clear advantage a CTS-V Sport Wagon offers is cargo space. A maximum of 58 cubic feet of cargo space can be had in the wagon compared with 14 cubic feet in the sedan and a meager 10.5 cubic feet in the coupe. Even with the rear seat upright, the wagon will swallow 25 cubic feet of cargo -- still more than a sedan and coupe combined. Finally, an answer to the onslaught of crossovers and SUVs we’ve come to expect from domestic automakers. Cadillac has one of the few performance vehicles that can suit the needs of an entire family without giving up the driving experience an enthusiast craves.
Admittedly, the CTS-V Sport Wagon is taking Cadillac into uncharted waters. On one hand, wagons don’t sell in America and luxury wagons appeal to a very specific niche customer. On the other hand, high-performance wagons are almost impossible to find and the V Sport Wagon just might attract a rather interesting mix of folks who would have otherwise never walked into a Cadillac showroom. The CTS-V Sport Wagon is just making its way into dealerships now and dealers experienced a surprising amount of interest in the car before it went into production. Now it’s time to see if those people who have begged for the V Wagon for the last year or so will actually show up at dealers with a down payment.