I grew up in a wagon. My mom had an '85 Volvo 240 DL when I was little - yes, that shows you just how old I am, or alternately, just how old I'm not - and one of my first memories involves staring out a side window and wondering why in blue blazes my parents couldn't have bought something cool. The Volvo was long. It was slow. It was this horribly dull navy blue that reminded me of old sweaters, and while it was a dignified, stately sort of car, it still made me think of grandmothers and bad weather.
When you're small, cool is all that matters, and for the longest time, wagons were anything but. But as I stood in a roped-off tent in Birmingham, Michigan, and stared at the back end of Cadillac's CTS Sport Wagon, one question crossed my mind: What happened to all the dorky?
These days, if you're shopping for a station wagon, you'd have to try pretty hard to find something even remotely lame and nerdy. Boatlike family bores have all but disappeared from the market, pushed out by the decade-old SUV craze and declining sales. In their place is a laundry list of cars like the BMW 328xi, the Mercedes-Benz E-class, and the Dodge Magnum, wagons that offer carlike performance and economy paired with SUV practicality.
And so we have Cadillac's CTS Sport Wagon, the latest sedan-based hauler to be offered on our shores. If you go strictly by the numbers, a CTS wagon makes sense; Cadillac sells more CTS sedans than any other model, and the CTS four-door has helped the GM division make inroads (however small) into the European market. The CTS's success both here and abroad makes sense; unlike past GM efforts, Cadillac's mid-size sedan is attractive, comfortable, sporting, and thoroughly modern, if a tad ostentatious.
The CTS Sport Wagon, then, was seen as the next logical step (a coupe version of the car was unveiled at the 2008 Detroit show). Cadillac executives see station wagons as the fuel-economy-driven middle ground between cars and SUVs, and they view the CTS wagon as the Next Great Leap toward the marque's global success. To be frank, it's hard not to agree with them; the marque's current rest-of-the-world offerings (including the fairly dull BLS sedan and wagon) haven't been selling too well, and it's not hard to understand why Europeans view Cadillac as something of a joke.