Now that General Motors is back from the brink, Cadillac must roll up its monogrammed sleeves to move more semiprecious metal. Toward that end, the new SRX gets the brand’s first turbo engine, the stunning CTS coupe is scheduled to arrive next year, and two new sedans bracketing today’s CTS are due in 2011. But the brightest ray of postapocalyptic hope is the CTS Sport Wagon: the first U.S.-factory-built wagon in Cadillac’s 107-year history.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the new CTS wagon is a triumph of form over function. To load four-by-eight-foot sheets of plywood in the cargo hold, you’ll need a saw. Spoiling the luscious rump with a trailer hitch would constitute a mortal sin. The neatly integrated roof rails are not configured for mattress hauling.
This wagon is engineered to haul ass. Like the CTS sedan, its body structure is Hillary Clinton stiff, its steering is meaty enough to satisfy man-size appetites, and its direct-injection DOHC V-6 engines are geared for go. Let the ladies ride high in their Escalades and SRXs, this wagon is crouched and ready to prowl around with Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes-Benzes of the long-roof persuasion.
The CTS’s stylish backpack adds 200 pounds and about an inch in height but nothing to overall length. Cadillac offers two V-6 engines (3.0 liters and 270 hp or 3.6 liters and 304 hp) and rear- or all-wheel drive. Regrettably, no manual transmission is available, nor is there a near-term plan to bolt the CTS-V‘s 556-hp supercharged V-8 under the wagon’s hood. (Rumors that Bob Lutz negotiated a one-off CTS-V Sport Wagon as part of his unretirement compensation package have not been confirmed by government watchdogs.)
The Sport Wagon’s stern is as clever as it is attractive. Seatback releases are accessible from both the passenger compartment and the cargo hold.
Dropping the backrests to the level position boosts cargo capacity from 25.0 to 58.0 cubic feet. Two floor rails are fitted with four sliding tie-down anchors. A pullout shade conceals valuables, and a folding floor panel can be engaged in two sets of notches to partition off groceries. Small basement and sub-basement compartments are provided, plus there’s a rubber mat to minimize the cleanup hassle when potted nasturtiums must be transported. The power tailgate can be programmed to stop partially open in height-challenged garages.
The best news is that the CTS Sport Wagon turns mundane chores into high-speed pursuits. Engaging the six-speed automatic’s manual mode allows the driver to command snappy up- and downshifts with buttons mounted on the back side of the steering-wheel spokes. Our test car was fitted with the must-have FE3 suspension, which swaps a plush ride for taut body control and supple wheel action. The turn-in is crisp, and list angles are kept in check by stout antiroll bars. Steering feedback is the best you’ll find in any GM product, the Camaro and Corvette included. Y-speed-rated summer tires mounted to nineteen-inch polished-aluminum wheels provide a lively combination of grip and at-the-limit agility.
What’s not to like? The outboard corners of the instrument panel and the aggressively gusseted front door openings are impediments to easy entry and exit. Electrically activated latches impose a momentary delay following every yank of any door handle. The rearview mirror is half full of D-pillars, headrests, and the rear wiper.
Thus far, Volvo is unique in convincing a significant number of Americans that wagons offer an excellent combination of driving and hauling attributes. As the current downsizing movement gains momentum, that might change. The Sport Wagon could be the ideal product at just the right time to become the next cool thing. Since those of us who pay taxes own controlling interest in the New GM, it’s in our interests for Cadillac to resume its luxury-class swagger as soon as possible.
On Sale: Now
Price: $40,435/$54,635 (base 3.0L/as tested)
Engine: 3.6L V-6, 304 hp, 273 lb-ft
The T badge on the 2010 SRX‘s tailgate announces the arrival of Cadillac‘s first-ever turbocharged gasoline engine. Packing 300 hp and 32 percent more torque than the normally aspirated 3.0-liter base engine, the new 2.8-liter V-6 is armed with variable valve timing, a twin-scroll turbo generating 10.5 psi of boost, and an air-to-air intercooler. Unlike other new turbo engines, fuel is delivered to the intake ports instead of the combustion chambers. Working amiably with its six-speed automatic transmission, the 2.8T demonstrates lag-free, diesel-like urge with a torque curve that’s dead flat from 2000 to 5000 rpm. But unlike oil burners, the revs climb enthusiastically to 6200 rpm. Mileage estimates are 16/23 mpg, a 1-mpg loss in the city over 3.0-liter SRXs. While this power escalation is welcome, the 2.8T’s claimed 7.5-second 0-to-60-mph acceleration still lags behind the more sporting crossovers offered by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.