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.
In making the transformation to wagon form, the CTS‘s bodywork has been revised from the firewall back. The sedan’s 113.4-inch wheelbase remains, as does its basic interior layout and powertrain options, but the wagon is three tenths of an inch shorter. A 3.0-liter, 260-hp V-6 or a 3.6-liter, 304-hp V-6 are the only powerplants, coupled to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, but a 2.9-liter, 250-hp turbo-diesel six is also in the cards for Europe and Asia. (The party line from GM is that Cadillac “reserves the right to bring it here, dependent on sales, though the expense of certification means that it’s not likely.”) All-wheel-drive will be available as an option, and new 19-inch wheels are standard. Legroom is similar to that of the sedan, and a new panoramic rear sunroof is available as an option.
The most interesting part about the CTS Sport Wagon, however, is the very thing that differentiates it from the sedan: the rear hatch. The Sport Wagon’s power rear liftgate forms a boattail-like V shape, capping the back end of the car with a decidedly artistic and elegant finish. The glass is curved as well. Cool fin-shaped taillamps rise up to the roof, culminating in sheet-metal peaks that also serve as the terminus for the factory roof-rack setup (it’s buried in the roof’s edges). Twenty-five cubic feet of storage is available behind the rear seat, and while the storage area itself is relatively shallow, the rear seats fold, essentially doubling cargo space.
The CTS wagon is scheduled to go into production towards the end of the first quarter of 2009, arriving in dealers somewhere in the middle of 2009. Cadillac predicts that roughly one out of every twenty CTSes sold will be a Sport Wagon, but something tells me that that number might be a little bit higher. The CTS wagon is, after all, cool. And thank God for that.
2010 Sport Wagon
PRICE: $37,500-$42,500 (est.)
ENGINE: 3.0L, 260-hp V-6; 3.6L, 304-hp V-6
DRIVE: Rear- or all-wheel