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.