Wagons Rule; Don't Make Us Tell You Again!
We sincerely thought that a few years ago, when the non-enthusiast public had its eureka moment and looked out into the driveway at the clumsy, gas-swilling, body-on-frame SUV that was used only to shuttle children to the Montessori school, the age of the station wagon would be dawning upon us at last.
What we hadn't anticipated was that so many of those folks driving Explo-Blazers and Expe-burbans would opt instead for one of the burgeoning number of crossovers — which are, in essence, large station wagons with a higher center of gravity and usually some pretense to ruggedness.
Why can't they learn to love the 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon instead?
An Experiment in Human Behavior
It is instructive, if not exactly scientifically sound, to compare the reactions to the 2010 Cadillac SRX crossover and the 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon.
We've tooled around in both of these sharply creased people and baggage carriers in the last month and the SRX is the one that received all the glances. The SRX is the one that while we sat in the driver seat at various stores and stops, perfect strangers would come over and mention how much they liked our car and ask what model year it was (that's the de facto question we typically get when someone is intrigued by a test car but doesn't really know what to ask about it).
Reaction to the 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon can best be summed up by this encounter. We were standing in the circle drive of the downtown Chicago hotel where we'd been staying for the last several days. Each day we'd valet-parked the Caddy. Now we need the key fob to begin our drive back to Detroit.
"Do you have the keys to the red Cadillac?" we ask a familiar valet.
"The what?" he says.
"The Cadillac. The red one," we say, pointing at the CTS Sport Wagon not 20 feet away.
"Uuuuhhhhh," he drones, while looking directly at the Sport Wagon through a furrowed brow. It's clear he either has no recollection of the vehicle he's looking at or he cannot reconcile the fact that a station wagon could be a Cadillac.
Eventually, we get the fob.
Now, we are not entirely sure how sentient this particular valet might have been. If we'd received any more reaction to the 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon from the general public, we'd have written off the valet's inability to remember our particular car as simple dunderheadedness. But we didn't. And we're puzzled and disappointed. Again.
The Wagon Train (Wreck)
Despite the fact that the CTS Sport Wagon is the superior of the two vehicles to drive and the better-looking of the two by a long shot, it is sure to play second fiddle in the U.S. to the SRX. And let's not forget that the CTS will accelerate quicker, stop in a shorter distance, weave through the slalom cones faster and return better fuel economy (18 mpg city/26 mpg highway for this 3.6-liter CTS wagon) than the SRX.
Ask Audi how difficult the wagon market is. This is the company that's made some of the handsomest wagons in the business for a couple of decades and its various Avants represent but a fraction of its sales of the equivalent sedans. And you can bet that the company's Q-badged crossovers are the hotter properties by far at Audi dealerships. And BMW, which has made a few really fine luxury wagons in its time, is talking about giving up on the 5 Series wagon in favor of its weird-to-the-bone 5 Series GT hatchback/humpback thing. Mercedes-Benz still sells its E-Class wagon here, but only in miniscule numbers and doesn't bother bringing in the C-Class wagon. Remember the way Volvo wagons used to rule the market? How many do you see now?
The CTS Sport Wagon
Oh, but the car. Yes, we plan on saying many things about this unjustly doomed car. The car is good.
First, we think the CTS Sport Wagon looks fantastic. We love the center crease of the tailgate. We love the little quasi-tailfins created by the peaked taillamps. We love the overhanging center high-mounted brake light. We even genuinely like the odd D-pillar that is thicker at the top than where it meets the body.
Also, it drives like any other CTS, which is a very good thing. And it looks fantastic.
Wagon Queen Family Truckster
Cadillac might have been slightly nervous that it would be perceived as stodgy for creating this, the company's first station wagon. Hence, the Sport Wagon descriptor that is this vehicle's official name. Also, there's the little matter of how those chiseled, sporty good looks impact the "wagon" portion of the equation. With a maximum 53.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded forward, the CTS Sport Wagon is not the most spacious on the market, even though the cargo floor has sassy-looking movable tie-down hooks and hides a handy-if-shallow bin under the floor. An Audi A6 Avant has a bit more than 10 cubes more max cargo space than the Caddy. (Incidentally, the Cadillac SRX also trails the Audi wagon for max cargo capacity, but only by about 4 cubic feet.)
We used the CTS Sport Wagon as our family truckster for a 650-mile road trip from Detroit to Chicago and back. And the cargo area, accessible through a power tailgate, somehow swallowed all the junk that must come along with two inveterate over-packers and two small children. This includes the world's most cumbersome two-child stroller; a portable DVD player and assorted cords/discs and nonsense; a huge loaf-shaped Tumi bag referred to as "The Beast" by our 4-year-old; a small, purple Disney Princess roller bag (for me); a leather duffle; an overstuffed laptop computer bag; the diaper bag/endless pit; and, you know, raisins and crackers and stuff. And it all fit under the bottom of the really very small rear window, so we didn't compromise the Sport Wagon's limited rear visibility. (Our loaded Sport Wagon also came with the optional rearview camera, though.)
This cargo hatch, by the way, is one of GM's new programmable units also offered by the SRX. You can easily set a maximum height for this standard liftgate to open so it won't be out of reach for a short person or so it doesn't hit the retracted door to your garage when you're parked inside.
Putting the Sport in Wagon
Cadillac made sure to give us as much of a sport experience as possible in this particular car (at least until the CTS-V Sport Wagon becomes available). Our loaded family hauler tops out at $54,635. And it carries the optional 304-horsepower, direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 instead of the base model's 270-hp, direct-injection 3.0-liter V6, an upgrade that will run you $1,200. This is a better deal than it might seem, since you get the extra horsepower and torque without any real sacrifice in fuel economy. Our ruby-red express also comes with the Performance package FE3 suspension, Nivomat load-leveling shocks and 19-inch wheels wearing Continental ContiSport Contact 3 summer performance tires.
This Sport setup comes only as a rear-driver. All other CTS wagons are available with either rear- or all-wheel drive, regardless of engine size or suspension tune. The only non-sporty aspect of our test vehicle is the absence of the optional manual transmission offered by the CTS sedan. Instead, every CTS Sport Wagon carries the same six-speed automatic. Turns out that if no Americans want luxury station wagons, then fewer than zero Americans want luxury station wagons with manual transmissions. You might as well be asking for manual windows and an AM-only radio.
The cheapest CTS Sport Wagon, a rear-wheel-drive platform with the 3.0-liter V6, starts at $40,655 (including destination). We have not driven either this lesser-engined CTS Sport Wagon or a CTS wagon with an example of the two comfort-oriented suspension options. But were we planning on using a Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon as our own full-time family cruiser, we would at least test-drive the FE2 suspension with the 18-inch wheels. The 19-inch Conti summers can get to humming and thumping a little more than is ideal for a family truckster.
Various Words, Numbers and Opinions
Every 2010 CTS of either the sedan or wagon persuasion gets additional acoustic insulation and special powertrain mounts to quell interior noise, not that we remember much noise needing to be quelled. But OK.
Otherwise, the interior of the 2010 CTS is the same high-quality, high-tech affair to which we became familiar over the course of our long-term test of a 2008 Cadillac CTS sedan. The ergonomics of this cabin are still first-rate. The touchscreen navigation system with its redundant hard buttons on the center stack still makes us wonder why other luxury carmakers bother with those big mouselike knobs on the center console to control information and entertainment functions.
There are only two items that prevent the 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon (or any CTS, really) from being a truly spectacular road-trip car. First, the edge of the swoopy center stack that digs ruthlessly into your right knee, and second, the standard seats that are a little short in the bottom cushion for taller drivers.
Maybe Cadillac should take the Recaro seats from the CTS-V sedan and offer them for the 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. In fact, maybe Cadillac should just offer a CTS-V Sport Wagon. All 11 of us would be very happy with that. We don't know how many of us could afford such a thing, but we know that if we could, we'd like ours with cloth seat upholstery, built-in child safety seats and a manual transmission. Surely there's a market for such a car, no?
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.