Full 2012 Cadillac CTS Wagon Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012 the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon's 3.6-liter V6 gets 12 additional horsepower. Other changes include a slightly revised grille, active front head restraints, standard Bluetooth and new options that include automatic wipers and a heated steering wheel. A new Touring package adds special interior trim along with the items found in the carryover Performance packages.
Cadillac is grand, flashy and pretty much the epitome of American automotive luxury. As such, raise your hand if you ever thought you'd see the day when Cadillac would jump into that most European of luxury segments: the sport wagon. Yet, Cadillac has indeed done just that. And perhaps with a small amount of surprise, the 2012 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon faces off against its competitors from across the pond while adding an ample supply of flash and grandiosity to make it unmistakably American.
Like its CTS Sedan sibling, the Sport Wagon is bigger than its European rivals, which certainly seems appropriate for a Cadillac. This gives it an advantage in terms of interior space, but also makes it feel a bit bulkier to drive. Nevertheless, the CTS takes to corners with an agility and poise that no other Cadillac sedan in history could possibly match (let alone a wagon). For 2012, the CTS gets an upgraded 3.6-liter V6 that should give it a better shot against its lighter and usually quicker competitors.
Yet despite its performance and handling credentials, a Cadillac is still about luxury and comfort. To the first point, the CTS boasts one of the most stylish cabins in its class, with very nice materials to match. High-tech convenience and entertainment features abound, giving up nothing technologically to the guys across either pond. As for comfort, though, the ride is not very Cadillac-like with the sport-tuned suspension found on the CTS 3.6, and several of our editors have found the driver seat to be hard and oddly positioned.
Much of these pros and cons apply to the regular CTS Sedan, though. The Sport Wagon goes a step further by offering a larger and more versatile cargo area. In fact, the Sport Wagon is nearly as spacious as the Cadillac SRX crossover, along with a number of other small luxury SUVs. Essentially, you get all the style and luxury of the CTS sedan, but in a more useful package. That sounds like a win-win scenario to us.
Still, a similar scenario can be found with the Acura TSX wagon, Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series wagon. These are all strong competitors, though none can add "all-American panache" to the sport wagon virtues of agility, performance and versatility like the 2012 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon is a five-passenger midsize wagon available in four trim levels: 3.0 base, 3.0 Luxury, 3.6 Performance and 3.6 Premium. The high-performance CTS-V Wagon is reviewed separately, as are the CTS sedan and coupe.
The 3.0 base comes standard with 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, a power liftgate, heated mirrors, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, OnStar and a seven-speaker Bose sound system with a CD player and satellite radio. The 3.0 Luxury adds remote ignition, a rearview camera, automatic wipers, additional sound insulation, heated eight-way power front seats (with adjustable lumbar), leather upholstery, driver memory functions, a cargo cover, a pet net, interior accent lighting and a six-CD changer.
The optional 18-inch All-Season Tire Performance package adds 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension (dubbed FE2), xenon headlights and foglights. Upgraded brakes and a limited-slip differential are included with this package on cars with all-wheel drive.
The 3.6 Performance trim adds to the 3.0 baseequipment a more powerful engine, the All-Season Tire Performance package, a limited-slip differential, additional sound insulation, heated eight-way power front seats (with adjustable lumbar), leather upholstery, driver memory functions and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with digital music storage and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Luxury Level Two package adds the rest of the 3.0 Luxury's extra equipment, plus rear parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, a split-folding rear seat, a power-adjustable steering wheel, keyless ignition/entry and a cabin deodorizer.
The 3.6 Premium includes all the above equipment, but adds a panoramic sunroof (optional on all other trims), a heated steering wheel and a navigation system (optional on all but the base model) with a pop-up touchscreen interface, and real-time traffic and weather.
As its name suggests, the 19-inch Summer Tire Performance package available on both 3.6 models includes 19-inch wheels, summer tires, xenon headlights, a performance cooling system, a sportier suspension (dubbed FE3), upgraded brakes, a limited-slip differential and foglights. This equipment is the same regardless of whether the car is rear- or all-wheel drive.
The CTS Touring package available on the 3.0 Luxury and 3.6 Premium is similar to the performance tire packages but also includes a sport grille and special interior trim. Recaro front seats are also included for the 3.6 CTS Touring package.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon comes standard with a six-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional. The 3.0 models come with a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 270 hp and 223 pound-feet of torque. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive. It drops to 18/26/21 with all-wheel drive.
The 3.6 models get a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 318 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Last year's 3.6-liter V6 brought the CTS from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds, so the more powerful 2012 edition should be quicker by a tenth or two. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18/26/21 regardless of drivetrain.
The CTS's standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, front active head restraints, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and GM's OnStar emergency communications system.
In government crash tests, the CTS received the best possible rating of five stars in the overall, frontal and side crash categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the sedan was awarded the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, the 3.6 Sport Wagon with FE2 suspension and summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in a solid 118 feet. All-season tires would theoretically take longer to stop.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2012 Cadillac CTS Wagon features a pleasing angular theme to match its exterior edginess. Soft-touch materials are plentiful, accented by tasteful wood trim. The optional navigation system emerges from the top of the dash and retracts almost fully, leaving a small section visible as a touchscreen display for the audio system -- an ingenious and elegant alternative solution to having a separate control panel.
Unfortunately, the interior also comes with its fair share of flaws. Many find the driving position awkward because of slightly offset pedals, a low-mounted seat and compromised knee room due to the sweeping center stack. Overall comfort is also hampered by flat and stiff seatbacks. Overall interior room, however, is quite good and better than most competing models, but rear-seat access can be a bit tricky due to a low rear roof line. Outward visibility to the rear is poor.
Cargo capacity is obviously important with a wagon, and the CTS provides a generous 25 cubic feet with the rear seats raised and 58 cubic feet with them lowered. This is more than the Audi A4 Avant, but a little less than the BMW 3 Series wagon.
On the road, the 2012 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon is very stable and copes well with quick directional changes. The steering is nicely weighted and precise. Overall, this Cadillac offers an excellent ride and handling balance that gives European cars a run for their money, especially when equipped with the sport-tuned suspension.
That said, the CTS's size and weight makes it feel less nimble than smaller competitors like the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series wagon. And those looking for a more traditional Cadillac ride may find the optional sport suspensions a bit too firm.
Though the 3.0-liter V6 is a competent base-level engine, keep in mind that its fuel economy is no better than that of the 318-hp 3.6-liter V6, and the latter's power delivery is far more authoritative. And since the CTS weighs more than rival sport wagons, the more powerful engine is a worthy upgrade if you can swing the higher payment.