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Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon First Drive

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First Drive: 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Euro Dash: Who Needs a Luxury Crossover?
[source: Motor Trend]
August 16, 2009
By Todd Lassa

Photography by David Freers


2010-cadillac-CTS-sport-wagon-front-thre

If ever there were a car designed to test the marketing mettle of the New GM, this is it. In a sneak peek a few years back, Cadillac said the CTS Sport Wagon was designed to lead its assault on the European market, where BMW 5 Series Tourings and Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagons sell like luxury crossovers. Cadillac expected to sell just 4000 per year in the U.S., mostly to GM's own employees, like Bob Lutz, and the well-heeled enthusiast friends of automotive journalists.

Finances have since put the brakes on the European foray. No more diesel program. No more right-hand-drive CTS. The Sport Wagon has to sell here on its own merits, which are considerable.

Styling alone should make it a sales breakout. Cadillac has transformed perhaps the best-looking modern luxury sedan into the best-looking shooting brake. Its roof extends to a very fast D-pillar and power tailgate. The "finlike" taillamps are exaggerated into vertical light pipes that run nearly to the cargo roof rails. As with the CTS sedan, the Sport Wagon's tail ends in that signature Cadillac vee. It's not the most efficient use of station-wagon space. It's the sleek kind of styling that has defined the luxury wagons from BMW, Audi, and Alfa Romeo.

And unlike those nine-passenger Ford Country Squires and Buick Estate Wagons of the target market's youth, the CTS Sport Wagon's rear window doesn't provide an exemplary outward view. Modern wagons need rollover protection, so a thick rear header intrudes into the cargo area, making the optional nav system's rear camera screen quite helpful. Like the German competition, the CTS' cargo area is a nicely finished combo of sumptuous carpeting and a chrome cargo-management system.

Motivating 200 pounds more than the sedan, the optional 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6 provides plenty of power. It's hard to break the rear tires loose at launch, but the mid- to upper-rev ranges are strong. There's no reason to expect anything better than adequate power from the new 265-horsepower, 223 pound-foot 3.0-liter gas direct-injection V-6, which replaces the port-injected 3.6 as the base CTS engine. Both engines come standard with GM's six-speed automatic. The six-speed manual offered standard in the CTS sedan (which, by the way, has been redesignated Sport Sedan) is not available in the wagon.

Cadillac estimates a 0-to-60-mph time of 6.9 seconds for a RWD 3.6-liter Sport Wagon. That's 0.6-second more than our time for a 3.6-liter direct-injection sedan.

For the 2010 CTS lineup, all-wheel drive is an option with either engine. Generally, Cadillac ties equipment levels to the engine choice to create two price points. As with the old port-injection versus direct-injection 3.6-liter dichotomy, '10 CTSes with the new 3.0-liter will generally be moderately equipped while the 3.6-equipped models will more likely be full-boat.

The Sport Wagon benefits from updates and upgrades Cadillac issued for the '10 CTS sedan. The maker revised the powertrain mounting for better refinement and noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics and tweaked the chassis tuning for a slightly softer ride. A new 19-inch wheel-and-tire option offsets the softer suspension settings. The 19-inch summer tires on our tester added grip while mostly maintaining the ride quality, although the tires are rather noisy and create some bump-thump over metro Detroit's harsher roads. The 19-inch summer tire option is available with rear drive only. Cadillac will add an all-season tire option and make it available with AWD next year.

The summer 19s come only with the optional FE3 suspension package, sportiest of the three. The 3.0-liter comes with standard FE1 suspension tuning, and the FE2 package is standard with the 3.6-liter engine and optional on the 3.0-liter. Just like the sedan, the Sport Wagon's steering is precise and communicative, and the brakes feel positively German. This remains one of the best chassis packages in its class, which includes the 5 Series and E-Class, but at 3 Series/C-Class prices.

The Sport Wagon's base price of $40,485 compares with a $37,385 base for the 2010 3.0-liter sedan (our fully loaded wagon stickers for $54,635). The difference in base price includes the wagon's standard automatic transmission, its split-folding rear seat and power adjustable tailgate - you can set it to raise to various heights to avoid crunching a low garage roof or to avoid raising out of the reach of a short operator. Cadillac says $1000 of the $3100 price bump is a premium for the wagon body style.

Is it worth it? In its third model year, the Mark II Cadillac CTS sedan remains one of the great buys in its class. Choosing the wagon over the sedan is a question of personal taste and need for more luggage capacity. With the split rear-seat up, it has 25 cubic feet of cargo space, nearly double the sedan's 13 cubic feet. With the rear seats down, it's 3.0 feet shy, at 58 cubic feet, of the new-for-2010 SRX's maximum capacity of 61 cubic feet.

If you yearn for an even sportier CTS body style, the coupe version launches about a year from now in regular V-6 form and as a 556-horsepower, supercharged V-8 CTS-v, simultaneously. What about a CTS-v Sport Wagon? Cadillac hasn't decided, though GM certainly will build at least one, for Bob Lutz. Problem is a wagon body is inherently less stiff than a coupe or sedan, so additional suspension countermeasures may be necessary.

And there's the cost of building a very low-volume car. How many v versions would Cadillac build of a model that may sell as few as 4000 copies per year?

Cadillac brass have backed off that old prediction and say they hope the Sport Wagon might account for 15 percent of CTS sales. Based on last year, a poor year for the auto industry, that would be nearly 9000 units. It could be more only if the CTS Sport Wagon breaks through the station-wagon stigma and convinces enough buyers that, as a luxury model, it has more going for it than a luxury crossover SUV. Because as good as that new '10 Cadillac SRX is, we know which $50,000 five-seat cargo-carrier we'd pick. We'd choose the car.

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2010-cadillac-CTS-sport-wagon-side-1.jpg

2010-cadillac-CTS-sport-wagon-cargo-area

2010-cadillac-CTS-sport-wagon-cockpit.jp
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To SMK with love:

This remains one of the best chassis packages in its class, which includes the 5 Series and E-Class, but at 3 Series/C-Class prices.
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+1

+2.

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I have to be the only person who's always thought wagons were UGLY.

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I have to be the only person who's always thought wagons were UGLY.

Nope, I agree with you. The only one that semi good looking is the A4 wagon. I still prefer a coupe sedan, or even crossover to a wagon.

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+2.

+3

kinda surprised the N* isn't available for it... oh well. yes i know the 3.6 is practically on it's heels interns of performance.

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Nice car but now will they find 4000 buyers?

I saw one last winter and Liked it but the market in this country is small for a wagon and even smaller for a $50K wagon.

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Can i haz CTSw signature?

I wouldn't mind a CTS coupe signature.

Rob

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I like everything about the styling apart from the truckish front end. A CTS "V-Sport" would be ideal, IMO.

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Anything but a bloody sedan makes me smile.

Very glad to see a new wagon on the market.

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Anything but a bloody sedan makes me smile.

Very glad to see a new wagon on the market.

I think the new coupe will take a lot of the focus off this car. It's styling will make this look almost boring.

Who knows it many just work in reverse and get people to notice the wagon?

I have yet to see the coupe in person yet. I can't wait to see it. This car could make a real statment about Cadillac and their styling in the future.

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I don't think the coupe will hurt the wagon at all.

I'm also happy that GM is finally offering three bodystyles of the same car again.

It's an excellent practice that they need to return to.

Edited by Camino LS6
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I totally agree, Mr. Camino. Fewer models is a given with what's left of GM. With more bodystyles on each model, they would be returning to a winning formula that helped build GM from the 30's through the early 60's, before compacts and midsizers further fragmented the market.
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It's not like it's some unheard of concept. The BMW makes a coupe, convertibles, sedan, and wagon version of the 3-Series, so I see no reason why Cadillac can't do it, and so I'm glad they are.

The CTS Wagon is great for people put off by the new SRX. Since the old SRX was basically a wagon anyway, it basically fills the same spot...only it's much more sexy.

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It used to be S.O.P. for GM, DF.

Then they "forgot" about it for several decades.

It really is a no-brainer, more variety for less expense.

...and higher nameplate sales.

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I see what you're saying, Satty. I too, hold out hope a chihuahua will fit in the CTS wagon's cargo area.
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I see what you're saying, Satty. I too, hold out hope a chihuahua will fit in the CTS wagon's cargo area.

More than that...looks like more than enough space for my brood....Yorkie, Aussie, 2 Westies and a Silky.

R

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