Cadillac’s CTS wagon takes design to the very edge
Vail Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
A year and a half ago, I was evidently one of only a couple of North American journalists who did not consider the new Cadillac CTS to be the finest and most cutting-edge automobile ever produced in the history of the world.
One of General Motor’s media staffers subsequently noted that she’d read my review, and, while Bob Lutz himself did not come to my house to slap me, I sure got the impression that I’d hurt their feelings. I am sorry they felt this way.
So I tried to keep a more open mind when the newest rendition of the CTS finally arrived a few weeks ago, the extremely “style-forward” CTS wagon.
The media has had a field day with the hyper-angular wagon and its truly distinctive looks. I think I can rather charitably say that CTS’s family truckster variation is very much in keeping with Cadillac’s edgy design philosophy.
And while the wagon certainly looks more like a space shuttle than any vehicle Cadillac has ever produced before, it’s kind of aggressively cool looking, especially with those gigantic, bumper-to-roof, Batman-styled brake lamps and its chunky overall look.
The conversion to the wagon motif adds a readily accessible 25 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, with a healthy 58 square feet with those dropped; the power liftgate made for easy access and the split, folding rear seats allowed simple loading of ski equipment (there’s also a small pass-thru gate).
The CTS’s basic ride and interior accoutrements remain mostly unchanged and those still give me mixed feelings, especially as the vehicle rather boisterously attempts to keep company with refined European sleds such as the BMW 5-series wagon and the Audi A6 Avant.
Granted, it’s pretty powerful, with an optional 3.6-liter, direct-injection V6 providing 304 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.
Those making their way through the High Country would definitely be advised to think about the all wheel drive version as the rear-drive machine I tested (tricked out with enormous 19-inch, Michelin Pilot summer-only tires) was in no way an appropriate snow machine. With proper tires, I suspect the RWD model would do fine; AWD seems like an even safer choice.
And despite the substantive width of those high-performance summer tires, on dry pavement, the driving character I experienced on the standard sedan remains the same: It just doesn’t have the same intuitive, earth-hugging feel as a European car. Steering is impressively responsive but feels a little light; the performance-issue brakes do their job but the whole ride is still definitely more smooth and sedate than super-sporty. A six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddles also offered good speed control on long declines, although the paddles only work when the standard shifter on the center console is clicked into manual mode.
On the inside, it’s pretty and very futuristic, like the regular CTS, with impressive instrument displays and a cool, two-mode, pop-up, touchscreen navigation and entertainment display. You can upgrade to “Sapele Pommele” wood accents to further accentuate the leather-heavy interior; there’s a cunning mixture of design elements and interesting vertically oriented air vents to round out that whole forward-looking appeal (and, for the record, I still like the small, individualized seat and climate temperature control screens, which are easy to use).
Seating, although heated and/or ventilated, still didn’t appeal to me; Cadillac’s thrones seem flat and unbolstered to me, but I take it there’s a legion of Cadillac fans who like that.
So, again, until the 552-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V shows up to knock my socks off (and, at this rate, I suspect I’ll be off of GM’s Christmas card list soon, anyhow, so I’m not holding my breath for a ride), I offer the CTS wagon with my own observations intact.
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