Could this be the greatest sports wagon of all time? Quite possibly.
Cadillac surprised the whole automotive world when they announced that they would build a wagon version of their hot euro fighter, the CTS-V. Even more surprising was a little while later when they actually followed through and built the thing. Cadillac might only sell a few hundred of these per year, but they are the all-time king of American station wagons. This is a wagon with a supercharged V8 and an available twin-disc six-speed manual transmission.
It's likely that nobody who ever sat in the back seat of a Country Squire ever would have dreamed they'd see a station wagon like this one. Cadillac changed as little as possible between the CTS-V sedan, coupe and wagon, and even prices them all the same. Little tweaks to the body are basically the only real differences between the three, and this is in no way at all a bad thing. The engine is GM's LSA 6.2-liter V8, a relative of the LS9 found in the C6 Corvette ZR1, although there are a number of significant differences. Bolted to this is an Eaton roots-type supercharger, displacing 1.9-liters.
The result is 556 horsepower; all sent through the rear wheels by way of either an automatic or manual transmission, both with six speeds. What is interesting to note about this engine is that, unlike any of the vehicles which the CTS-V competes with in any form, the LSA uses pushrods, while basically all of the rest use a DOHC setup. All of this power produces some pretty incredible numbers, 0-60 in 3.9 or 4.1 seconds (depending on the transmission) and it can tackle the quarter mile in 12.0 seconds.
Cadillac is no stranger to motorsports, but the CTS-V is one of only a small number of their road cars to regularly see a race track in the company's history, although it's true that it generally isn't the wagon form of the CTS-V which sees the track. It briefly held the Nurburgring record for a production sedan with factory tires, before it was broken by a Porsche Panamera Turbo. To be fair, the Panamera Turbo is a much more expensive vehicle, and so are the other European vehicles which the CTS-V competes with more directly. The CTS-V is one of the more remarkable recent success stories to come out of Detroit (although technically it's built in Lancing).
American luxury car brands have had difficulty competing with European brands ever since the Eighties. Their attempts to take sales away from the Germans have resulted in some really terrible cars, but Cadillac nailed it with the CTS-V. In retrospect, it seems obvious that horsepower would win over the public, but it did take Cadillac a while to realize this. Tests and reviews from major publications like Motor Trend and Car and Driver have generally agreed that the CTS-V is competitive with the European cars in its segment. It's not far out ahead, but neither is behind the rest of the pack, although it did make Car and Driver's 10 Best list for 2009.
It would be something of a stretch to call the CTS-V cheap, but you will notice a price difference between it and the BMW M5 or the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. Well, that's putting it mildly, the difference in the base price comes to about $30,000. The competing cars might have a gadget or two here or there on the Caddy, but it would be very difficult to explain the enormous price difference to anyone who didn't understand the weight of the German badges. My grandmother had a Cadillac, and I wouldn't be much surprised if yours did too.
Those were the days when Cadillac was a brand for old people, and as their clientele died off, it was starting to look as though Cadillac might end up going out with them. In fairness to Cadillac, it hasn't been just the CTS-V which is helping them turn around their image, but it is certainly leading this U-turn. With the CTS-V Sport Wagon, Cadillac entered into some seriously uncharted territory for them. It is not a brand which is known for super wagons, but it still somehow works. If you had told my grandmother back in 1985 that the same company which made her land yacht would one day make a 556-horsepower station wagon, she would have never believed you.
But we applaud Cadillac for the decision nonetheless; it was a bold decision, even if they will be keeping production numbers low. The CTS-V Sport Wagon is the sort of vehicle which perhaps never really needed to be made, but we're extremely grateful that it was anyway. Next up will hopefully be a production version of the Ciel convertible sedan concept, another bold decision which would ensure that we never again thought of Cadillac as an old people's brand.