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2010 Cadillac CTS Premium Sport Wagon

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2010 Cadillac CTS Premium Sport Wagon

Wagons get no respect, at least in the U. S. Here, the traditional based-on-a-sedan wagon has become a tiny market niche. Perhaps some blame, from a car enthusiast's viewpoint, could be placed on Detroit land yachts made from the 1950s through the 1970s, the heyday of the "full-size" wagon. (and yes, a relict few soldiered on to the 90s.) With their large size, soft suspensions, and numb steering, any "driving" experience was more than vaguely nautical.

On the plus side, the extra room was useful. But that "extra room" attribute first moved to minivans in the 80s, then SUVs in the 90s, and finally crossovers in the last few years. In most respects, and especially regarding how they are actually used, all of those vehicles are merely wagons that aren't called wagons. Americans love wagons - as long as they aren't called wagons.

Europe is different. High fuel prices, crowded roads and cities, and regulations make large vehicles prohibitively expensive to owen and drive. Wagons, mid-sized and smaller, never went away. And most European sports-luxury sedan makers have wagon versions of their performance sedans. A high-performance wagon may be oxymoronic to the average American auto buyer, but there are people in Europe, and even the U.S., to whom it is a wonderful idea.

Why? Versatility. One car that can carry the occasional out-sized load, or perhaps a bicycle or sports equipment, yet is also engaging to drive. With no compromise, meaning a negligible impact on the acceleration, braking, and cornering characteristics that make a car enjoyable. Minivans and SUVs, by their very nature, don't work here. Nor will a high crossover, really, as the extra height and clearance that make it a crossover (instead of "merely" a wagon) will work against it. Up to now, sports-luxury wagons have all been European imports. The CTS is Cadillac's entry in the import-dominated sports-luxury class, and in its various guises compares well with anything from Europe or Asia. The CTS line is growing, with the debut this year of the wagon and coming introduction, for model year 2011, of a coupe.

The CTS wagon shares sheetmetal with the sedan from the windshield forward, and is a contemporary Cadillac interpretation of the wagon theme from the roof back. With its low proportions, Cadillac's angular styling works especially well on the wagon. As in the sedan, two V6 engines are offered, a 3.0-liter with 270 horsepower or a 3.6 with 304 horses -- both on unleaded regular, and both driving the rear wheels (or optionally all four wheels) through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Why buy a CTS Wagon instead of an SRX crossover? Chalk and cheese in most respects - the SRX is a fine example of luxury front-wheel drive crossover; the CTS Wagon is a rear-wheel drive vehicle with a lower center of gravity and a far more sport-oriented character. I've just spent a week with a top-of-the-line 3.6 Premium with the "Summer Tire Performance" option package, which further emphasizes the CTS's performance side with a firmer suspension tuning, 19-inch wheels and low-profile sports tires, and upgraded braking and cooling systems and ABS and transmission control software. There is no reduction of its luxury nature, as the suspension is still supple enough for all-day comfort, and with double the cargo space of the sedan with the rear seat in place and even more with it down, the wagon has plenty of passenger/stuff versatility -- and it's still a sports-luxury sedan at heart. It's not the Griswold Family Wagon...

APPEARANCE: A few years back, Cadillac developed its own, very distinctive, look. A neo-Cubist mix of angles and gently-curved planes that owes more to Lockheed than anything automotive, it instantly distinguishes a Cadillac from anything else on the road. Long-time Cadillac styling cues including a large, chrome-trimmed egg-crate grille, vertically-stacked headlights and thin, vertical taillights, and, yes, vestigial tail fins (here suggested by the contour of the taillights) are incorporated. The CTS Wagon shares front bodywork with the sedan, with a slightly-tapering near-full length roofline and noticeably vee-shaped tailgate panel. Large wheels and tires fill the moderately flared wheelarches. "Aero kit" side sills and extensions to the lower part of the rear fascia visually lower the already low car. The small chromed bars atop the edges of the roof look more like aero management tools, but are bases for a roof rack system.

COMFORT: Inside, the CTS Wagon is identical to the sedan in passenger accommodation -- no complaints there! -- with the advantage of considerably more storage area, and even more with the 60/40 rear seatback folded. At the 3.6 Premium level, pretty much every comfort and convenience expected in a contemporary luxury car is standard except for an optional rear-seat entertainment system. The driver and front passenger get power-adjustable, heated and cooled, leather-faced buckets, and the driver further benefits from a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with a wood and leather rim and cruise and auxiliary audio controls. The instrument panel design is first-rate, with bright backlit gauges shielded from glare by a semi-floating hood, a useful information display inset in the speedometer, and sapele pommele wood trim. A full complement of cabin electronics is standard, meaning Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system with a simple modified touch-screen interface, and a good Bose audio system with AM/FM/CD/auxiliary jack and USB compatibility. A full-length moonroof adds an airy feeling, and upward visibility. Rear seat room is very good for two; a high center tunnel and relatively narrow width mean the center position is for small people and short distances, as with most cars today. Cadillac has made maximum use of the cargo area with a track system with movable tie-down anchors, net to take advantage of that, and shade to hide items from prying eyes. As with many cars today, the spare tire has been replaced by a fix-a-flat kit. And subwoofer.

SAFETY: A comprehensive set of safety features is found in the CTS Wagon, with front, front side, and full-length side curtain airbags, a strong, rigid body structure helping passive safety, and large, ventilated antilock disc brakes (with twin-piston front calipers) and the StabiliTrak electronic stability enhancement system for active safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Luxury trumps sport in the CTS's suspension tuning, even with the "sport" tuning. But note that that means a European-style luxury tuning, which could be better called "sport touring". It is not your grandfather's Fleetwood or De Ville. CTS drivers are unlikely to take their cars to the track, but can enjoy a quick pace on the scenic route in comfort and safety. The 245/45 ZR19 tires on alloy wheels are heavy and that unsprung weight does make for a little thumpiness over bumps, but they stick very well indeed. Well, maybe not in snow, as they are not m+s rated.

PERFORMANCE: At around 4200 lbs, the RWD CTS Wagon is no lightweight. All that luxury equipment adds weight... but with 304 horsepower (at 6400 rpm) and 273 lb-ft of torque (at 5200 rpm), the aluminum alloy, twincam 3.6-liter V6 is strong enough for any street-legal task. Direct fuel injection allows higher compression, for increased power and efficiency -- and use of regular unleaded. Variable cam phasing further improves the torque spread and decreases emissions. A six-speed automatic transmission helps both acceleration and fuel economy, with overdrive fifth and sixth gears. With the sport package, its shift mapping is modified a bit for better performance at the expense of some smoothness, some times. "Drive" mode works well for city traffic, while "Sport" delays shifting for more power and performance, and shifts more assertively. There's more than adequate power at the lower rpms favored for fuel economy by the transmission, but if maximum performance is desired, manual shifting, via rocker switches on the rear of the steering wheel spokes, is the way to go. That does, however, take its toll on fuel economy. EPA estimates are 18/26. I got 19 for the week, attributable to a heavy left foot and the 1800 miles on the car.

CONCLUSIONS: Cadillac does a masterful job on the luxury sport wagon with its new CTS Wagon.

2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon

Base Price			$ 51,720
Price As Tested			$ 54,635
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dohc 24-valve V6 with
				 variable cam phasing and
				 direct fuel injection
Engine Size			3.6 liters / 217 cu. in.
Horsepower			304 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			273 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		113.4 in. / 191.3 in.
Curb Weight			4200 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.8
Fuel Capacity			18 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87-octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				P245/45ZR19 98Y ContiSport Contact
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around,
				 twin-piston front calipers
				  ABS, TCS, StabiliTrak standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent short-and-long arm /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 26 / 19
0 to 60 mph				7.0  sec
Trailer towing capacity		1000 lbs.


19" Summer Tire Performance Package - includes:
  19-inch polished aluminum wheels with summer-only
  performance tires, sport-tuned suspension, steering-wheel
  mounted shift controls, performance brakes and cooling
  system						$ 2,090
Destination Charge					$   825