V-8 Cadillac: Stupendous hauler in more than one sense

The powerful Cadillac CTS-V gets a dramatic cinematic backdrop on Highway 1 near Big Sur, in Northern California.
The powerful Cadillac CTS-V gets a dramatic cinematic backdrop on Highway 1 near Big Sur, in Northern California.
Posted: April 17, 2011

When was the last time driving a station wagon qualified as the next best thing to sex?

Personally, I never drove a wagon that took me to that extraordinary plateau - until I got behind the wheel of the freshly coined Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon.

As it turned out, the CTS-V wasn't just the most exciting wagon I've driven. It was among the most exciting automobiles I've ever operated, a pantheon that includes the Corvette ZR-1 and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. With 556 horsepower, it is something only hinted at in the Book of Revelation. (Women love it when I wax biblical.)

The CTS-V wagon is really two vehicles: a sports car and a luxurious beast of burden. As such, it's a marvelous, midsize mixture of fun and practicality, a machine you can use to carry home 58 cubic feet of Lowe's loot, or turn a rural twisty into the Mulsanne S at Le Mans.

Powerful, beautifully balanced, with steering and suspension systems that know how to take orders, it feels like a high-performance sporting machine and has the test scores to prove it. A supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8, buttoned to a slick, six-speed manual gearbox in the test car, vaults the wagon from zero to 60 in a follicle over four seconds. In an additional 5.5 seconds you're doing 100. Keep squeezing the pedal and Cadillac says you'll top out at 190 miles an hour. Is that fast? Does Hef like blondes with implants?

Braking is just as stunning as the acceleration. Brembo disc brakes the size of small Ferris wheels take the CTS-V from 60 to zero in a reported 107 feet. That's superb stopping power.

The rear-drive CTS-V's braking, like its acceleration and excellent grip in the corners, is aided and abetted by 19-inch performance rubber (Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s) with tread widths that evoke the wide Missouri.

The CTS-V wagon is the latest iteration of a distinctively styled midsize car that began life early in the millennium as the CTS, a V-6-powered, entry-level luxury sedan. The CTS sedan was later joined by the V-8 motivated CTS-V. When the CTS coupe and wagon models appeared this year, they were also made available as CTS-Vs.

(Making a wagon from a sedan isn't quite as simple as fashioning different sheet-metal aft. A wagon goes without - are you ready for this? - the rear package shelf found in a sedan and coupe. That shelf structure plays a key role in the rigidity of the back end of the car, largely by tying together the two rear shock towers. As a consequence, the designers had to install reinforcements under the car to compensate. The result is a car 110 pounds heavier than the coupe. Another result is something I never thought I'd say: The wagon model is prettier than the coupe.)

For 2011, the CTS wagon starts at $38,265 with the base 3-liter, 270 horse V-6. The CTS with the direct injection, 3.6-liter, 304-horse V-6 is a bit more, and the CTS-V wagon, like the other "V" models, starts at $62,165. That's a lot of change, but when you consider what this car can do, how handsome and truly luxurious it is, and how collectible I'm betting my first-born it will become, that isn't an unreasonable price.

And it is luxurious. The conspiracy of leather Recaro seats and exotic veneers found inside the tester were probably as close as the domestics have come to Jaguar interior ambience.

And it is fun. Recently, I was transporting my grandchildren, Zach, 11, and Maggie, 9, from their home in Chadds Ford and couldn't resist jumping on the CTS-V at a stop sign. It was just a few seconds, but enough to push us back in our seats. We all got a rise out of this, being about the same age emotionally. (Please don't tell their mother.)

I know some will rush to their laptops to electronically lacerate me for waxing ecstatic about a car with such politically incorrect EPA mileage ratings (14 city and 19 highway). But, hey, look at all the five-gallon gas cans this guy can carry.


2011 Cadillac CTS-V

Sport Wagon

Base price: $62,165.

As tested: $68,590.

Standard equipment: 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8, six-speed manual transmission (also available with an automatic

at no extra cost), and an amenity litany that amounts to: You name it, we got it.

Options: Recaro seats,

a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax, sapele veneer trim, and

a suede steering wheel

and shifter.

Fuel economy: 14 city,

19 highway.

Engine performance: Automotive Armegeddon.

Handling: Poised.

Styling: Top shelf.

Warranty: four years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper.

The Ben Key: Four Bens, excellent; Three Bens, good; Two Bens, fair; One Ben, poor.

Contact columnist Al Haas

at alhaasauto@aol.com.


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