Short Take: Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

Cadillac CTS Sport / Reviews / Short Take: Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

When the national dalliance with SUVs seemed to put the entire country in a knobby-tired trance, we muttered to ourselves: Why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good wagon by giving it a high center of gravity? The public responded to our grousing by clogging the roads with Ford Explorers and their ilk.

For the most part, we like wagons: They don't sit high; they handle and perform like the cars upon which they're based; and they can haul more stuff than sedans. But for some reason, wagons have left a bad taste in the mouths of American drivers. Hearing the word triggers a flashback of some horrific family vacation or the long arm of daddy unleashing a flurry of slaps rearward from the front seat.

These days, the first thing automakers do is dump the w-word, replacing it with exciting, foreign-sounding names such as Avant, Touring, Estate, or Sport Tourer. But old-school Cadillac has gone and stuck the dreaded word right in the name of the new CTS Sport Wagon. Maybe the brain trust thought no one would read one letter past "Sport."

The changes to this version of the CTS are from the B-pillars rearward. Weighing in at 4212 pounds, the Sport Wagon is 241 pounds portlier than the last CTS sedan we tested. Much of the weight increase can be attributed to the extended roofline, the structural buttressing, and the electric hatch, but some is likely due to the glass roof that came on our test car. So the wagon is heavier than the sedan Ч a clear disadvantage Ч but the extra mass is offset by improved weight distribution. Sport Wagons are less nose-heavy than CTS sedans, with 48.6 percent of the mass over the rear wheels versus the sedan's 46.7 percent. With more weight resting on top of them, the rear tires don't have any trouble putting the power to the ground.

However, our Sport Wagon's 304-hp, 3.6-liter 24-valve direct-injection V-6 Ч the base engine for 2010 is a 270-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 Ч did seem somewhat overcome by the extra mass. Running from 0 to 60 in 7.0 seconds isn't criminal, but the sedan does the deed in six flat. Cadillac folks say that roughly 0.3 second is sacrificed to the weight and another 0.3 is lost to the newly optional and heavier 19-inch wheels and larger brakes of the FE3 suspension. There's also a revised torque converter that is supposed to increase smoothness and efficiency, and it, too, may have contributed to the Sport Wagon's off-the-line sluggishness.

The CTS's excellent handling, brakes, and steering remain untainted. The Sport Wagon's great advantage over the sedan's 14-cubic-foot trunk is its beautifully lined, 25 cubic feet of cargo space (53 with the rear seats folded). From the floor rails that provide attachment points for various tie-downs to the perfectly trimmed carpet, Cadillac seems to have created an exact replica of the cargo compartment of the Mercedes E-class wagon.

Unlike the utilitarian Benz wagon, the Cadillac's crease-intensive sheetmetal gives it an air of sportiness. In fact, we think it's more attractive than the sedan. And the base version starts at $40,655, or $3100 more than the base sedan. The only option our $54,635 Sport Wagon lacked was all-wheel drive. Even at that price, the Caddy wagon is still less expensive than comparably equipped competition from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Nevertheless, we still don't expect the car-buying public to notice, so the Sport Wagon will remain a well-kept secret for fans of cars with D-pillars.

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