Americans have a love hate relationship with station wagons. They love to hate them. I personally have never understood this phenomenon. Most car guys will tell you they think wagons are awesome. They combine the cargo hauling versatility of a SUV with the driving dynamics of a sedan. In Europe, station wagons are sold by the truck load. European fuel prices are higher then in the United States, so they never had the love affair we Americans had with the SUV.
The CTS Sport Wagon was in development before the crash of the economy and General Motors bankruptcy. The original plan was to export the bulk of the Sport Wagons to Europe where hopefully it would be a success and directly take on the European wagons from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Since diesels are more popular in Europe they were also going to make the main engine choice a new 2.9 liter diesel. Since those plans obviously are not going to pan out the future of the Sport Wagon will ride on the American public. The diesel engine is not being offered here unfortunately.
The Sport Wagon is truly good looking. The sharp looks and great stance are attributed to the form over function school of thought. The roof line is raked giving off the sporty appearance and stance. Combine that roofline with a raked rear hatch and you have a rear opening that can not take tall objects. The things that stand out to people that asked me about the car are the three foot long tail lights that are reminiscent of the tail fins of older Cadillacs, and the 19 inch wheels, which are optional. The tail lights are fully LED with light pipes running down the outside edge. Light pipes are also used in the headlights on the upper trim cars.
The car has many winning characteristics. The rear hatch is power operated and can be set with a knob on the drivers door to open full, 3/4, or off. This can come in handy if you have a garage with a low ceiling or possibly shorter and can not reach the hatch when fully opened. The interior is lifted directly from the CTS sedan. The Sport Wagon has a great cargo management system in the rear hatch. There is a storage bin under the floor in the rear end that can hold things from public view. With the rear seats folded flat you have an ample 58 feet of cargo space.
The interior is literally lifted from the CTS sedan. Soft touch materials abound and soft white ambient lighting at night the interior is a win. The generously sized touch screen navigation rises from the dash when the vehicle is started (when chosen to have the settings that way). The navigation unit in the Sport Wagon is hard drive based. Rendering of the map was snappy and the street names were clean and crisp. Live traffic and weather is provided through your XM satellite radio connection.
The vehicle I had was the top of the line 3.6L Premium with optional 19 inch wheel package and optional crystal red tintcoat paint. The sticker price on this car was $55,630. The Sport Wagon has a starting price of $39,830 before destination charges. The summer performance tires were replaced with snow tires from Bridgestone. The Blizzaks handled well though added some tire noise. That is to be expected of snow tires. The Sport Wagon I had was rear wheel drive though all wheel drive is optional in all trims. Also optioned on this vehicle was the FE3 sport suspension which feels very European and more specifically German.
The Sport Wagon has two engine choices. I had the optional 3.6 liter V6, which features direct injection. This larger V6 puts out 304 hp and 273 lb-ft. The standard 3.0 liter V6 also features direct injection while only putting out 270 hp and 223 lb-ft. Both the 3.6 liter and 3.0 liter are rated at 18/26 mpg. With no sacrifice in fuel mileage, I would recommend optioning for the larger engine. Both engines mate to a six speed automatic transmission. The transmission operates fine in normal driving though, it hesitates for a second to kick down a gear when the throttle is slammed for passing. Moving the shifter to the right puts the transmission in sport mode. This fixes the aforementioned problem. Downshifts are quick and up shifts are not had until red line. Much sportier dynamics are had out of the transmission in sport mode. You can also shift manually with the buttons on the back of the steering wheel or by moving the gear shift.
GM lists the competition for the Sport Wagon as the Audi A4 and A6 Avants, BMW 5 series wagon, and the Mercedes E class wagon. When looking at the competition the Cadillac is definitely class competitive. It feels right in between the A4 and A6 Avants in size. The new Sport Wagon is a great extension for the CTS line and with the coupe coming next year, the line is only going to get better. The wagon aspect adds a dash more versatility without losing the driving dynamics that make the CTS such a great vehicle. With dashing good looks and a fun to drive ratio that is surprising for a wagon, this is one Cadillac that Americans can and hopefully will love.
Full Disclosure- This vehicle was provided by General Motors press fleet for review