• Sep 3rd 2009 at 11:58AM
  • 93
2010 Cadillac CTS Sportwagon – Click above for high-res image gallery

In Europe, the humble station wagon holds a big-time slice of the family driver demographic, partly because ridiculous petrol prices make big SUVs and crossovers far too uneconomical. Americans, on the other hand, have a fundamental problem with the station wagon. We're not sure if the wagon is uncool because it was our parents' preferred family vehicle or if the aesthetics of it are just too boxy for our fashion forward culture. The only subset of the American public who has consistently called for more wagons are automotive enthusiasts, though even we seldom seem to vote for the Griswald Family Truckster with our pocketbooks.

Cadillac is all too aware of America's disdain for the wagon, as evidenced by the fact that General Motors' luxury brand has never built a squat two box for the U.S. market. That changes for 2010 as the Wreath and Crest begins production of its 2010 Cadillac CTS Sportwagon. This Caddy begins life with hot-to-trot sheetmetal and the underpinnings of the excellent CTS sedan, but does it have the chutzpah to change our less than flattering opinions about the station wagon? We gave the CTS Sportwagon some time in the Autoblog Garage to see if the first-ever U.S.-market Caddy wagon has the goods to make Americans stop their loathing and get to loading. Click on the jump to find out.

Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

When Cadillac set out to build a wagon version of the popular CTS sedan, the goal was to export a considerable volume overseas where wagons are welcomed with open arms. A new 2.9-liter diesel powertrain was rumored to be the engine of choice for our European allies, giving car buyers the oil burners they expect across the pond. By the time the production CTS Sportwagon was ready for prime time, though, General Motors was prepping for bankruptcy and its Europe-based Opel brand was on the auction block. Gas prices had also dropped considerably here in the States, making the prospect of an expensive diesel engine in the U.S. market even more unlikely.

After months of careful planning, GM's plan to build many CTS Sportwagons for overseas markets is looking as hazy as the Southern California skyline. The Caddy wagon may now have to survive mainly by its success or failure in North America, and GM is clearly hoping that high style with a dash of functionality will win the day.

At first glance, the CTS Sportwagon is a real eye-catcher. It's bold, form-over-function sheetmetal catches the eye, then details like three-foot-long tail lights and 19-inch wheels help keep onlookers fixed on the prize. Cadillac has astutely dialed back its chrome quotient over the past couple years, and the CTS Sportwagon manages to stand out without mimicking a pimp's dental work.

What makes the CTS Sportwagon really look special is its raked roofline, which gives it an athletic appearance. Cadillac will tell you that the 58-cubic-feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded flat are within one foot of the much taller SRX, but we'd argue that the smallish rear hatch opening and steeply raked roofline makes that space far less usable. For example, we couldn't fit a kid's bike in the back (with the rear seat up) without removing the handle bars. We're talking about a six-year-old's bike, but the low roofline of the CTS Sportwagon doesn't abide by awkward-shaped objects.

The Sportwagon does have some strong utilitarian points, though, including a power liftgate that adjusts its opening height at the touch of a button (to accommodate short drivers or low garage clearances) and an ingenious cargo management system that allows owners to corral their groceries in a manner that prevents them from sliding all over the place. There is also a cargo door on the rear floor that reveals a recessed area with a rubber floormat to secure more valuable items from public view.

But any shortcomings the CTS Sportwagon has out back is more than made up for with a brilliantly laid out cabin that mirrors that of the CTS sedan. Cadillac designers have included soft touch materials throughout accented by the brand's well-regarded cut-and-sew stitching. The seats in the CTS are terrific, with firm foam to keep backsides happy even on long drives, along with lateral bolstering suitable for a luxury vehicle that just happens to have some moves. The Caddy's center stack doubles as an infotainment command center, with an available ginormous pop-up navigation screen that is easy to use, along with terrifically executed MP3 player integration that works without the need to hit a bunch of buttons.

Of course, the minute we discovered that we could simply call On-Star and tell them where we wanted to go and they'd map out our destination for us, we got lazy and stopped entering info into the navigation system ourselves. Using On-Star is safer and arguably easier, as you interact with an actual human being who can help determine exactly where you need to go, even if you're traveling at 70 mph. That said, not everyone is interested in interacting with an actual human being – or adding another monthly fee to their stack of bills – and will be perfectly happy with Cadillac's nav system that forgoes joysticks, knobs and other crazy controllers for simple onscreen executions.

While the CTS Sportwagon is impressive inside, it certainly isn't perfect. Lack of driver legroom is the largest issue. That command center of the center stack is so wide that it intrudes upon the driver's right knee space. It's almost impossible for an average-sized driver to find an ideal driving position unless the seat is moved uncomfortably far away from the steering wheel. Cadillac could partially alleviate the pain of this encroachment by adding some cushy padding to the sides of the stack, as what's currently there doesn't give enough to coddle our caps. Another more minor annoyance is that the car's high beltline narrows the view outside and makes the cabin feel isolated.

As a luxury wagon, Cadillac delivers the style and comfort that customers expect. But since Cadillac has decided to go the extra mile and call its newest ride a Sportwagon, we expect an engaging driving experience as well. To examine the SW's performance chops, we first look at hardware. Our tester came equipped with a direct injected 3.6-liter V6 engine capable of 304 horsepower and 273 lb-ft mated to a slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Our rear-wheel drive Sportwagon also came equipped with 19-inch alloys covered with super sticky ContiSport Contact 3 summer radials, GM's taut FE3 suspension package and a moonroof, bringing its MSRP to $53,455. All-wheel drive is available at extra cost, but our tester's pricetag is otherwise representative of a fully loaded example.

On paper, the CTS Sportwagon sounds like a competent performer, and the specs are confirmed when judged from behind the wheel. When tooling around town, the 3.6-liter V6 is very responsive, with ample power available across the range. When in auto mode, a quick stab at the pedal results in a slight delay before acceleration, but head over to sport mode and you'll find that the go pedal is markedly more responsive. GM says the CTS Sportwagon will hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, which isn't exactly burning up the pavement but more than adequate in a two ton luxury tourer. We achieved 21 mpg while largely tooling around town in the CTS Sportwagon; a mid-pack figure that is in line with its expected 18/25 fuel economy numbers.

The sedan version of the Cadillac CTS really comes alive on the open road, but we had our reservations that the wagon's extra 200 lbs would hamper performance. We didn't worry for long. The Sportwagon has the same 191.6 inch length and 113.4 inch wheelbase as the sedan, and its hardware hasn't been dumbed down for wagon duty. Our tester's FE3 suspension held this Caddy tight in and out of curves, with minimal body roll and plenty of confidence that the ContiSport grip wasn't about to go ghost.

In our estimation, the only downside to selecting the FE3 suspension package is that it doesn't soak up bumps in the road quite as efficiently as we'd like, though we'd trade the added layer of plushness for handling any day of the week – and that's here in Michigan, where most of the road surfaces are just potholes holding hands. The Sportwagon's rack-and-pinion steering feels a bit light in stop-and-go traffic, but get its veins pumping and feedback and precision increases with speed. Interestingly, there was quite a bit of brake pedal travel on our tester, a condition that happens occasionally with aggressively driven media vehicles. We still had no problem bringing the two-ton wagon to a quick stop when the need arose, but we'd be curious to see if a fresh-from-the-line example would still show the same pedal characteristics.

It isn't hard to figure out what enthusiasts want out of an entry-level luxury vehicle. Bold, attention-grabbing styling, plenty of power and the latest tech advances are all part of the docket, and the Cadillac CTS Sportwagon delivers on all fronts. The CTS Sportwagon may well be the best looking vehicle in the Cadillac lineup, and it helps that it is also blessed with the soul of its brilliant sedan stablemate. In all, the Cadillac CTS Sportwagon offers plenty to love at a price that starts at $40,655 (including $825 for in destination charges). Add a capable, 304 hp 3.6-liter V6 and the added cargo capacity that comes with a 21st century station wagon, and the CTS Sportwagon may actually be the kind of wagon that wins over the finicky American consumer – it did the trick with us.

Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own – we do not accept sponsored editorial.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Would you guys please knock it off with the tilted camera work?

      It isn't artistic, it isn't creative, it's the view of a stumbling drunk.
        • 6 Years Ago
        We like the tilted camera work, that's why we do it. We also level the camera for just about every angle... just click on the gallery to see those.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ Chris

        Doesn't the saying go "Give the people what they want."?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I complained about this a long time ago and then I gave up. Amateur photog who thinks his "work" will stand out if he tilts the camera.

        Also the Gallery doesn't have a decent set of standar angle shots, there are no decent proper three quarter views.

        When it is a new car I often have a hard time figuring out what it actually looks like from the AB jumble. I then usually resort to a google image search to find some decent pics.

        First learn to take the stock shots then gradually add some useful creativity.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's so very MTV '93.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hmmmm...didn't this used to be a Dodge Wagon???
      • 6 Years Ago
      NO, it is just an other AZTEK!!!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Someone shoot this over to Honda and tell them this is how you do it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        In light of the Crosstour post, I can't upvote you enough for this comment.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think I like the better look of our local (Australian) version of the sportswagon from GM subsidiary Holden (see link below). The standard engine is a V6 Alloytec (a HFV6 derivative) but there is also a 6.0 Litre Gen 4 V8.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holden_VE_Commodore for more background
      • 6 Years Ago
      Very nice! I like it a lot
      I like the modern, sharp design of this caddy wagon
      • 6 Years Ago
      i love it-that has to be one of the most interesting read ends i have ever, and i mean, ever have seen. not to out there like the camaros, but modern, sleek and undeniably different
      • 6 Years Ago
      i think it's perfect EXCEPT for the overly thick D pillar. i wish the rear most side glass was about 6 inches wider, then it would be totally perfect. the sculpting in the rear is genius.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like it. it's great-looking. But at $40K, it will never be anything more than a cool niche/novelty item. To win over the American consumer at large with wagons, they need to be of the Malibu/Fusion variety, a full price bracket lower. This will likely never happen because the automakers are fully committed to CUVs that, like the 2010 Equinox (which is very good, btw), are priced exactly where new, real wagons would need to be to gain wide acceptance.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This should worry BMW and Audi and I drive an Audi and never ever thought I would say US Car > German car. One can immediately tell the difference when reviews start measuring American made cars on their genuine merits instead of pointing out how " they almost did it this time " " we're getting close ".

      However, the metamorphisis, of the big 2, will not be complete until we are making these same comparisons with the lower end vehicles. When GM produces a worthy rival to the Golf GTI or the MazdaSpeed 3 ( or the vanilla 3 for that matter ).

      We are not there yet, but hell if this ain't a good start. When I do my weekly for Sh**'s & Giggles autotrader searches, I find myself seriously looking at the CTS line.

      Were so close I can almost taste it =)
      • 6 Years Ago
      "It's almost impossible for an average-sized driver to find an ideal driving position unless the seat is moved uncomfortably far away from the steering wheel." If that is so, then who can drive this car? Sigh...I was inclined to buy a CTS sport wagon, but the Audi A6 avant can be driven by an average-sized driver, such as my wife and me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        We have a CTS sedan (same interior in the front). Neither my wife nor I have any problem with driving position. Great car. Drives well. Handles great. We have the DI 304 HP engine.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow great looking wagon. Stunning actually. Now how about a V version :)
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