2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon - Click above for high-res image galleryIf you've spent any time on German roads, one thing you'll notice – right after the speed limit signs with a slash mark through them – is that station wagons are popular.
Nearly every manufacturer builds multiple models ranging from sub-compacts to near full-size behemoths. Mercedes-Benz E-Class and C-Class wagons are everywhere. Ditto for BMW 3 and 5 Series Tourings. Volkswagen, Fiat, Citroen, Seat, Skoda and Peugeot all sell lots of wagons. Perhaps it's a legacy of the Lamborghini Espada or the undeniable fact that the current M-B E63 AMG wagon is seriously cool, Europeans like wagons.
Americans, on the other hand, don't. Our country's collective notion of station wagons is stuck in Clark W. Griswold-land. Too bad. Most Americans have no idea what they're missing.
Photos copyright ©2011 Steven J. Ewing / AOL
You know the Cadillac V-Series well, and what we think of the 2011 CTS-V Coupe. The V Wagon is simply the coupe with better visibility and room for water skis, snowboards, mountain bikes and more (thanks to the roof rack). Could performance come in a more practical package? ( Subaru WRX hatchback drivers... you understand.)
Plus, the V Wagon is a sleeper in comparison to the V Coupe. The unexpected nature of a supercharged 556-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 wagon with the top speed of a Porsche 911 is stupendously brilliant. The irony of the four-second 0-60 mph time ain't bad, either.
From the A-pillar forward, all three V-Series body styles are visually identical – a good thing because the V's face has serious street presence. Unfortunately, the mesh grille is American pomposity in wire form – vaguely cliché in a JC Whitney kind of way. And Cadillac dealers installing look-a-like aftermarket grilles on non-V CTSs hasn't helped matters.
The balance of the wagon's styling makes up for the grille. The dramatic profile is like nothing else on the road. Few vehicles honestly enjoy that exclusivity. Taken in whole, the CTS is an exuberant American design. No European or Asian manufacturer would dare make a car that looks like this.
V-exclusive features over the standard CTS Sport Wagon include three-inch cannon exhaust tips, V-Series badging and handsome 19-inch rims (nine-inches wide in front, 9.5-inches rear). The standard rubber-band profile tires are summer-compound Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s measuring 255/40ZR19 (front) and 265/35ZR19 (rear). Due to our January-in-Michigan test schedule, Cadillac wisely fitted our test vehicle with M+S rated Pirellis of the same size.
The airy design of the wheels made for easy viewing of the massive 15-inch front rotors from Brembo. A serious engine requires equally serious brakes and the rear rotors are no slouches either at 14.7-inches.
Inside, the look also mimics the V Coupe. Even more appropriately than on the standard CTS models, the repeated V motif makes sense in this car. The look is bold. One could imagine a Bentley Supersports owner having the V Wagon as his daily driver and not feeling like he was slumming. If you can afford a V, pop for the $3,400 Recaro seats. No V-Series should be without them.
Practically speaking, the rear seats of the CTS Sport Wagon aren't huge. They haven't grown any in the V-Series, so rear-seat space is more akin more to the BMW 3 Series than 5 Series. Two average-size adults can get comfortable behind average-height front occupants, but fitting a third in the rear-center spot isn't a thing a friend would recommend.
On the practical side, the wagon boasts a maximum cargo capacity of 53.4 cubic feet, 25 of which are behind the folding second-row seats. The space is huge compared to a conventional sedan but doesn't seriously challenge mid-size SUVs and CUVs. Some compromises are worth making.
CTS-V Sport Wagon proves that it is every bit as capable as the Coupe and Sedan V-Series. Blessedly, our loaner was fitted with three pedals and a Tremec TR-6060 manual gearbox. This powertrain combination makes the car even more unexpected and ironic.
A station wagon with a manual? It'll makes sense to about three U.S. buyers – journalists not included.
The magic is that from behind the wheel you never think that you're driving a station wagon. Especially when you're catapulting yourself toward the horizon in search of the feeling that only 551 pound-feet of torque can reliably deliver.
While some cars are fine when equipped with an automatic, this one is so much better with the manual. Throttle response is more direct, linear and easier to control.
Given that we did not have a high-speed track available for our entertainment, we're not sure how fast the CTS-V Sport Wagon will ultimately go. What we can verify is that it's acceleration remains brutal at go-directly-to-jail speeds.
Delphi's effective Magnetic Ride Controls takes care of the V's handling, and the difference between Sport and Touring means something. Cornering is flat. Grip is predictable. The softer setting proved acceptable for day-to-day use around Detroit (Beirut's roads are likely smoother.)
There's also an aural component to the V's performance. Nailing the throttle brings a booming from the exhaust and a quiet but audible whine from the supercharger. The pitch of the whine rises with engine rpm, and the effect is so entertaining and involving that we found ourselves hitting the throttle just to hear this explosive custom mix. For those thinking that the exhaust is boy-racer loud, it's not.
When Cadillac VP and marketing manager Don Butler spoke to us about the CTS-V line at the recent Detroit Auto Show he said that, "The CTS-V Coupe is our most popular V-Series model. It sells at nearly a 2: 1 margin over the CTS-V Sedan. It's too early to tell how popular the V-Series wagon might be, but right now, we're building them to order."
That says a lot.
It will be rare, especially when fitted with the manual. Consider this the official Autoblog Collector Car Alert.
If you're as smitten with the V Wagon as we are and have the reasonable dough required to obtain one, don't expect to find a V Sport Wagon on the showroom floor of your local dealer. Consider yourself fortunate and consider it an opportunity to order a bespoke unit assembled to your specifications. Come with liquid assets of $69,585 and you should be fine.
Choosing the long-roofed V will likely confuse your friends, family and co-workers. And that's fine. Let them be confused. Don't try to clear things up by explaining how the American view of station wagons would have been different if Clark Griswold drove a V instead of his Family Truckster. Certainly, Christy Brinkley would have been surprised if Clark uncorked the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 and left her Ferrari 308 GTS in the dust.
Photos copyright ©2011 Steven J. Ewing / AOL