2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon: Yes, I’ll Take it Over an Aston

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At first glance, I’m one of those people whose lifestyle is what automotive marketers would deem perfect for a crossover SUV.  I love outdoors activities and often carry a surfboard in my vehicle.  And I have a baby.  Thing is, I also want my vehicle to handle.  I love attacking apexes.  I like sitting low inside a vehicle and feeling connected to the road.  In other words, I love to drive.  That’s why I’m a wagon kind of a guy.  SUVs will carry stuff, but they are rarely optimized for an engaging drive.  Wagons are the perfect sort of vehicle for people who haul things and haul butt.

I was asked on Fox Business News a few months back what kind of car I’d buy if money were no object.  Without hesitation, I told Dagen McDowell that it would be a Cadillac CTS-V wagon.  She was taken aback.  I could have a Ferrari, an Aston Martin, anything…but I’d pick a Cadillac station wagon?  I stuck to my guns.  Yes, cost no object, I want a Cadillac station wagon.

Even as a wagon fanboy, I’ll admit that it better be one hell of a station wagon for me to pick it over an Aston Martin.  And the Cadillac CTS-V is.

I know that most gearheads would describe this car starting with the engine.  And yes, it’s an insane engine.  But let’s save that for a little bit later because quite frankly, I’m drawn to this car first and foremost for its looks.  Ever since the second generation CTS sedan debuted for the 2008 model year, I’ve been a big fan of the car.  The styling is to my eyes the most successful interpretation of Cadillac’s ‘Art & Science’ design language by far.  The proportions are perfect.  The look is uniquely American while being athletic and dynamic at the same time.  The wagon variant, which debuted for 2010 model year, then cranks up its appeal to ’11’ with its new rear bodywork.  With its low, sleek profile and dramatic styling details, the wagon almost comes off as a five-door coupe rather than a practical family wagon.

And in truth, it is best thought of as a five-door coupe.  The cockpit is snug.  The rear seat is a tight fit for adults; this is no road trip car for four grown-ups.  And as can be seen here, it’s really tough to get an infant carrier seat (much less an adult body) in and out of the car thanks to the extremely raked C-pillar.

The cargo area isn’t particularly spacious either for a wagon.  The floor is high and the roofline tapers towards the rear of the car, making the cargo area’s height somewhat lacking.  Plus, the fast D-pillar angle ensures that bulky items probably won’t fit with the tailgate closed.

But in the end, this is a wagon bought for reasons other than practicality.  It’s gorgeous to look at.  Its performance is otherworldly.  And it even has an attractive cabin.  Yes, this is one of those newer GM interiors that actually look and feel premium, and not mercilessly attacked by the beancounters.  Soft, stitched leatherette is everywhere on the dash and door panels.  The Recaro seats (honestly, a little firm and confining for my tastes) and steering wheel are clad in a suede-like material.  And everything feels solid; despite the firm suspension, there was not a rattle or squeak to be heard.  No, it’s not an Audi-level interior; there are smatterings of cheap, low-grade plastics here and there, there are some lapses in interior fit, and the Bluetooth system doesn’t import your phone’s contacts, but all in all, the car does feel very special inside.

Okay, so I’ve gone on and on about how nice the car is aesthetically, but how does it drive?  It’s fast.  Ridiculously fast.  But poised and confident at the same time.  Despite the insane power, the car always feels capable of handling it.  Credit goes to the wide and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires, beefed up suspension featuring GM’s Magnetic Ride Control shocks (which firm up or loosen the damping instantaneously – and work better than most such systems I’ve tried), and massive Brembo brakes.  It also features stability control that can be set to a Competition Mode or turned off completely.  Even in Competition Mode, the tail end will come out if you use too much throttle coming out of a corner.  Massive fun, but with a modicum of a safety net!

And then the powertrain.  Oh, the powertrain.  All 556 horses’ worth of 6.2L supercharged V8 make their presence known loudly.  At full tilt, the engine roars in a way only an American V8 can, yet it still somehow sounds dignified.  There is only a hint of supercharger whine (which is either good or bad, depending on your tastes), but the slingshot sensation when accelerating can be matched or exceeded by precious few other vehicles.  And remember, this is a station wagon we’re talking about here.  However, as much as I love manual transmissions (my own humble Volkswagen Jetta station wagon is so equipped), I’d probably choose the optional six-speed automatic over the six-speed manual in our test car.  The shift effort is a bit high, and its clunky action isn’t befitting of a luxury car, no matter how extreme its performance.

That’s a small quibble, though.  Overall, this is one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve driven in a long time, and after my extended test of the car, I continue to absolutely stand by what I said on TV.  This is, without a doubt, what I would buy if money were no object.

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