Price as Tested: $55,630
Can a station wagon be cool? The conventional wisdom says no. But the the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon bucks that convention with sharp looks, ready power, fine handling and a luxurious interior.
In my humble opinion, the Cadillac CTS is the best car made by an American manufacturer today. Now in its second generation, the CTS is a very good-looking car, too, as Cadillac's Art & Science design language has matured nicely. For 2010, the wagon body style with bold, angular looks that will do anything but remind you of your dad's Ford Country Squire.
The model I drove was the CTS 3.6 Premium Collection, which comes loaded with such amenities as leather upholstery, heated and cooled seats, iPod interface, 40-gigabyte hard-drive, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, and a Bose surround sound audio system, among many other niceties.
It also had GM's high-feature 3.6-liter V6, which makes 304 horsepower. This is an excellent engine, but I'm not too happy about the stunt GM has pulled with its new 3.0-liter V6. The 270-horsepower 3.0-liter is basically the same engine as the 3.6, just dumbed down. While 270 horses sounds like plenty, it doesn't feel that strong, and the fuel economy is actually the same. Cadillac just added the 3.0 to make the 3.6 a higher-end choice and charge more for it. With a starting price of $45,725 for any 3.6-powered CTS, I think that strategy has gone too far. Just two years ago, buyers could get a CTS with the 304-horsepower 3.6 for just $34,525. Do we really need to pay $11 grand more for the same engine?
For Chicago winters, I would recommend spending the exra $1900 for all-wheel drive. I was able to get around with rear-wheel drive, but I'd hate to deal with it in snowy alleys or plowed in parking spots.
The rest of the car is excellent. The wagon body style adds some useful rear cargo space that I managed to fill with Christmas presents. The cargo area is easy to access, but it offers only 53.4 cubic feet of space. That's certainly useful, but it's far less than most wagons and is about the same as the much smaller Audi A3 hatchback. I call it a concession to styling. Had Cadillac extended the roof farther rearward, the car wouldn't have been as sexy.
My only other minor complaint about the car is the seats. They're just too hard. I'd like something more supple. Otherwise, the CTS Sport Wagon shares the sedan's excellent steering and handling, as well as its attractive interior.
Now, if Cadillac would just make the 3.6-liter V6 more accessible, more people might learn that Cadillac is building great cars.
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