2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon Reviewed: Room with Vroom

June 22, 2010

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon:  skosh more room, lots of vroom.

My first Cadillac experience involved a blonde.  She picked me up in her dad's 1970 copper-colored Fleetwood Brougham.  It was an intoxicating teenage trip.  I'll let you decide whether it was the car or the chauffeur.

Another Caddy (no word whether GM bans this abbreviation) was in the back of my grandparents' 1969 Coupe de Ville.  This blue ocean liner had white leather seats covered with clear-plastic bubbles.  Atop that: wool blankets.

Cars with V-themed crests are known (except the Cimarron or early Seville) for enormous length, big engines and plenty of gadgets.  But one nifty option never made it onto Cadillac's automotive smorgasbord-a rear window wiper!  [Auto dimming headlights (Automatic Eye or Twilight Sentinel), maybe, but not a third wiper]  The exception: Caddy's light trucks like the Escalade or SRX.

That's changed.  The CTS Sport Wagon evokes what British call a shooting brake.  It's a "dramatic" touring "liftback" that swallows hunting or golfing gear.  This one breaks from the British tradition by adding two rakish side doors.  What's aft the rear seat isn't particularly commodious due to fastback styling.

Nonetheless, its ground-hugging profile, which rides on wide 19-inch performance tires, offers adequate rear headroom beneath a large "Ultraview" glass sunroof.  You and your luggage are pampered in thick carpeting, leather-appointed seating and genuine wood trim.  This isn't an overstuffed hearse!

If you haven't driven a Cadillac lately, it's worth revisiting what sets the CTS apart from the front-drive luxo barges that have been this marque's crunchy bread drizzled with olive oil.  For example, the rear-drive CTS Premium Collection is a serious sports sedan player like the BMW 3 series or Infinity M37.

It's available with a 304-hp direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 power plant and a six-speed automatic with sport mode and tap select shifting.  You can even select a competition traction setting.  Steering is quick; body roll is tightly snubbed.  A Weight Watchers' approved aluminum hood and other mass-cutting methods are extant.  Cadillac's engineer's dialed out the tramline and wheel fight that usually accompany wide-tire motoring-a bonus or deficit depending on your perspective.  A six-speed manual transmission is available.

Aesthetically, Caddy's designers went overboard with the chiseled V-theme "art and science" design motif.  The body has mid-1960s Cadillac-like whisker fins.  The Gothic flying-buttress rear lamps are also sharp edged.  I'll let you decide whether it tickles your eyes.  People like the aggressive shape but entering the back seat requires passengers to duck and cover.  And V-pleated seats emboss your backside.  The ultra-low body lightly kisses sloped driveway approaches.

While I digress, I'd ask for several revisions:  a rear floor that stacks behind the rear seat, tight left foot-well carpeting to ease parking brake operation, more interior storage and delete the black contact-paper door trim.  The latter is OK for a Hyundai Accent; this is a $52,000 CTS.  Further gripes:  the dashboard is an elegant knee knocker despite the power retracting the steering wheel, and the limbo-low climate control displays tax those who've gone through their middle-age "presbyopic" moment.  Bifocals are not welcome!

Don't let these trifles deflect you.   This carriage is the wizard of ahs!  A navigation screen automatically rises from dashboard central, high-quality materials wrap you with pleasing textures tied together with tidy stitching, the power rear lift gate is programmable, front seats are ventilated and the effective Bi-xenon headlights swivel.  The latter have Euro-style sharply defined cutoffs to prevent foul-weather dazzle.

The EPA numbers:  18 mpg city and 26 highway.  I observed 18 using regular gas.

If yours is a upwardly mobile family and you're looking for a bit more noggin room for two rear-seat drivers, an easy-load trunk and inspiring road manners or maybe you're just itching for a sybaritic motoring treat, get on the band wagon!  This athletic Cadillac delivers a high standard of excellence.

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