Reviewed: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

Lets say you didn’t win the lottery but you matched all the numbers but the bonus ball and you win $250,000.  You decide, since this is all free money, you are going to buy yourself a cool car that you normally couldn’t afford, what would you buy?

Lets also say you are a professional but either you don’t want to show just how well you are doing, or your company frowns on driving flash cars, what do you do?

One of the great things about the V Series of Cadillacs is that while they do have a few bling items on them, the grill being the most obvious, they don’t look all that different from their standard line models, hence, aren’t too flashy.  OK, in Sedan and Wagon forms that’s true, however, no matter what you do, the CTS Couple is so damn sexy, you CAN NOT fly under the radar with that car.

We had the chance to have a few days in a CTS Coupe at the end of last summer, and even though it wasn’t a V-Series, it was just a rear wheel drive 3.6 V6, it IS our favorite version of the car, or, is now tied for our favorite since we’ve had a chance to have a go in the CTS-V Wagon.

As we mentioned we’ve had the opportunity to drive all three body styles of the CTS, and it continues to amaze us that on every single one, your initial driving reaction is OK, nice car, after three days it’s, “OK I get why people like this car”, at five days you are looking for excuse to go for a drive, and on day seven when the good people at ESI (the company that handles GM’s press fleet here in South East Michigan) come to take the car back, you don’t want to give them the keys!

We liked the Wagon back in 2009 when we first drove it, it did everything from being able to fit a Christmas tree inside, to being just large enough for Lola, our English Mastiff to fit as well.  We felt that the 3.6 V6 had plenty of power to keep you happy and it was a great car, full stop.

With the CTS-V Wagon, you take something that is already quite good, and just make it over the top fun, yet, at the same time, not be obvious about it.  There are a few styling tweaks to the car, but especially in this Wagon configuration it catches your eye, mostly because you see so few wagons driving around, and our test cars White Diamond Tricoat when it catches the sun has a very nice refraction of that light.

We’ll cut talking about the interior of the CTS-V Wagon interior short, mostly because that’s not why you buy this car.  Yes the interior is nice, it’s well equipped, it could use a couple more higher end touches, because while it’s a very good interior on a $40,000 car, our Wagon came in at $69,635, and you’d like to see the interior be competitive with other cars in that price range.  Two things to point out.  Our test car did not have the optional Recaro seats, and it was equipped with an automatic transmissions.  Now those keyboard ninja’s sitting in mommy’s basement who believe they must hold all reviews to a standard which can not be achieved in the real world, would say that the lack of a manual transmission in our test unit invalidates it.  In fact if we were “true believers” we would have refused delivery because it was an automatic.  These would be the same people would would refuse to go out on a date with (insert your 10 most beautiful people in the world names here) because they didn’t like the shoes or the lipstick she was wearing.  Would we have liked a manual and the Recaro seats?  Sure!  Did it rune our experience because it wasn’t?  Not one bit, thank you very much.

It WOULD figure that in one of the warmest winters we have had in six or seven years that it would snow and rain for most of our time with the CTS-V Wagon.  If you wonder how a 556 horsepower rear wheel drive car copes in less than optimal conditions, we will tell you that it’s just fine.  Now, our car was fitted with Pirelli winter tires, and while they weren’t needed for snow and slush for the most part, their softer rubber does provide superior grip in handling and braking in cold weather on the cold pavement.  On top of this the CTS-V Wagon is equipped with GM’s Stabilitrak System with Traction Control, which cuts power so that you don’t sit and spin, or get to sideways when the weather turns fowl.  There was no drama on the one day where snow and slush piled up and we had to drive through it.  We attempted to give the throttle some extra boot to get it out of shape, but the computer quickly rained things in to make it feel as if you were driving, just another car.  Now we mean that in the best light.  Having a big horsepower car and driving it in snow or downpours of rain and being able to be relaxed behind the wheel not worrying that you are going to go spinning off the road if you tip in to the gas just a bit to much makes all the difference in the world.  We can tell you stories about driving all winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in a Five Liter Mustang on BF Goodrich Comp T/A’s.  Just be cause you CAN do it, doesn’t make it a good idea!  The CTS-V Wagon, with it’s modern electronics and very good winter tires take all those fears about rear wheel drive and winter driving out of the mix, it’s a total non issue.

Drive the CTS-V Wagon with a light foot and you don’t notice the power all that much.  The whine from the supercharger is minimal, the exhaust note is audible, but it isn’t intrusive, it just feels like a nice luxury car.  The ride is quite good too.  The Magnetic Ride Control suspension has been firmed up, but it is firm in a controlled manner, rather than being firm as in stiff and punishing.  It feels, well, German!

Put your foot hard down on the throttle and things change, and change quickly once the tach passes three grand.  The blower begins to make noise, the exhaust begins to howl and unless you turned it off, that’s hold down twice for “Competition Mode”, the traction control light will start flashing at you.  Turn off the traction control and you can leave a pair of dark marks in your wake that would be the envy of any Camaro or Mustang driver.

Two different days we went out to perform acceleration tests and shoot video, the weather was garbage.  It was either raining, or it was cold and wet.  Then again it was January in Michigan, so it’s not going to be 65 and sunny.  When it was dry enough that we could push the Cadillac on some acceleration runs, it didn’t have the instant shove you back in the seat thrust we thought it would, V8 with a Roots style supercharger, it was controlled but, when you looked down, you were at almost triple digit speeds.

There is power to play with, to have fun with, to enjoy the pure absurdity with, and given a paycheck that could afford the sticker price and the fuel to pay for it, we’d have this supercharged V8 10 ways to Sunday.  The chassis feels more than capable of handling the power of this engine, and the big Brembo’s do and excellent job of hauling the 4,400 pound wagon back down from speed.  You can’t call the CTS-V a sports car, a super car, or a muscle car, but what you can call it and most definitely in Wagon trim is one of the best all around, most versatile cars on the market today.

It looks good, it drives very well, handles very nicely, you can put a bunch of stuff in the back of the wagon AND carry four adults in comfort.  Unless you are some snob who can’t be bothered for a vehicle like this unless it comes from Germany, then (a) you’re a moron, and (b) ignorance is bliss!

You don’t buy a V Series Cadillac for a value play, nor do you buy it for a fuel economy play.  As we said our test car stickered at just shy of $70,000.  That included options like a panoramic sunroof for $1,150, the White Diamond Tricoat paint at $995 and the shiny 19” polished aluminum rims at $800.  It also listed as an option “Gas Guzzler Tax $2,600”.  Now seeing as how you can not uncheck the box for the gas guzzler tax, We’re not sure how that’s an option exactly.

Fuel economy is rated at 12 city, 18 highway and 14 combined.  We saw 15-16 MPG in our mixed driving and just shy of 20 on an extended highway run between 75 and 80 miles an hour.  It’s not fantastic, but our thoughts are if you can afford a $70,000 car, you shouldn’t be sweating the bill to fill it up with gas!

If it was our money would we get a V Wagon?  As much as we’d prefer to have the Coupe, given the practicalities of daily life the Wagon would be more functional.  But it’s all a moot point because unless your name is Dan Neil, or a few select other automotive journalists, in this business, you aren’t going to be making close to the money it would take to afford a V Series Cadillac.  You’ll excuse our fall back to our days of working in the investment world for a few minutes, but unless your household income is north of $140,000 you can’t afford the car.  It’s great to dream, and if you get the opportunity to drive a V-Series Cadillac you should, it’s one of those rare care that lives up to the hype, and anytime GM wants to send one our way, we’ll be more than happy to spend time with it, even if our gas card does see about $250 in charges while we have it!

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