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First Cadillac wagon in North America
Station wagons have been passé in the United States for years, but this didn't stop Cadillac from launching its first U.S.-built wagon.
The 2010 CTS Wagon is a nicely sized, comfortable, five-passenger car with cargo space that's easier to reach than that of a sport utility vehicle.
The CTS Wagon also is arguably the most striking station wagon on the market, with sharp creases in its sheet metal, stylized, eye-catching vertical tail-lamps, and a recognizable Cadillac look.
But no one seems to notice this wagon when it passes by on the street. Not a single person took a second glance at the test car or asked about it – perhaps because from the front, it looks so similar to the CTS sedan that has been on the market for years.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, with destination charge, is $39,090 for a base CTS Wagon with 270-horsepower, 3-liter V-6 and automatic transmission. A base, all-wheel drive version starts at $40,990.
The CTS Wagon also is offered in rear- and all-wheel drive with an uplevel 304-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and automatic transmission. Starting retail price for the more powerful CTS Wagon is $44,190.
In comparison, the 2010 A6 Avant starts at $54,135 with 300-horsepower, supercharged V-6 and standard all-wheel drive, while the front-wheel drive 2010 Volvo V70 starts at $34,400 and has a 235-horsepower six cylinder.
The timing for a station wagon from Cadillac is odd, but company officials have said they hope to capitalize on buyers who are moving away from fuel-hungry SUVs. The CTS qualifies as an SUV substitute for several reasons, but not necessarily in fuel economy.
The test CTS Wagon with 3.6-liter direct injection V-6 was rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, which is not much better than the same federal government rating for the 2010 Lexus RX 350.
In fact, many SUVs have higher ratings. At least the CTS wagon engines only need regular gas, not pricey premium.
Power is strong. This is the same double overhead cam engine, with variable valve timing, that's in the sporty Chevrolet Camaro – parent company General Motors owns both Cadillac and Chevrolet. Torque peaks at 273 foot-pounds at 5,200 rpm.
With a gasoline tank carrying 18 gallons, this means a range of just 340 city and highway miles combined, which is not great.
Still, the CTS Wagon is nimble and doesn't feel as cumbersome as some SUVs, despite the CTS Wagon's weight of more than 4,200 pounds.
With summer tires, which were part of a more than $2,000 option package on the tester, the car clung to the pavement, and the handling was excellent for zippy drives in the country and in the mountains.
I liked that the wagon rode lower to the pavement than an SUV during these drives, because I didn't feel big body motions in the curves. But the flip side was I didn't see much of the road ahead when I was behind taller vans, trucks and SUVs.
Over most road bumps, passengers were nicely kept above it all, feeling mild vibrations at most, and while I heard road noise from the performance tires, there wasn't much wind noise.
The variable-assist, rack-and-pinion steering was tuned just right for this car and had a precise but not twitchy feel.
Brakes worked well, too.
The interior is like that in a CTS sedan. Controls were easy to use, and I even got used to the navigation system screen that could rise, as if summoned from below, from a slot atop the dashboard.
Front seats were roomy with 42.4 inches of legroom and nearly 39 inches of headroom. But back seat legroom of 35.9 inches might not impress former SUV owners.
The cargo space tops out at 25 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, which is more than the 14 cubic feet in the trunk of a CTS sedan. Best of all, there's no big lift to get items inside as there is in SUVs.
The Bose surround sound was awesome and the optional wood trim added a luxury touch.
The CTS Wagon received the same crash test ratings as the sedan. The federal government gave models four out of five stars for driver protection in a frontal crash test and five out of five stars for front passenger protection. In side crash testing, the CTS sedan and wagon earned five out of five stars.
All safety equipment is standard, including traction control, curtain air bags and electronic stability control.
A low-volume model, the CTS Wagon is not offered with manual transmission or the supercharged V-8 that's available in the top-level CTS-V sedan.