In Defense Of: The Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

Brendan McAleer
by Brendan McAleer
in defense of the cadillac cts v wagon

If you are unfamiliar with the type of car pictured above, then may I congratulate you on finally getting a WiFi connection all the way up there in your cave on the moon. Yes indeedy, this is the much-publicized Cadillac CTS-V wagon.

No, on the other hand, it is not a press car. Let me explain.

Along with TTAC and a few other outlets, I am privileged to write weekly for a small community newspaper of quite good quality. I mean, apart from the bits that I contribute, obviously.

There it was that I rifled off one of my usual grammatically suspect musings, declaring the CTS-V wagon as rare as seeing Elvis riding a unicorn, and indicating that it was a car only a lunatic would ever really buy. A day later, I received this picture:

“…The chances of actually seeing one are not as bad as you indicated. I just spotted one ….in my garage.”

Then followed a brief correspondence in which the invitation was given to come take the car for a drive any time I wanted. I leapt at the exceedingly rare opportunity: not to drive a CTS-V wagon, but also to meet the sort of person who would actually buy one of these things.

Opinion on the CTS-V wagon is far from rosy around the TTAC offices. Derek Kreindler very publicly doesn’t like it. Jack Baruth likes the V-wagon enough to have bought one, but only if GM weren’t giving them away for free. Also, only if they’d paint the damn thing green.

As for myself, I think the CTS-V wagon is completely ridiculous and I unapologetically, unabashedly love it, love it, love it. If you’re a wagon guy – and I am – it’s the 5-door apex predator, to my mind even more so than the V2-with-a-backpack AMG Hammer-wagon or the unobtanium RS6 Avant.

Yes, building it is most assuredly a shrewd PR move for GM. There are lost tribes living in the Amazon who could quote you 0-60 times and Darth Vader references thanks to the sustained media blitz we’ve had about this thing.

Can the CTS-V also be seen as a bribe to quirky auto-journos to generate favorable press for the General? As much as TTAC loves to lampoon the journosaur as a lazy leech – Vampire the Buffet-Slayer – it’s a compelling argument: after all, as Murilee has pointed out, for most of us it’s all about the cars. To paraphrase Homer J Simpson, you’d step over your own mother just to get something interesting.

So it’s important to shed a little light on these ethical considerations, and to wonder aloud about the importance of repeatedly road-testing a car produced in approximately the same quantities as a special-run Zonda. On the other hand, 556hp station wagon!

What’s it like to drive? Hard to say, from just a spin around the block. I’d need, oh, let’s say 11 or 12 months to really get to the bottom of things…

But I can tell you this, as you extend your right foot deep into the power reserves and the supercharged V8 starts whining and bellowing like a tyrannosaur caught in a bandsaw, try keeping the grin off your face. What’s more, especially in black, it has that GNX-style menace goin’ on. Traffic parts like Chuck Heston was reprising his Moses role whilst brandishing an Armalite.

The CTS-V wagon is indefensible in many ways. It’s not a sleeper: Q-ships don’t have yellow brake calipers. It’s not that practical: sure it’ll haul more than the sedan but with rear-drive only, you’d be better off with something like an X5M. Also, it drinks fuel like an oil-well fire and goes through rear tires like Keiichi Tsuchiya.

What it is though, is special, and unique, and above-all, interesting. I was at Barrett-Jackson this year, and the thought occurs to me that, two or three years down the road, even a beat-to-hell presser wouldn’t look out of place crossing the block amongst the gleaming street-rods and restorations.

Oh, and what of the owner? A dapper, cheerful, well-dressed man in his middle-60s; successful in business and in life, with grandkids and a fleet of Mercs. Then I did a little more digging and found a ’73 big-block ‘Vette, owned since new, a history of wrenching on a Mk6 Formula Ford in the 60’s and (strange parallels, Baruth) a modest collection of hand-made electric guitars.

As Derek points out, you’re not defined by your car. Perhaps, though, who you are has something to do with what you drive. In this case, I felt privileged to have met both the man and his machine.

And that’s eight-hundred words about the CTS-V wagon without mentioning Jonny Lieberman once. Arrgh! Tripped at the finish line.

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  • Peso611 Peso611 on Feb 22, 2012

    I am 40 years old with a wife, 16 year old, twin 9 year olds, and a 1 year old rottweiler. We own three cars 2000 Honda Accord V6 (Daily Driver), 2011 Escalade Platinum (wife/family), and a 2012 V Wagon 6MT(weekend warrior). I originally was shopping for a convertible sports car (BMW 650, E550 Cabriolet), but i ended up with the wagon. I came across the wagon when my wife said I could not buy a two door sports car. The Vagon works great for me, I love it. I get a sports car and I can still haul around the kids and dog if something happens with the truck. Best of two worlds for me; wife is happy and I am ecstatic. It's not car for everyone, but I'm sure glad they build it just for me.

    • Shericks Shericks on Nov 24, 2012

      Just saw this line of conversation, my CTS-V Wagon hangs out in Colorado, great to hear about other folks who live the amazing life of owning one of these. Mine is a 6MT Black Diamond and I get thumbs up all the time. Have seen exactly one other one on the road, was congratulated by every employee at my local Caddy dealer when I picked it up, as it was "the coolest car we've ever sold". Feels great to support great American engineering. I heard earlier in the year that they've sold 447 of them in the last 2 years, about 10% of those are 6MT's.

  • DarkSky DarkSky on Jan 19, 2014

    Agree that visibility could be better and wish cost weren't so painful, but really want to know, given how easy it is to spin the rear tires (on a 6 speed standard), why not make AWD available in the V? Sure, it would add some weight and reduce performance a bit, but you'd get better poor weather handling and spread the torque across twice the road patch in lead foot summer driving. Why force people into the 3.6L turbo to get AWD?

  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.
  • Craiger Honestly I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of steering feel. I dropped off my 530 at the dealer in New Jersey and picked up the Z. Driving all of my familiar roads I was just shocked at how much info wasn't coming through the wheel. Because of that I was never able to push the Z like I did the 530.