In Defense Of: The Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

Brendan McAleer
by Brendan McAleer

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.

Brendan McAleer
Brendan McAleer

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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?

  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!
  • 3-On-The-Tree I only buy Toyota cars. But if the Chinese cars are cheap people will buy them. They don’t care about the above issues that were stated in this forum.
  • Tassos Ford models are like dumb Hollywood movies. The original is far better than their god damned sequels. This was true of the Mustang vs the II, AND the Capri vs its second gen, and their BEV PORKER atrocities many decades later
  • Jeff I would not buy a Chinese car with the current global situation with Taiwan and Ukraine but I believe eventually China will become the number 1 producer of vehicles globally. Lou brought up a valid point that much of the content of new vehicles has components made in China. Even many of the tires that are sold are made in China. Try buying a small appliance or electronics that are not made in China. Many of the electric motors that go in power reclining furniture are made in China. Many auto parts especially replacement parts are made in China.