As little boys growing up, we all probably had a poster of a Lamborghini, Ferrari, or Porsche on our wall. That was the aspirational picture, something to long for while we grew up. As we get older and adopt responsibilities, our priorities may change, but we never lose that lust for speed and thrills that was represented by the posters on our walls. Every now and then, a manufacturer recognizes that grown-up desire and provides a machine that is both practical tool and raging beast in the same breath. Cadillac is now offering this compromise in the form of the Cadillac CTS-V SportWagon, which melds two worlds together by combining the comfortable, roomy, and luxurious CTS SportWagon with snarling V8 power. This was our chance to live out one week with the adult equivalent of our childhood automotive wet dream, and we dropped everything for this experience. Heart beating a mile a minute, we took the keys and set off. Our tester was a 2011 Cadillac CTS-V finished in Radiant Silver Metallic with Ebony Leather/Suede interior.
In our tester’s long-roof format, Cadillac faces no equals this side of the Atlantic at the moment. Sure, you can buy 400+ hp four-door rocket sleds from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar, but if you’re as awestruck as we are with the concept of shovelling way too much power into something as domestic as a station wagon, there’s no comparing to the CTS-V SportWagon. AS for segmenting, the CTS matches up in size to the midsizers from other luxury marques but is priced significantly lower, more like a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class. If you put the CTS in the midsize class, it’s putting up a fair fight against its competitors, sitting in second place only behind the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The CTS-V SportWagon exudes machismo from every pore, yet somehow when you’re driving a wagon, you’ll fly under the radar, except when someone notices the V8 rumble coming from your family-hauler. For the enthusiast, there are plenty of cues that hint at the capabilities of this car, such as the 19-inch split 5-spoke rims, or perhaps the massive Brembo brakes behind them. At the front, a low front lip spoiler makes sure you take care over speed bumps or steep driveways, and the mesh in the grille is a Cadillac V signature. Another clear giveaway to the beast underhood is the sizeable bulge on the hood which gives enough clearance for 556 hp to fit inside.
Moving around the side, the only thing different here is the larger wheels and brakes we mentioned earlier. A small ‘V’ badge is placed on the front doors just behind the front wheels, but this is only significant to afficianados that are familiar with this designation. At the rear of the car, another ‘V’ badge is affixed to the hatch, and chromed dual exhaust tips poke out from the bumper, which is visually differentiated by flared edges. The whole effect is relatively subtle, but sexy as all get-out. This car looks all business, and while the changes may not be immediately obvious to the common passer-by, Cadillac has tweaked the SportWagon in all the right places to make this a muscular, bad-ass, yet practical beast.
The interior has been massaged as well for that elegant mix of business and pleasure. First and foremost, the seats. It may be hard to justify adding almost four grand to the bottom line for a pair of buckets, but place yourself in the driver’s seat and you’ll never look back. Recaro is known for making a fine racing seat that’ll hold you in place; turns out they know how to make those seats luxuriously comfortable, too. Suede inserts on the back and bottom are ventilated to provide heating and cooling to your backside on demand. The back and bottom bolsters are adjustable to provide maximum hugging, and a thigh extension makes sure that every last part of you is properly supported. That same grippy suede shows up on the shifter, steering wheel, and door panel, and feels fantastic in your hands around every turn.
Typically, we haven’t been a fan of Cadillac’s pop-out navigation screen, but it’s a love/hate relationship. The dash looks great when the nav is tucked away, but we hate how it breaks up the clean design when it rises up out of the stitched dash. In our last review of the Buick Regal, we complained about the button rash on the center stack, and Cadillac has really done a great job minimizing that clutter by integrating a few more controls into the touchscreen, and an overall better button layout helps with the ones that are left. One button we spent a few minutes hunting for was the traction control button, which put a smile on our face when we found it in the most obvious of places; the steering wheel, where it is placed for easy access.
This is where it starts to get really interesting. See that bulge on the hood of the car? That is there to make sure the 6.2 liter supercharged V8 fits under the hood. This 6.2L is the LSA, which is a derivative of the LS9 that barks orders from the front of the venerable Corvette ZR1. The LSA is well shy of the ZR1’s 638 horsepower, but the CTS-V still pounds out a substantial 556 horsepower, and the supercharger helps beef the torque output to 552 lb-ft. This car weighs in at 1,924 kg/4,241 lb, which is only 123 lb more than the standard CTS SportWagon, but with 251 extra horsepower the CTS-V carries only 7.6 pounds per horsepower! As described by Rutledge Wood on Top Gear America when the CTS-V SportWagon smoked a Ferrari California in a drag race, “This is faster than stupid fast; this is F U fast!” Yeah, and then when the Stig took it around their track, the CTS-V SportWagon cranked out a time faster than the Mercedes SLS AMG! GM is here to show the world they can build a car that stands up with the best in the world, not just in a straight line, but around a track as well, and you can take your whole family along for the ride. We’re not usually one to throw out stats, but let’s just add in one more; 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. The feeling of this kind of acceleration leaves you speechless, as you leave your words in the dust. This car is ridiculously capable of highly illegal speeds, but thankfully the pedal is heavily weighted, so excessive speed will only be caused deliberately by your extra effort.
The Cadillac CTS-V comes standard with a 6-speed manual short-shift transmission, but unfortunately, our tester was saddled with the optional 6-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted shift buttons. While the manual is significantly more fuel efficient, the automatic is faster to 60 mph, so you’ve got a decision to make which you prefer. We know we’d prefer the manual, not for the fuel savings, but for the sheer enjoyment. The automatic does a fine job, nonetheless, and while the manual shift mode is pretty snappy, we soon preferred to just leave it in ‘D’.
This car is always fantastically composed, whether driving down to the grocery store with your family, or carving corners on your favourite back roads. The CTS-V owes this composure to the complex Magnetic Ride Control system, which uses dampers filled with magnetorheological fluid and sensors that read the road an astounding thousand times per second, and adjust accordingly.
When it comes to bringing massive speed down to earth, Cadillac has employed the services of six-piston Brembo brakes, with discs front and back bigger than the wheels on our first car. Discs in the front are almost 15 inches in diameter, and the back discs are only slightly smaller at 14.7”. Jamming your foot on the brake pedal is only advised in emergency situations, as the stopping force is so powerful, you may cause passengers to shriek like little children. The steering is speed-sensitive hydraulic-assisted, and is appreciably heavy to allow for precision control. In a car this powerful, the traction control is best left on unless you’re prepared for the effects, but even with the nannies on, the CTS-V safety systems will still allow the tail to wag a little before reeling you back in predictably.
Is it wrong to say we were disappointed at how fuel efficient our week turned out to be with this car? Let’s back that up a little before we go on. By no means should you consider this car if fuel economy appears anywhere on your list of vehicle wants, but we went into this test expecting atrocious results, and came out mildly surprised. The CTS-V SportWagon with automatic transmission is rated at 17.7/10.7 liters per 100 kilometers (city/hwy, manual transmission: 14.9/10.5), and at most points of our week, we were not making any attempt to meet those standards. It came as a shock then, at the end of our week when we tallied our mileage to see that we still ended up with a decent 16.8 L/100 km. Still, with a 68L tank that requests, nay, demands premium octane fuel, you’ll still find your wallet much emptier each and every time you pull into a fuel station.
How can you even begin to define the value of a car like this? Our tester, with a few options checked off, totalled up to $84,100. That’s a pretty big price tag for any car from GM, but consider the immense capabilities of this vehicle, and look at what else you can buy that packs 556 hp, comfortable room for 4 or 5 people, and luxury car amenities into a package under $85,000. We’re pretty sure that you’ll come up with the same answer we did; nothing. C’mon, this car can take your friends out for lunch, stop at IKEA for some new furniture, and then head down to a track and spank exotic cars more than twice its price! That’s gotta count for something! All we know is, we absolutely love this car, and after spending a long time lusting after it and a week driving it, we want it more than ever; except with the 6-speed manual. That’s a win for American muscle!
- Recaro bucket seats
- Usable for any situation
- V8 rumble sounds great
We don’t like…
- Automatic transmission
Quick Spec Summary
2011 Cadillac CTS-V SportWagon
Radiant Silver Metallic with Ebony Leather/Suede interior
6-speed automatic transmission
6.2L Supercharged V8 – 556 hp / 551 lb-ft
Curb Weight – 1,924 kg / 4,241 lb
68 L tank – 17.7 / 10.7 L/100km (city/hwy)
Recommended Fuel – Premium recommended, not required
Base MSRP – $74,820
Options – $7,730
Destination - $1,550
Total MSRP – $84,100
Options on Tester
- Recaro Heated/Ventilated Performance Seats – $3,910
- Transmission: 6 speed automatic – $1,815
- UltraView Double Sized Power Sunroof – $1,660
- Sueded Steering Wheel – $345
Chuck Reimer for Auto Addiction