Review: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon [w/video]

Grand Funk Railroad roared into existence in 1969 by way of Flint, Michigan. The trio of Mark Farner, Don Brewer, and Mel Schacher immediately made an impact in the American music scene by selling more albums than any other rock band in 1970. Just one year later, Grand Funk Railroad would sell out Shea Stadium in 72 hours, besting a mark previously set by The Beatles. Still, critics failed to see the appeal, and the band was generally panned by those supposedly in the know.

Sometimes critics are very wrong, and fans proved this point by flocking to GFR shows and buying large quantities of the band’s records.

Flint has more to be proud of then Grand Funk Railroad, however, as it also serves as the birthplace for General Motors. Now, of course, based in Detroit, GM are the proud parents of the Cadillac brand, which in turn has given birth to a vehicle that is an odd reminder of the issues faced by GFR. I’m referring to the 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, a car beloved by automotive critics and enthusiasts, yet sold in small numbers because the general populace sees no use for it.

Like the critic’s views of Grand Funk Railroad, the average automotive consumer… is stupid.

Cadillac managed to impress a lot of folks when it introduced the original CTS-V back in 2004. That particular four-door was powered by a 400-horsepower 5.7-liter V8, and all the go-fast energy was sent out to the rear wheels by way of a six-speed manual. Soon after, a 6.0-liter V8 was swapped in yet power remained the same. The benefit offered by the larger engine was the wider torque band it offered, with max torque was reached at a lower rev point.

Cadillac gave the CTS-V a break after launching the 2007 model, however, a new version wasn’t far behind. In 2009 the automaker produced the 2nd generation CTS, and with it came the updated CTS-V. Power was now supplied by the mighty supercharged 6.2-L LSA V8 engine, which is good for 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. Cadillac decided it was time to plunk down that engine into a variety of new CTS bodystyles alongside the updated sedan. First came the CTS-V Coupe, and rumbling right in line behind the two door was the CTS-V Wagon.

Mind=blown.

General Motors has effectively built the car of many an enthusiasts and automotive journalists dreams. Some might feel this an underhanded tactic to promote good press amongst the rest of the brand. Personally, I don’t care how the car is viewed by others. We’re talking about a manual-transmission-equipped wagon with a Mad-Maxian mill sending power out back. How is this a bad thing again?

Short answer: it’s not. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon is the stuff enthusiasts dreams are made of. Some might struggle at the thought of owning a wagon of any kind, nevermind one that gets horrible fuel economy and costs between $60,000 and $80,000 depending on the options checked. I see the CTS-V Wagon as a muscle car with room for my friends, my dogs, my groceries, my snowboard, my golf clubs, my newly-inflated ego and my credit card bills, because I’d go broke just owning this car… and I wouldn’t care.

Those who dislike the CTS-V Wagon have their reasons. Most of the reasons coming from actual enthusiasts focus on others liking it because of the “I’m different than you” factor. So now we’re disliking it because we think others like it only because other others dislike it. Right. Why not enjoy the car for what it can do, rather than hating it for being a perceived marketing gimmick? If GM really did produce this car to make a group of journalists happy, I don’t give a shit.

They made it, and I want one.

Enough ranting, let’s get on to some semblance of a review. However, as you’ve probably already guessed, I kind of like this one.

What Cadillac has built, is a useful muscle car that actually handles like a sports car running on a longer wheelbase. Magnetic ride control keeps things in check while hustling the vehicle through a carved-out canyon road. The suspension gets some additional help in the form of 19-inch wheels, massive 255/40ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cub rubber, and rather large Brembo brakes. Inside, the optional (heated and ventilated) Recaro seats take some getting used to, but once you find the sweet spot you’re dialed in.  Additionally, Cadillac has employed “sueded fabric” (read: faux Alcantara) on the steering wheel and shift lever.

As a complete package, the CTS-V Wagon is almost shocking with regards to how well it allows you to attack your favorite backroads. Though that shock disappears when you consider the performance pedigree set forth courtesy of the sedan. This car can hustle, and it’s even a confidence-inspiring vehicle when pushed. I’ve had the pleasure of driving one around a race track, and nearly every other car on said track is caught (and passed) with relative ease. Body-roll is minimal, power is immense, and braking hauls the ever-accelerating action down in a hurry.

Of course, this long roof would be going nowhere were it not for the mighty LSA mounted under the hood. Other outlets peg the 0-60 miles per hour figure around the four-second mark. Top speed is… plenty. Beyond the power and speed, however, is the sound. The CTS-V wagon belches forth a guttural gurgle that turns into an angry roar as you press the pedal to the carpet. 

Despite the evil engine, this car still wears a Cadillac badge up front. That means there is a level of luxury one expects to find in the cabin of this five-door. Both front seats are heated and cooled, the touch-screen infotainment display provides access to the navigation system, Bose 5.1 surround system, and dual-zone climate control, and the key can stay in your pocket thanks to the keyless start and entry system. The ride isn’t overly harsh, so when your journey is tame, your passengers won’t hate you or puke all over your “Alcantara”… which is nice.

It’s not all handshakes and high-fives with regards to the level of luxury offered up here. Other automakers have a better understanding of what it takes to really wear that luxe moniker, and Cadillac is still playing catch-up. The CTS-V Wagon is not as comfortable and tech-forward as an Audi A6, as well equipped as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, or as posh as a Jaguar XF. Instead, this long Caddy offers sniffs of near luxury without ever actually delivering the goods. Despite this, I view it as a welcome trade-off for the gratuitous violence offered up courtesy of the powertrain. In one hand, I have luxury, and in the other I have driving experience. I’ll take driving experience every time, and so will all the tens of people who actually plunk down money for this hi-po Cadillac wagon.

Still, as I mentioned earlier, all of this power and (near) luxury doesn’t come cheap. The base price of a 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon is $63,215, and the version you see here is $72,080 thanks to a handful of optional extras. A car like this shouldn’t be cheap though, as only those who are really interested will cough up the dough to own it (or wait a few years when depreciation absolutely hammers the asking price of a used one).

The thing is though, the CTS-V Wagon is worth every penny of its MSRP. We’re talking about a car that hauls gear and people, yet also hauls copious amounts of ass. Some out there view the car as a marketing tool designed to lure folks like myself into drooling over its $995 Black Diamond Tricoat paintwork. I view it as everything I’ve ever wanted in a car, wrapped in one sinister black package. 

Cadillac, listen to me, and return me, my ship.
I’m the Captain, I’m its captain, and I’m feeling mighty sick.

The CTS-V Wagon brings me closer to my home…

[Disclosure: Cadillac flipped me the keys to this 2012 CTS-V Wagon, and let me hold on to them for a week. The automaker threw in a tank of gas as well, which didn’t last long, and was replaced by many more tanks of expensive gasoline.]

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