Posted by: David Welch on November 19, 2009
Will Americans buy wagons? History says no. And by history I mean after 1980. Sure, Subaru sells wagons quite successfully to some outdoorsy types on the coasts. You also see the occasionall BMW lover in a 3-series wagon. But the jury has been in for years. Americans would rather have a crossover suv of some kind. It’s easy to understand why. Wagons were America’s family car of choice before the minivan forced their near extinction. How nerdy does a car have to be for a minivan to beat it on pure coolness factor? Just think about fake wood-grain panel wagons and the picture is complete.
Enter the Cadillac CTS sport wagon, which I took on a test run a week ago. It’s quite impressive. GM engineered a tight handling ride. The direct injection 3.6-liter V-6 is powerful and smooth and the fuel economy is pretty good with 26 mpg on the highway. Combined fuel economy is less exciting at 21 mpg. But this is a luxury car that gets 304 horsepower. That’s the same impressive combination that can be had in the Chevrolet Camaro RS.
With the 2010 CTS, General Motors has proven that Cadillac is in step with what luxury cabins are all about. The dashboard and surrounding decor is as modern-looking as anything on the market. It’s more artistic than Audi’s interior appointments and just as posh as a Lexus. When you close the doors, for example, they seal shut automatically. It’s a nice touch that shows a bit of craftsmanship.
The best thing about this wagon is the styling. GM didn’t just take the CTS sedan and stretch it back with some extra sheet metal. The company spent the money to design a different back end. It’s the right way to go. Design is subjective, but the CTS wagon looks like it’s cocked and ready to go. In the past, carmakers just stretched their sedans, creating oblong wagons with awkward design proportions. Past-generation Toyota Camry and Ford Taurus wagons come to mind. This one is actually a head turner.
As fine a car as this is, don’t expect Americans to come pouring into showrooms for a CTS wagon. GM is launching a Cadillac SRX crossover suv at the same time. That will pull in many buyers who want a Caddy with some storage space. Plus, a lot of what makes this a good car have less to do with the fact that it’s a wagon and more from the fact that the CTS is the best car made by a resurgent Cadillac brand. Surely GM will sell a few thousand CTS wagons. But don’t expect this car to resurrect a market that has been dead for years.
It’s a shame, too. Most buyers who want a luxury car with cargo space would opt for the SRX, which gets lower fuel economy with a combined 19 mpg. The CTS wagon has 53.4 cubic feet of cargo space compared with 61.2 cubic feet in the SRX. So most buyers will opt for worse fuel economy and pass up on the tighter handling of the CTS wagon just to ride up high on the road and get a few more feet of cargo space that they’ll probably never use. Maybe this wagon will break through. If not, there’s always the European market.