2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon: Stylish, luxurious practicality

Reinventing the full-size American station wagon
by: JAIME VALDEZ, Not your father’s station wagon – but the one he wishes was available when you were a child.

The 2010 CTS Sport Wagon may be the most practical vehicle Cadillac has ever built.

With its relatively fuel-efficient base 3.0-liter V6 engine, available all-wheel-drive and generous cargo space, the new Sport Wagon should find favor with upwardly mobile families who wouldn't be caught dead in a minivan. And although Cadillac's SUVs may carry more, they are not as economical or easy to drive in downtown traffic.

The Sport Wagon is the first traditional station wagon sold by Cadillac - and the first by any General Motors company since the demise of the Chevrolet Caprice and Buick Roadmaster station wagons in 1996. The last American-made station wagon was the Dodge Magnum, which was based on the Chrysler 300 and went out of production in 2008.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, American station wagons seemed to dominate the road. They were essentially made by adding boxes with a fifth door behind the back seats of mid and full-size sedans. But when gas prices soared after the Arab Oil Embargo of the mid-1970s, they were displaced by more economical minivans and, eventually, the wave of family-friendly SUVs that began with the original Ford Explorer.

Station wagons never completely went away, of course. Full-size ones continued to be offered by Volvo. Japanese manufacturers offered some over the years, and even Jaguar offered a station wagon version of its X-Type sedan as recently as 2008. But compared to 30 years ago, station wagons have been an endangered species, especially American-made ones.

The CTS Sport Wagon could change all that. Based on the critically acclaimed CTS sedan, it is comfortable, luxurious and fun to drive. It also looks great. The extended roofline and angular rear lift door are fully integrated into the rest of the car, which is already one of the most stylish Cadillacs ever offered.

Except for the additional cargo space behind the rear seat, the interior is the same as the CTS sedan, which is to say roomy and attractive. Once upon a time, Cadillac and Lincoln were known for their styling excesses, including tacky dashes and overstuffed seats. But the interior of the CTS is as restrained and tasteful as any European sedan these days. The materials and fit in our test car were excellent, including the supportive heated-and-cooled leather seats. The entertainment and climate controls on the center console were well laid out and easy to use. And the thin wood trim pieces that ran from the front doors along the dash were the essence of understated elegance.

The screen for the navigation system and rear-view camera was also discrete, rising up from the dash when the system is activiated or the car is put in reverse, but otherwise staying out of sight.

Our test car was equipped with the optional 3.6-liter V6 engine, sport suspension and 19-inch polished aluminum wheels. Together they helped make the CTS Sport Wagon live up to its name - sporty on twisty roads, even without the available all-wheel-drive. Much of the credit goes to the easy-revving 304-horsepower engine, which is also offered in the new Chevrolet Camaro.

The only annoyance was a tenancy of the six-speed automatic transmission to hunt between gears during moderate acceleration. Although only a little distracting, it was completely eliminated by using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter in the manual shift mode.

Since the Sport Wagon is based on the CTS, it has to be asked whether Cadillac will offer a CTS-V version with all the features of their high-performance sedan, including the 556-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and six-speed manual transmission. Now that would be a family hauler to reckon with.

Facts and figures

• Model: 2010 CTS Sport Wagon

• Manufacturer: Cadillac.

• Class: Full-size station wagon.

• Layout: Front engine, rear or all-wheel-drive.

• Style: Five-door, five passenger car.

• Engines: 3.0-liter V6 (270 hp, 223 ft lb); 3.6-liter V6 (304 hp, 273 ft lb).

• Transmissions: 6-speed automatic.

• EPA estimated city/highway mileage: 18/26 (as tested).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $39,000 51,580 as tested).