Not the Wagon Queen Family Truckster...
I can't help it. Any mention of an American 'Station Wagon' immediately brings to mind Chevy Chase in that hideous, under-powered, over-sized land yacht in National Lampoon's Vacation film. Although to be fair, that was a long time ago, and on a recent trip to California we had a brief drive of the latest wagon from Cadillac to see if they'd learned anything since the days of squared-off front-ends and fake wood panelling. Mmmm.
...not the Cadillac CTS-V Station Wagon
We'd been allowed a brief drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Malibu which, whilst not being the most challenging piece of road in the world, is at least devoid of the monotonous straight-line sections beloved of the typical American Interstate and does have some decent undulating bends.
'Our' car had been parked nose-first, so with just the tailgate to look at there was little to suggest that this was anything other than a regular contemporary estate car, aside from a discreet 'V' badge. The front is a slightly different matter with a blingy Bentley-style chrome grille and a bulging bonnet, but still it doesn't shout at you too much and certainly doesn't look like a car with over 550bhp. But despite this, we suspect the car will win few friends in Europe from the point of view of its looks. Then again the Porsche Panamera isn't exactly Miura-gorgeous...
On the inside you're greeted by an Alcantara-clad steering wheel and an interior which is actually pretty good. Sure, there's evidence of Cadillac having raided GM's parts bin for some bits which are shared with cheaper Chevys, but the overall impression is that this is a nice place to be, and even half-decently put together. It's no M5, but is an improvement over other recent offerings from the US.
Having adjusted the optional Recaros to suit we whispered our way out onto the highway and couldn't decide if the car's quietness was a good thing or not. Even the supercharger 'whine' we expected had somehow been dialled-out by the engineers. Surely anything with a supercharged V8 and huge horsepower needs to sound the part?
As a clear gap opened up ahead of us it was time to see how the quiet American fared in the performance stakes. A couple of seconds later we had our answer. Despite being at low revs and in 4th gear, the Caddy reacted instantly, pinned us back hard in our seats, and had swallowed-up the considerable gap we'd left between us and the car in front very, very quicky... and it hadn't even got above 4500rpm. Impressive. As the Americans say; 'Horsepower sells engines, but torque wins races.' The CTS-V Wagon has plenty of both. In fact, it's supercar-fast with a standing quarter mile being covered in 12.3 seconds. A bit further up the road we got to properly open the taps and, far from being purely torque-biased in its delivery, the engine has plenty of poke up-top, and pulls hard until it starts to tickle the rev-limiter.
Sadly we simply didn't get much chance to properly sample the handling - although the fact that the 4-door version showed the M5 a clean pair of heels around the Nurburgring is a pretty good indication that it's not to be messed with. All we can confirm is that steering feel is very good and that the turn-in is sharper then you'd expect. Alas, we didn't get to see just how well it puts the power down coming out of a tight turn...
Our brief dalliance was over after less than 30 minutes, in which time almost all memory of ghastly Yank 'Station Wagons' of the past had been erased. So, you're probably expecting us to tell you to get one ordered? Er...nope. Not quite at least. The first problem is that they're not being officially brought into the country. The second is that if you do get one (through people like this www.bauer-millett.com) it will be LHD only. The third problem (as if the first two weren't enough) is that this car's looks and badge mean it probably just won't 'fit-in' in Europe like it does in the States. This is a shame, because it's superb to drive.
Having said that, on the US market the CTS-V Wagon is available for $68,640 (that's just under £42,000!) and if we built an estate car in the UK that could rival similar machinery from Munich or Stuttgart for that money, I'd guess that we'd be quite chuffed about it? You probably won't see many over here anyway, but if you do - and you don't happen to be in your Enzo at the time - our advice is not to tangle with it.