Breaking the Wagon Curse
Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon to win (some) Americans
For anyone daring enough to predict whether a new car is going to be a hit, there’s been one sure-fire play: Always bet against the station wagon.
Over the past decade, some terrific wagons have convinced auto critics, including me, that this one or that one is the model that’s finally going to break the wagon curse. But from the slick-handling Mazda6 wagon to the bold-and-burly Dodge Magnum, Americans have proven allergic to even the best wagons. (Both of those models lasted only a few short years before being axed.) As I’ve noted in the past, when a car company offers consumers a choice between a crossover SUV and a traditional wagon, the crossover invariably outsells the wagon -- sometimes by as much as 10-to-1. That’s true even for companies like Volvo, BMW and Audi, where you’d assume wagon loyalists would be lurking. How miserable are wagon sales? No automaker sold even a scant 10,000 units of a single station-wagon model in 2009. And the vast majority of wagons didn’t even break the 5,000 mark in sales. (For the record, the all-new Subaru Forester racked up more than 75,000 sales, but even Subaru considers the tall-riding Forester a crossover, not a conventional wagon.)
Considering that dry gulch for wagons, I’m certainly not going to predict massive sales for the new Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. But I will say this: If you need a versatile family car, but you’re sick of SUVs -- the now-suburban styling, bloated curb weights, mediocre mileage and dull performance -- then I urge you to give the CTS wagon a chance. First off, the CTS looks terrific, even more striking than the angular CTS sedan. Everywhere I went in the CTS wagon, people walked up to eyeball and compliment the car.
Secondly, the CTS wagon drives nearly as well as its acclaimed sedan sibling, which is the best car in Caddy’s current lineup: luxurious, Lexus-quiet and notably sharp-handling. And even with a 304-horsepower direct-injection V6 engine under the hood, the tailgated CTS returns 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway, according to EPA estimates.
Now, the CTS wagon isn’t cheap; it starts at just over $40,000 and tops out over 50 grand. But that price is still right in line with midsize luxury crossovers, most of which can’t touch the Cadillac’s crisp style and sport-sedan performance. Enthusiasts, of course, are marking their calendars for the upcoming CTS-V version, with its 556-horsepower supercharged V8 -- perfect for scaring the bejesus out of the kids on the way to soccer practice.
You won’t be seeing a CTS wagon in every driveway. But for a certain kind of buyer -- the smart kind, in my book -- that’s another good reason to drive the Caddy and cast a vote for the continued existence of station wagons.
(Photo courtesy of GM.)
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