The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon would seem to be proof-positive that the brand has been knocked off its rocker. A hyper-powered luxury wagon would seem to have all the mainstream appeal of a vegan Thanksgiving. Actually, it probably does if you go by the CTS-V Wagon's tiny sales numbers. Instead, this mad melding of an ultra-practical body style with ultra-maniacal performance is designed for the unique brand of car enthusiast who sees it as the perfect car. Here is something that has enough cargo room to go antiquing and then enough horsepower to leave the grannies at Ye Olde Treasure Barn coughing in a billowing cloud of white tire smoke.
As with the CTS-V sedan, the wagon receives a supercharged V8, firmer suspension tuning, bigger wheels, stickier tires, more powerful brakes and V-specific styling enhancements. All of it adds up to a car that can show its taillights to the world's best ultra sport sedans. Of course, cars like the BMW M5, Jaguar XFR, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and Porsche Panamera Turbo all cost vastly more. Plus, only the Benz is available as a wagon.
While it's true that the 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon appeals to a limited number of people, it has an absolutely huge amount of appeal for those who get it. There's really no other car sold in the United States that gives you this much practicality and this much performance in one slick-looking package. So we don't think for a second that Cadillac's off its rocker -- even if your grandfather would be a bit confused.
The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon is a five-passenger high-performance version of the regular CTS Sport Wagon. That car is reviewed separately, as are the CTS-V sedan and coupe.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, summer performance tires, high-performance brakes, a limited-slip differential, magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, automatic and adaptive xenon headlamps with washers, foglamps, rear parking sensors and automatic wipers. Comfort and convenience features include keyless ignition/entry, remote ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a cabin odor filtration system, heated eight-way power front seats, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather/faux suede upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a cargo cover and a pet guard cargo net. Electronic features include Bluetooth, a rearview camera, a navigation system, real-time traffic and weather, a pop-up touchscreen interface and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD/DVD player, satellite radio, digital music storage and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Options include a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated Recaro sport seats, and faux suede covering the steering wheel and shifter.
First, the bad news: The 2012 CTS-V wagon's interior isn't much different from that of the regular wagon. Now the good news: The CTS already sports one of the nicer passenger compartments in the segment. The overall look is high-class, with an attractive and functional layout for gauges and controls. Materials aren't the best in class, but they're generally high quality and a noticeable improvement over those used in previous Cadillacs.
The cabin's most significant shortcoming is the design of the standard front seats, which lack both the comfort and support required for spirited driving. The optional Recaro seats address this issue and feature ventilation as well -- they are essentially a must-have. Overall interior room, however, is quite good and better than most competing models, but rear-seat access can be a bit tricky due to a low rear roof line. Outward visibility to the rear is also poor.
Cargo capacity is obviously important with a wagon, and the CTS provides a generous 25 cubic feet with the rear seats raised and 58 cubic feet with them lowered. This is less than the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon, but the Mercedes costs a lot more.
The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon is powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that produces 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, but a six-speed automatic is a no-cost option.
In Edmunds performance testing, CTS-V wagons with both the manual and automatic sprinted from zero to 60 mph in a remarkably quick 4.7 seconds. With that type of acceleration, it shouldn't come as a surprise that fuel economy is poor. It gets an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined with the manual, and 12/18/14 with the automatic.
The fact that the 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon tips the scales at more than 4,300 pounds makes its astounding performance all the more remarkable. The combination of its muscle-bound V8 and modest exhaust note makes the CTS-V deceptively quick. While the manual transmission is a good one, with a nice firm shift action and a surprisingly light and progressive clutch, you'll actually get quicker acceleration with the automatic transmission when it's in Sport mode. However, the automatic doesn't confidently blip the throttle on downshifts as on the E63 AMG, and it's neither the quickest nor the smoothest unit we've experienced.
The CTS-V's standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension offers a good balance between ride quality and handling via driver-selectable Tour or Sport modes. While it's capable of throwing down some seriously quick lap times, the CTS-V can't hide its 2-ton-plus mass on a winding piece of asphalt. That hefty feeling in tight corners is quickly forgotten, however, when you turn its mighty V8 loose on the straightaways.
The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon comes standard with high-performance antilock brakes, stability and traction controls, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. OnStar emergency telematics, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors are also standard.
In Edmunds brake testing, the CTS-V wagon came to a stop from 60 mph in 111 feet -- a very strong performance.
In government crash tests, the regular CTS wagon received the best possible rating of five stars in the overall, frontal and side crash categories.
The Cadillac CTS-V Wagon gets standard automatic wipers for 2012.