Left brain, meet right brain. Very rarely do practicality and the foolish pursuit of entertainment coexist, but that is precisely what you can expect from the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon. On one hand, it's a luxurious wagon with plenty of space for people and cargo. On the other, it's a fire-breathing, tire-shredding beast that can get any driving enthusiast cackling like a maniacal adolescent.
Based on the already bold CTS Sport Wagon, the CTS-V variant positively shatters any preconceived notions of what a wagon is or should be. Central to this theme is a stout 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that more than doubles the power output of the base CTS wagon's V6. Add to that some suspension tweaks that deliver grin-inducing cornering, and it's clear why right-brain-dominant drivers may be drawn to it.
Truth be told, the only other wagon in the same league is the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon. And while the Benz may have the Cadillac beat in a number of categories, it's also considerably more expensive. Of course, there are some SUV alternatives like the 2013 BMW X5 M, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and Porsche Cayenne that provide room and vroom, too. If you're one of the rare drivers seeking a middle ground to please both sides of your brain, any of these choices will surely satisfy.
The 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon is a five-passenger high-performance version of the CTS Sport Wagon. That car is reviewed separately, as are the CTS-V sedan and coupe.
Standard features 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 phone connectivity, a rearview camera, a navigation system, real-time traffic and weather, a pop-up touchscreen interface and a 10-speaker Bose 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.
The CTS-V Wagon, for all of its added performance, doesn't differentiate its interior much from the "regular" CTS Wagon. And that's just fine, since either represents one of the nicer cabins available in the segment today. 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.
Powering the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon is 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.
Despite the fact that the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon tips the scales at more than 4,300 pounds, it delivers a surprising amount of performance. The combination of its muscle-bound V8 and modest exhaust note makes the CTS-V deceptively quick. The manual transmission is a good one, with a nice firm shift action and a surprisingly light and progressive clutch. The automatic is likely a more natural choice for this type of car, though it doesn't confidently blip the throttle on downshifts as the E63 AMG's does, 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.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon include high-performance antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags, OnStar emergency telematics, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors.
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 Cadillac CTS sedan upon which the Sport Wagon is based received the best possible rating of five stars in the overall, frontal and side crash categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the sedan was awarded the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon returns essentially unchanged for 2013.