All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
These immortal words, typed thousands of times by an isolated caretaker as he goes mad in an old hotel during a blizzard, helped cement Jack Nicholson’s stardom in the creepy 1980 thriller, “The Shining.”
The words have become particularly relevant to those of us surviving this year’s record snowfalls in the upper Midwest. Every day there’s more. The shovel has become an appendage. When will it stop?
Rather than going insane and taking an axe to the bathroom door, a saner approach is to bundle up, get behind the wheel of the new-for-’11 Cadillac CTS-V wagon with Pirelli winter tires and find a big piece of unoccupied asphalt, say, behind a strip mall on a brisk Michigan morning after a few more inches of fresh snow have fallen.
Turn off the traction control, turn the wheel sharply, give it some gas and Homer Simpson’s infatuation with doughnuts becomes apparent. Watching the world go round has never been so much fun. With 556 hp surging to the rear wheels from a 6.2L supercharged V-8 through a Tremec 6-speed manual, wheel slip on a frozen surface is not a problem, but the front Pirellis do a remarkable job holding the CTS-V in its orbit, much like a tether ball rotating around a post.
This type of tomfoolery supposedly went away with the Duke boys in the 1970s, after more fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive cars began to take over. Today, the CTS-V Wagon is fully capable of paying tribute to those heady days of muscle-car antics, while benefiting from generations of new technology that delivers superior ride and handling, fuel efficiency, chassis control and safety.
This new Cadillac is the coolest wagon ever produced, redefining a segment once created for utility.
Sure, the rear seats fold flat to yield gobs of cargo space, but the real reason to buy the CTS-V Wagon is its shrink-wrapped sheet metal, dynamic handling and ability to achieve 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph (306 km/h).
The wagon cuts a mean profile, benefiting from the same styling cues, grille and ground effects that distinguish the CTS-V coupe and sedan.
A splitter below the front bumper adds to the on-road presence but also improves aerodynamics and stability by forcing air under the vehicle. Problem is, that splitter juts forward to a point, making it easily damaged when pulling up to a parking brick.
Although all CTS-V variants sit 0.6 ins. (15 mm) lower than their non-V counterparts, Cadillac executives say the splitter is designed to clear a 7-in. (18-cm) curb. The part is molded-in-color in three separate pieces so it can be replaced easily in the event it’s damaged.
The steeply raked backlight and angular side windows mask the fact this is a wagon. The long taillights resemble inverted spikes and stretch from rear bumper all the way to the roof of the vehicle, creating a striking image.
Much like the coupe, the wagon suffers from limited rearward visibility, due to the tapered roof line, narrow back window and oversized C-pillar.
|Vehicle type||Front-engine, RWD 5-passenger wagon|
|Engine||6.2L OHV supercharged V-8; aluminum block, heads|
|Power||556 hp @ 6,100 rpm|
|Torque||551 lb.-ft (747 Nm) @ 3,800 rpm|
|Wheelbase||113.4 ins. (288 cm)|
|Overall length||191.3 ins. (486 cm)|
|Overall width||72.6 ins. (184 cm)|
|Overall height||59.1 ins. (150 cm)|
|Curb weight||4,390 lbs. (1,995 kg)|
|Fuel economy||14/19 mpg (16.7-12.3 L/100 km)|
|Competition||5-Series wagon, Mercedes E-Class wagon|
|Beats winter doldrums||Squeaky gearbox|
|Handles like magic||Splitter prone to damage|
|Recaro seats worth $3,400||Backlight, C-pillar limit view|
Mass usually is the enemy in performance cars. But the CTS-V wagon benefits from being up to 190 lbs. (86 kg) heavier than both the sedan and coupe, depending on transmission.
That extra pounds help keep the rear end planted and push the vehicle closer to the ideal 50/50 weight distribution. With the CTS-V wagon, 48% of the weight rests on the rear axle, compared with 46% for the coupe and sedan.
On dry pavement, the wagon feels supremely balanced on the long straights and tight corners of historicRaceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA, which GM rented to demonstrate the V wagon’s capabilities.
Even on the track’s trademark descending “corkscrew,” the car handles confidently and never feels out of place.
The standard Magnetic Ride Control dampers work magic by compensating for uneven pavement and cornering forces.
GM calls it the world’s fastest-reacting suspension technology – good enough for Ferrari, by the way. It uses magneto-rheological fluid and electronic sensors at all four corners to “read the road” every millisecond, constantly adjusting damping stiffness in delivering precise handling, even while spinning on icy tarmac with traction control off.
There’s variability in the system, too – a Sport mode for tightly sprung performance driving and a Tour mode for comfortable cruising.
Cadillac estimates up to 20% of CTS-V wagon customers will take the car to the track or run it in drag races. An even bigger proportion will spend extra for aftermarket modifications, such as a throatier exhaust system.
But none of that fettling is essential because the wagon comes well-equipped from the Grand River assembly plant in Lansing, MI.
Power comes from the same 6.2L OHV supercharged V-8 producing the identical 556 hp and 551 lb.-ft. (747 Nm) of torque as in the sedan and coupe versions. The 6-speed manual shifts smoothly but exhibits too many squeaks and rattles that would grow annoying with time. A 6-speed automatic also is available.
’s innovative Twin Vortices Series blower spins four lobes, rather than the standard three, and creates smoother, more efficient airflow, which helps reduce noise.
This same powertrain configuration will be available in the Chevy Camaro ZL1, which GM announced at the recent Chicago auto show and will arrive early next year.
ZL1 pricing has yet to be announced, but expect it well below the CTS-V Wagon. Our Cadillac tester stickers at $69,585, including $3,400 Recaro high-performance power seats, $1,300 gas-guzzler tax, $995 white diamond tri-coat paint job, $600 for Midnight Sapele wood trim, $300 for suede steering wheel and shifter and an $825 destination charge.
Also standard are Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport tires on 19-in. aluminum rims.
Now available, the wagon completes the V-series for the CTS lineup and should hold its own against the5-Series wagon and Mercedes E-Class wagon.
As for the parking-lot shenanigans, forgive the indulgence. It’s good, clean fun for the CTS-V, which feels perfectly at home spinning freely like a top, giving the driver an exhilarating new outlook on life as wintertime malaise settles in. All work and no play indeed makes Jack a dull boy.