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 1980 thriller, “The Shining.”

The words became particularly relevant to those of us who survived record snowfalls in the upper Midwest. Every day there was more. The shovel became an appendage. Would it ever stop?

Rather than going nuts and taking an axe to the bathroom door, a saner approach was to bundle up, get behind the wheel of the new-for-'11 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon with Pirelli winter tires and find a big piece of unoccupied asphalt on a brisk Michigan morning after a few more inches of fresh snow had 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 Sport Wagon is 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.

The rear seats fold flat for 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.

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 on parking bricks.

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.

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.

The 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 historic Mazda Raceway 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. It uses magneto-rheological fluid and electronic sensors at all four corners to “read the road” every millisecond, constantly adjusting damping stiffness, even while spinning on icy tarmac with traction control off.

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.

This same powertrain configuration will be available in the Chevy Camaro ZL1, which is sure to be priced below the CTS-V Sport Wagon. Our Cadillac tester stickers at $69,585, including $3,400 Recaro high-performance power seats and $1,300 gas-guzzler tax.

The wagon completes the present V-series for the CTS lineup and holds its own against the BMW 5-Series wagon and Mercedes E-Class wagon.

As for the parking-lot shenanigans, forgive the indulgence. It's good, clean fun for a CTS-V, which feels perfectly at home spinning freely like a top.

PROS/CONS

+
  • Beats winter doldrums
  • Handles like magic
  • Recaro seats worth $3,400
-
  • Squeaky gearbox
  • Splitter prone to damage
  • Backlight, C-pillar limit view

'11 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

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

Transmission: 6-speed manual

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)

Base price: $69,585

Fuel economy: 14/19 mpg (16.7-12.3 L/100 km)

Competition: BMW 5-Series wagon, Mercedes E-Class wagon