2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon review: Fastest, best-handling wagon in the U.S.

App control
A more modern electronics component in the CTS-V Wagon comes in the form of OnStar, which has been upgrading and gaining features irrespective of the car's own electronics. There are, of course, the concierge and roadside assistance features accessible at the push of the blue button on the rearview mirror casing, but more exciting is OnStar's recent app, which works on Android or iOS. With it, you can view the car's fuel level (very useful considering the CTS-V Wagon's excessive consumption), unlock the doors, and make the horn honk so you can find the car in a vast suburban parking lot. Best of all, you can look up destinations and send them to the car, bridging the gap between smartphone and in-car navigation system.

Those OnStar features will also work with the 2014 model when it comes out, which will be worth waiting for due to Cadillac updating the CTS with its new CUE dashboard electronics.

2013 Cadillac CTS-V
The CTS-V Wagon should get an update in a 2014 model, if Cadillac continues the wagon version. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

More difficult to prognosticate is the performance technology in a new-generation CTS-V, and whether that will be worth the wait. The engine in the 2013 model is phenomenal, delivering huge acceleration with its supercharger, and producing 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque.

Idling at a stoplight, the low thrum of the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 felt like a Geddy Lee bass line. Even with that writhing feeling throughout the car, the exhaust note was rather muted.

Not at all engineered for economy, the 6.2-liter V-8 sucks down gasoline at a rate of 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway in EPA estimates. In my own driving, I averaged right in the middle of that range, and spent a lot of time looking at the Low Fuel warning.

Despite the power, I found the CTS-V Wagon easily drivable in stop-and-go traffic, fast freeway cruising, and slewing through the turns on mountain roads. It was willing to take off gently from a stop, with easily modulated acceleration.

Advanced handling tech
Likewise, the performance-oriented brakes featured a long grab, making it possible to apply just a little to shave off some speed. I had to push hard to get a full stop, something that might throw off drivers used to more-average cars.

The CTS-V Wagon incorporates my favorite suspension technology, a system that uses electromagnets to stiffen the dampers based on sensor input. With a button push, I could choose between Touring and Sport settings, the latter tightening up the ride without making it uncomfortable. The Touring mode feels a little looser, and helps the CTS-V Wagon deliver a Cadillac-quality ride.

2013 Cadillac CTS-V
The suspension can be set between Sport and Touring modes. Josh Miller/CNET

I've found again and again that this suspension technology beats anything else in keeping a heavy car stable in hard cornering.

The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires all around give the CTS-V Wagon grip for days, while the steering tuning is tight and reactive. A little input goes a long way, highlighting the performance character of the car. However, that sensitive wheel may be a little much for the average driver.

The Achilles' heel of the car was the automatic transmission, which just doesn't shift fast enough to keep up with the engine and the needs of a driver intent on wringing some fun out of the experience. It lacks a dedicated sport mode, only offering Drive, which tends to reach for the higher gears, and a manual mode.

Cadillac says the CTS-V Wagon has paddle shifters on the steering wheel, but that is not precisely true. What it really has are buttons under the lateral spokes, which minimizes the control area I had available to shift. A true paddle would have been easier to reach in those harrowing moments of grinding the brakes on a turn approach.

However, I didn't need to change gears much, as third had a very wide power band. Second gear felt a little weak, like it didn't have much to give if you didn't mash the gas pedal, but in third I still had plenty of power on even 90-degree turns. As I could also run the car's speed up close to 100 mph in third, there wasn't much need to upshift.

Wait for it
The 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon is a killer sports car, matching immense power with excellent grip and handling. The automatic transmission makes day-to-day driving easy, but the car's atrocious fuel economy argues against using it for the daily commute, so get the manual transmission.

The fact that it's a station wagon makes it even cooler, giving it a meaty look and room for a spare set of track wheels in back. There is little to compare it to in the North American market, but it sits in company with European fast wagons such as the Audi RS6 Estate.

However, the dated electronics encourage waiting for the next generation. What we saw at the New York auto show looked good, and Cadillac has improved its cabin tech substantially. There is no guarantee that another wagon will be coming, but this 2013 model would serve as an excellent template to build upon.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Trim n/a
Power train Supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 14.1 mpg
Navigation Standard hard-drive-based with real-time traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources Onboard hard drive, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio, auxiliary input
Audio system Bose 10-speaker system
Driver aids Rearview camera
Base price $63,215
Price as tested $69,100

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    2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

    Part Number: 200427048
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    • Trim levels Base
    • Body style Wagon
    • Available Engine Gas
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