Cadillac's $70,000 Monster Wagon
There's something about the desert that always makes you feel like you're crawling along, even in a 556-horsepower monster like the CTS-V Wagon. Even with the accelerator sunk to the floor, Joshua trees swing slowly by, supplicating arms outstretched to the gray, turbulent sky.
I'm in the Mojave, outside of Los Angeles, the two-lane highway bereft of traffic and the weather threatening lightning storms. My ride is a Cadillac.
It's the car I want to be in, a monster of the asphalt, perfectly suited for chomping through endless miles, a machine to beat the solitude.
In the history of weird, automotive mash-ups, the CTS-V wagon is a doozey. Take the old-school family station wagon, evil it up with a glossy black paint job, man-eating grill and wicked knifelike taillights, and then stick a supercharged Corvette engine inside.
The result is a family vehicle with a heavy-metal attitude.
The Mad Max movies are scheduled for a reboot, and I hereby nominate this $64,500 vehicle to have a starring role, replacing the Ford Falcon Interceptor from the original 1979 film. A better Road Warrior (preferably without Mel Gibson inside), I've never seen. Let the post-apocalyptic motorcycle gangs come: I can outrun them.
And since the rear hatch gulps 58 cubic feet, I could stuff enough water, food and survival equipment to last a long time in a dystopian future.
I've come to a massive dry lakebed in the hopes of executing car-commercial stunts like dusty drifts and figure 8s. Sadly, it's closed to the public due to recent rain which has turned the clay to mud. Instead I just wander, letting the miles hypnotize me as the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 rattles in the hood.
That stupidly big engine churns 551 foot-pounds of torque, enough to help reach 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. The quarter mile comes in about 12.6. Not exactly your dad's wood-paneled station wagon. The kids at school will not make fun of you for showing up in this.
The downside is that its thirst would probably leave you like the doomed, nameless characters in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" — pushing a shopping cart rather than driving. With an 18 gallon tank and gas mileage of 14 in the city, 19 on the highway, you'd soon be bone dry, waiting for the vultures to alight. (Maybe the next Mad Max movie will feature a Prius instead.)
I motor down a road to a small airport that I find on the map, and am turned away by a security guard who says it's a private government facility. When I ask what kind he frowns at me. I turn around, scanning the sky for Predator drones, and park outside a graveyard of rusting aircraft.
The dead machines include an old Russian helicopter, painted in dull camouflage and missing its rotors, and two former Pan Am planes, each cut in half, with the company's distinctive pale blue stripe running down the side.
Cadillac could easily have gone the way of that famous brand. It was certainly sliding that way until a design resurgence pulled it back.
The product behind the reinvention was largely the CTS, which comes in sedan, coupe and wagon forms. Each is available in a supercharged "V" model, with prices from mid-$30,000s to high $70,000s, spanning many needs and desires.
General Motors Co. (GM) will not sell a lot of the CTS-V wagons, but you've got to love the radical idea of mating a family vehicle with a powerful sports car. Especially if you've got a kid or two and hate minivans.
The Cadillac wagon can put off a full-blown midlife crisis for decades, and you'll never be late to soccer practice.
Or you could opt for the less-mental CTS wagon. Available in either rear- or all-wheel-drive, it has a V-6 with 270 hp (enough power for most of us) or 304 hp. It retains the radical styling, so it's still an anti-minivan, but gets up to 27 mpg highway. Pricing starts at just over $39,000.
On my lonely road, I perform a solitary burnout, the smoke drifting into the sky. I can see how one might get drunk with power in this zany station wagon. Mad Max — and Mel — have nothing on me, baby.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon at a Glance
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 with 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Speed: 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
Gas mileage per gallon: 14 city, 19 highway (manual); 12,18 (automatic).
Price as tested: $70,790.
Best features: Lots of space, lots of attitude, lots of power.
Worst feature: Lots and lots of gas.
Target buyer: The family man who hates minivans.