Heavy Metal Affliction - 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
It’s not every day that car manufacturers make exciting decisions. I’m talking about the kind of cars that enthusiasts go crazy for. Even less often do those types of cars make it into production. Thankfully the folks at Cadillac have done awesome things, with not only the entire V-line, but specifically the CTS-V Wagon.
Seriously, what is cooler than driving around in something that is sedate by its very nature but laden with heavy automotive weaponry? The term “sleeper” comes to mind, but usually these vehicles are custom builds. Cadillac took the “sleeper” concept to heart and built a station wagon on Corvette ZR-1 running gear, and they even offered it in a six-speed manual.
At the recent Microsoft Car Show, I met Adam Cramer and his 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon he calls the “Vagon.” Cramer admittedly no longer enjoys car shows as much as he used to since starting his car club called “Avants.” Their slogan is “Drive Everything.” The primary goal of the club is for members to get to know other members and trade cars. So, for Cramer, just looking isn’t as exciting as getting out and driving other people’s cars.
Cramer grew up around a dinner table where conversation largely consisted of discussing the cool cars he, his brother, and father had seen that day. His first car was a Chevy Beretta GTZ, and then he found his way to wagons after buying a 1995 Audi A6 wagon from a professional snowboarder. At the time he thought, “If a professional snowboarder thinks that Audis are cool, then they must be cool.” He later owned a couple of highly modified S6 Avants, one he still owns today. His brother is a wagon lover as well and owns a pair of Volvo wagons: a 1997 850R and a 1979 245. His dad has been a long-time owner of a 1977 Porsche 911.
So yeah, it runs in the family. After taking a turn in a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Cramer decided it wasn’t wagon enough, so he began the hunt for a CTS-V Wagon. He hunted the Internet until he found exactly what he wanted: a black-on-black color scheme, a manual transmission, with the Recaro seat package, and the suede wheel and shifter options.
He found it in Pennsylvania at a dealer and paid the asking price, then had it shipped back to Washington. At the time it was still under warranty, so the modifications he has done enhance the look and mildly increase performance. There is much more to unlock though. The supercharged Corvette ZR1 motor put out 638 horsepower from the factory, the Cadillac tune limits that to a hearty 556hp and 551 lb-ft of torque.
In the spirit of “Avants,” which I decided to join myself, Cramer let me drive the “Vagon” to our photo shoot location. Let me tell you, despite its weight, this car really moves out. I held back the urge to go hard through the gears but I did let it breathe a bit and got the rear end loose on an on ramp. It was predictable and stable and was ready to haul some serious you-know-what. You almost have to remind yourself you are driving a two-ton plus car.
Cramer has testified to the awesomeness of the magnetoghorical suspension, even taking the wagon to an “Avants” autocross event. The system is so good, Cadillac licensed it out to other car makers, including Ferrari.
The idea for “Avants” came to Cramer when he was reading about ‘peer to peer’ car rental companies that were on the rise. Think Airbnb but with cars. If you think about it though, that concept is great on the demand side (being able to drive cool cars), but on the supply side it’s not as great (giving a stranger the keys to your car.) So Cramer thought to himself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could build a network of trusted car enthusiasts who could share cars once in a while?” He had the Avants.com website sitting in his back pocket that he was saving for a possible Audi wagon club. It turns out, “Avants” defined means “original, innovative” so it was a good fit. A year later there are several hundred members with cars ranging from Miatas to McLarens.
Clearly just becoming a member doesn’t instantly grant you access to the car of your choice. It does create the network of like-minded enthusiasts who are open to the idea of sharing their cars through meet-and-greet events, member drives, and more. You get to know someone, and as trust develops you might first get a ride along, then a swap for portion of a drive, or it could lead to more time. It’s up to the club members to decide what works for them.
Many members are huge Forza fans as well since the overlying desire of members is to experience different cars and, of course, Forza does that superbly. In Forza, there are no consequences for pushing a car to far. Within the club, swappers are expected to treat the car they are loaned with even more respect than their own car. Some club events have been held at car dealers, so the opportunity to drive new or used cars that are available for purchase creates more even more driving opportunities.
I never thought I would have a chance to drive a car as rare as Cramer’s CTS-V Wagon. Enthusiasts refer to it as a unicorn since there were only 512 manual models built; tack on the Recaro package and that number goes down even further. It’s the perfect car for the owner of an organization like “Avants.” Cramer sums it up perfectly, “I think car enthusiasts are just naturally drawn to unique, rare, weird, powerful cars. The CTS-V manual wagon checks all of those boxes.”
Since the “Vagon” is now out of warranty, Cramer plans on upgrading the pulley and tune. The result will be about 80 more horsepower. Does it need it? Of course it does! After all, 556 horsepower is nowhere near enough for a station wagon. That’s just fun to say, but in reality without companies like Cadillac creating the CTS-V Wagon and organizations like “Avants,” the likelihood of the average enthusiast ever driving something this unique and awesome, and powerful, simply might not exist.