Since it went on sale in 1995, the Cadillac CTS Wagon has become a cult classic. It was obvious that it would never sell in any numbers approaching significant numbers, and if that phrase “we” didn’t include those who are actually working for GM, one would have to wonder what they were smoking if they didn’t think it would ever sell. Cadillac still had a long way to go in order to convince people that it was now more than a company that sold old Grandpapa-piloted land yachts anymore, but rather a brand that competed with BMW. The idea of buying a sport sedan such as the Cadillac CTS seemed a bit of an odd choice to many people. Is there a CTS sport wagon available at the moment? A lot of it seemed like GM was just playing around for fun, and the CTS-V Wagon only enhanced the impression that they were doing things for fun. It’s no longer a cult classic. This was something that became a legend in an instant.
Even so, the CTS was not the only Cadillac to offer a wagon model during that time period. There was no evidence that it was the first. In Europe, GM had already taken a page from its old badge-engineering playbook before saying to hell with it and having some fun on this side of the pond, and it had already taken a page from it to create the new 2006 Cadillac BLS Wagon, which was a rebadged version of the old Cadillac BLS. It was also available in a sedan model, but its majesty is best enjoyed as a long-roof model owing to its awkward appearance.
I just feel like there’s something off about the whole thing, doesn’t there? That’s probably because of the fact that it also appears vaguely familiar, as if you have seen it before. What the heck is up with this thing? I mean, where the hell did it come from? It’s Sweden time! This Cadillac Art and Science face hides a Saab 9-3, and in the case of the BLS Wagon, that Saab 9-3 Sport Combi wagon is behind that face. The roofline of this wagon is the first thing you notice, since it is unlike any other wagon you have ever seen. In fact, when it came to the exteriors of 9-3 and BLS, only the roof and windows were copied over directly from 9-3. This is not a joke. The Cadillac front end looks like a miniature hearse without the Saab boxiness that makes it look like a Cadillac front end, doesn’t it? It is true that the answer is yes.
Cadillac BLS Wagon
As a result of his work, GM’s design team, led by Ed Welburn, was quite pleased with the results. He may have even been inspired to design a real Cadillac sport wagon from that inspiration?
The entire team was excited to be able to apply Cadillac’s design language to a wagon for the first time, said Welburn then. Featuring a V-shaped chrome-plated grille, a Cadillac hallmark, the rear window’s shape is picked up by the side character lines, making it easy to identify.
Inside, the ignition switch has been relocated from the console up to the steering column, which is surprising compared to the 9-3 interior. As well as not being in line with Cadillac’s norm at the time, it wasn’t exactly a Cadillac. The new and improved CTS of aforementioned wagon fame had yet to be introduced, however, so that norm was in flux. A BLS cabin is more elegant than the aging CTS, whose dashboard looked like a desktop computer. It seems that the air vents in that car were Saab-style. According to the BLS, they do not. In contrast, the 9-3 and virtually every other non-Cadillac vehicle at the time wore the standard GM radio faceplate. It looked horrendous, it had chintzy buttons, but it was quite functional for the time. Below is an image of the less-common touchscreen navigation version. Who am I to argue with EVO magazine in the U.K, which described it all as “first-rate interior?”
In regards to its wagonness, the press release at the time said: “A wide range of luxury and leisure interests can be accommodated by the rear seats and cargo area.” This includes art gallery openings and snowshoeing. You got it. In the 9-3, the back seat was quite cramped even for its day, but the cargo area was relatively large thanks to that big, boxy roofline.
The EVO team noted in its first drive that Cadillac did make mechanical adjustments from the 9-3. Even though that car was based on the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra (aka Epsilon I), so much work was done in Trollhatten to enhance that vehicle … which is why the BLS is based on the 9-3. In their review, EVO notes that “Cadillac has devoted many hours to quieting down the basic Saab package, especially in the back. The BLS has softer suspension settings than the 9-3.”
Only one sport 9-3 was driven by me, the rather charming 9-3X Sport Combi, and I found it to be surprisingly taut and satisfying to drive. The movie actually caught my attention quite a bit. Is there any difference in the softer version if you softened it? Well, Evo noted that it was quiet and refined, and quite good at consuming “motorway” miles, but it didn’t make up for the underwhelming dynamic package.
“With woolly steering, fluffy brakes, front-wheel-drive tug and wriggle during hard acceleration, and a degree of bodyroll that is characteristic of any car that places a high emphasis on ride quality, the Caddy’s desire to throw it down an inviting road is further eroded. In contrast to larger Cadillacs, there is no plan to develop a sports chassis package for the BLS as of yet..”
The Saab 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 produced 251 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and was available with a manual transmission. That amount of horsepower is not likely to be achieved by an Audi A4 2.0T for a number of years. While the 0-60 time was listed at 7.5 seconds, that was still a leisurely pace. The 2.0-liter turbo-four engine delivers 173 horsepower and comes with a 1.9-liter diesel engine as well.
It is possible to consider the BLS as the predecessor of the ATS and, therefore, of the CT4. You might also consider it to be the long-awaited successor to the Cimarron, a badge engineering disaster. It was only sold from model years 2006 to 2009, and today, the only wagon I could find for sale in the UK costs about £5,000 with just 52,000 miles. It’s not bad. When it comes to used cars in Britain, they’re always crazy cheap by American standards, but if you’re looking for a surprisingly spacious wagon that’s somehow more oddball than a Saab 9-3 Sport Combi … well, you’re certainly quite the strawman.
BLS-V wagons weren’t available. General Motors of Europe was not as enthusiastic about doing things for fun.