I always think the exact same thing whenever I walk up to my Cadillac. And that is: Should I press the remote starter and have everyone nearby think I’m an asshole?
No, that isn’t what I actually think. I always press the remote starter, since everyone nearby already thinks I’m an asshole for taking up two parking spaces. Anytime someone confronts me about this, I explain that I’m driving a Cadillac, and I forgot my bifocals.
Anyway, what I’m really thinking is: I wonder if I’m the only person who’s ever had both.
By “both,” what I mean is the Mercedes E63 AMG wagon and, now, the Cadillac CTS-V wagon. You already know about my CTS-V. Now sold, my AMG wagon was a 2007 model that I put about 10,000 miles on, including several at the local dragstrip. You can read all about that in my book, which yes I am plugging again even as you sit there rolling your eyes. Remember: they ain’t paying me. Just begrudgingly accepting my articles.
These are possibly the geekiest car enthusiast cars in history, so it’s only fitting that I’ve owned both of them, as I’m possibly the geekiest car enthusiast in history. For anyone who wishes to dispute this, I should point out that I have, on my living room couch, a pillow shaped like a Porsche 911. When I have writer’s block, I make vroom noises with it.
So I’ve decided to compare the two cars. Actually, you’ve decided I should compare the two cars, based on the barrage of e-mails I’ve received that say things like: “For the love of God, why don’t you compare the two cars?!” and of course: “I HATE YOU! WHY WOULD YOU BUY AN AUTOMATIC? But can you compare the two cars?” So, ladies and gentlemen, here’s your comparison.
Exterior styling is highly subjective, and therefore should not be included in a competent, well-executed car review. Fortunately, this isn’t that, and the Mercedes is way better looking.
There’s a major reason for this. To me, the entire point of a fast wagon is subtlety. You should sneak up on people, give no indication of your abilities, then shoot past them on an onramp while toting around some antique chest of drawers.
The Cadillac does this well. (Except for the part about the antique chest of drawers. In the Cadillac, it would be more like an antique chest of drawer. But we’ll get to that.) But the Mercedes does it better. Debadge that thing and people think you’re a rich housewife who bought an E-Class Wagon because that’s just what you do in Greenwich. It might help that mine was pewter, which was a color previously only available on the mid-1990s Buick Regal.
A lot of people criticize the Cadillac’s interior. They don’t like the buttons, or the materials, or the fact that it’s actually surprisingly decent even though General Motors made it. But believe me: one look inside my E63, and those people would long for the V Wagon’s pop-up nav screen and questionable plastics.
In fairness to the Mercedes, it predates the Cadillac’s by several years. While my AMG was a 2007 model, its bodystyle came out in 2003; the Cadillac was all-new for 2008. But that doesn’t let Mercedes off the hook for creating a V8-powered road rocket and lining the interior with gray leather and light wood. Putting my foot down in the AMG wagon felt like talking in a library: you were afraid someone was going to come by at any moment and tell you to please, stop making such a ruckus in here.
It’s really hard to say which car wins this round. On one hand, you have a 507-horsepower, V8-powered station wagon with a 7-speed automatic transmission. On the other hand, you have a 556-horsepower, V8-powered station wagon with a 6-speed automatic transmission. In other words: you have two cars that are probably twice as fast as they really should be.
I’m sure the Cadillac is faster on paper, but that doesn’t say much for how the cars feel when you put your foot down. That’s because both cars feel exactly the same when you put your foot down, which can be defined technically as: OH MY GOD IF I CRASH THEY’LL FIND PIECES OF ME AT A BACKYARD COOKOUT IN THE NEXT COUNTY.
Fortunately, I plan on settling this issue once and for all later this month. When I took the AMG to the dragstrip last year, it ran a 13.1 at 108mph. The Cadillac will soon be subject to the same comparison. You know: for science.
Is anyone reading this? Does anyone read a comparison of two rear-wheel drive monster station wagons and think: I wonder which one has the better automatic transmission! Of course not. So I will award this category to the Cadillac, simply because the Mercedes has that incredibly annoying manu-matic system where you never have any idea what gear you’re actually in.
Ride and Handling
This might be the easiest category of all to assign. I think the only possible way it could be any easier to pick a category winner is if one was entitled “CTS-V Wagonness,” which the Cadillac would win going away.
The reason this category is so obvious is the Cadillac is vastly better in both measures. Now, it’s important to remember that the underpinnings of my Mercedes predate the Cadillac by about five years. That means Cadillac had ample time to benchmark Mercedes, and BMW, and Audi, and everyone else in order to get things just right. And it’s clear they used that time for precisely that purpose. That, and creating the world’s largest tail lights.
Really: I’ve never been in a car that handles so well while simultaneously feeling so smooth over bumps. It’s almost as if you don’t have to compromise one to get the other. Surely, this all has to do with Magnetic Ride Control. Despite several nine-minute explanatory videos on GM’s media site, I’m not really sure how it works, though I’m quite certain it means I can play those refrigerator magnet word games on my shock absorbers.
Actual Station Wagonness
Remember when I said the ride and handling category was easiest? I was wrong. This category is easiest. That’s because the AMG wagon is vastly better than the Cadillac at the actual act of being a station wagon.
One reason is the AMG wagon’s rear-facing third row seats. Yes, they might only be large enough for small children, or medium-sized pets that enjoy being belted in, but they exist. And when you fold them down, the rear is – as automotive journalists are required to write in every single automotive review – cavernous.
This is a vast improvement over the Cadillac’s cargo area. Back there, the only seat you’re going to be transporting is one of those brightly-colored plastic ones they have in first-grade classrooms. And even then, you’ll only be able to carry one at a time.
Steering Wheel Fuzziness
Ah! Possibly the most important category of all. Which car has the fuzziest steering wheel? To find out, I called up my friend Doug, the current owner of my former E63 wagon, for his input. The conversation went something like this:
Doug (me): Hey Doug!
Doug (him): W… w… who is this?
Doug (me): It’s Doug! The E63 wagon guy! Listen, can you go check the steering wheel in the AMG and tell me how fuzzy it is?
Doug (him): It’s… two o’clock in the morning.
So this didn’t go as planned. I mean, the guy wouldn’t even get out of bed. But there’s some good news: I found a few old photos that confirmed the AMG wagon’s steering wheel is not fuzzy at all. This is in direct contrast to the Cadillac’s steering wheel, which GM clearly created by benchmarking the head of a koala bear. Therefore, this category must go to the Cadillac.
And The Winner Is…
If you’re into sporty wagons, the Cadillac by a mile. The difference is quite simple: the Cadillac feels like a sports car that was transformed into a station wagon. The Mercedes feels like a station wagon that was transformed into a sports car.
But as far as I’m concerned, we’re splitting hairs. These are two of the coolest car-geek cars in the car-geek universe. You should buy whichever one you can find. And you should put a pillow shaped like a Porsche 911 in the back seat.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com and writes for The Truth About Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.