Meet the other Cadillac wagon. It’s as American as ABBA

The Cadillac CTS Wagon became a cult classic as soon as it went on sale. We all knew it would never be sold in large numbers, and if that “us” didn’t include the people who actually worked at GM, you’d have to wonder what they were smoking. Cadillac still had a hard enough time convincing people that it was now a BMW martial arts luxury brand rather than the purveyor of grandpa-driven land yachts. To many, a sports sedan like the CTS seemed like a stretch. But a CTS sport wagon? It certainly seemed like GM was just doing things for funzies, an impression only reinforced by the CTS-V Wagon. Forget cult classic. That thing was an instant legend.

And yet the CTS wasn’t the only Cadillac of the era offered as a wagon. It wasn’t even the first. Before GM said “to hell, let’s have some fun” on this side of the pond, in Europe, it had already taken a page from its old badge engineering playbook to create the 2006 Cadillac BLS Wagon. It was also available as a saloon, but its clumsy majesty is best shown as a long-roof model.

There’s just something from about the whole thing, right? That’s probably because it also looks vaguely familiar, like you’ve seen it before. So where the hell did this thing come from? Sweden! Behind that Cadillac Art and Science face is a Saab 9-3 and in the case of the BLS Wagon, the Saab 9-3 Sport Combi wagon. The roofline is the dead giveaway, unlike any other wagon ever That. In fact, the roof and windows were the only exterior elements copied directly from 9-3 to BLS. No joke. With the Cadillac front end, doesn’t the Saab funky boxiness make it look like a miniature hearse? The answer is yes.

The GM design team, led by Ed Welburn, was very pleased with its work. Maybe it even spurred him on Real Cadillac sports car?

“The whole team was very excited to apply Cadillac’s design language to a car for the first time,” Welburn said in a press release from the time. “The V-shaped chrome grille, a Cadillac signature, is again picked up by the shape of the rear window, and the character lines on the side of the body make it unmistakably a Cadillac.”

The interior is surprisingly different from the 9-3, including the ignition switch that migrates from the center console to the steering column. Nor was it exactly up to the Cadillac standard of the time. However, that standard was in transition, as the new and much improved CTS of the aforementioned car fame had yet to be introduced. The BLS cab is more elegant than the outdated contemporary CTS, which had a dashboard that resembled a desktop computer tower. Come to think of it, that car actually had Saab vents. The BLS does not. However, like the 9-3 and pretty much every other non-Cadillac at the time, it has the stock GM radio faceplate. It looked awful, the buttons were chintzy, but it worked pretty well for its time. You can also get the less common touchscreen navigation version, pictured above. EVO magazine in the UK described it all as a ‘first class interior’. Who am I to argue?

In terms of carliness, here’s what the press release had to say at the time: “Flexibility and versatility define the rear seats and cargo area, which are designed to support a wide range of luxury and leisure interests.” So openings of art galleries and snowshoeing. I get it. As I remember from the 9-3, the rear seat was very cramped even for its time, but that big, rectangular roofline meant that the load space was relatively huge.

EVO also noticed on its first drive that Cadillac was making mechanical adjustments to the 9-3. Admittedly that car was based on the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra (aka Epsilon I), but so much has been done at Trollhatten to polish that tu…vehicle…that it’s best just to say that the BLS is based on the 9-3. EVO notes that “Cadillac spent a lot of development hours making Saab’s base package quieter, especially in the rear of the car. The BLS uses softer suspension settings than the 9-3.”

I’ve only driven the sportiest sport 9-3s, the rather charming 9-3X Sport Combi, and that was a surprisingly sleek and satisfying car to drive. I actually quite liked it. What would happen if you softened the softer version? Well, Evo noted that it was pleasantly quiet, refined and pretty good at eating up “highway” miles, but the rest of the underwhelming dynamics package didn’t do the trick.

Your desire to throw the Caddy down an inviting road is further eroded by woolly steering, soft brakes, front-wheel drive pull and squirm under hard acceleration, and a certain amount of bodyroll peculiar to any car that puts its dynamic emphasis on ride quality And unlike other larger Cadillacs, there are no plans yet to develop a sports chassis package for the BLS.”

Saab’s turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 was available, producing a very healthy 251 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An Audi A4 2.0T wouldn’t get that horsepower for years. The 0-60 time was nevertheless listed at a slow 7.5 seconds. You could also get a 1.9-litre diesel and 173bhp 2.0-litre turbo-four.

In a sense you can consider the BLS as the predecessor of the ATS and thus the CT4. Of course, you could also think of it as the long-awaited successor to the Cimarron, a much more unhappy example of badge engineering. The car was only sold from model years 2006 through 2009, and today the only car I could find for sale in the UK has an asking price of around £5,000 with only 52,000 miles on it. Not bad. I mean, used cars in Britain are always freakishly cheap by American standards, but if you’re looking for a surprisingly roomy car that’s somehow weirder than a Saab 9-3 Sport Combi… that’s secure.

And no, there was no BLS-V Wagon. Apparently GM of Europe wasn’t too keen on doing things for funzies.

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