The Cadillac CTS Wagon became a cult classic from the moment it went on sale. We all knew it would never sell anything close to significant numbers, and if those “we” didn’t include those who actually work at GM, you’d wonder what they were smoking. Cadillac still struggled enough to convince people that it was now a BMW-fighting sports luxury brand rather than the supplier of grandfather-driven land yachts. To many, a sports sedan like the CTS seemed like a stretch. But a CTS sport wagon? It seemed that GM was only 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 was not the only Cadillac of the time to be offered as a car. It wasn’t even the first. Before GM said “to hell, let’s have fun” on this side of the pond, in Europe, it had already taken a page from its old badge engineering playbook to make the 2006 Cadillac BLS Wagon. It was also available as a sedan, but its clunky majesty is best enjoyed as the long-roofed model.
there’s just something from overall, right? That’s probably because it also looks vaguely familiar, like you’ve seen it before. So where the hell does this thing come from? Sweden! Behind that face of Cadillac Art and Science 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, like no other car has ever looked like That. In fact, the roof and windows were the only exterior elements copied directly from 9-3 to BLS. No joke. With Cadillac’s 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 his work. Maybe it even spurred him to Real Cadillac sports car?
“The whole team was very excited to be applying Cadillac’s design language to a car for the first time,” Welburn said in a press release at the time. “The V-shaped chrome grille, a signature of Cadillac, is picked up again by the shape of the rear window, and the character lines on the body side 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. That standard was in a transitional phase, however, 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 aging 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 standard GM radio front. It looked awful, the buttons were chintzy, but for the time it worked quite well. 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 its wagonness, this is what the press release had to say at the time: “Flexibility and versatility define the rear seat and luggage compartment, which are designed to support a wide range of luxury and leisure interests.” So, art gallery openings and snowshoeing. I get it. As I remember from the 9-3, the rear seats were very cramped even for that time, but that big, square roofline meant the cargo space was relatively large.
EVO also noted on its first ride that Cadillac made mechanical adjustments from the 9-3. Granted, that car was based on the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra (aka Epsilon I), but so much has been done in Trollhatten to polish that tu… vehicle… that it’s best to just say that the BLS is based on the 9-3. EVO notes that “Cadillac has spent a lot of development hours making the Saab base package quieter, especially at the rear of the car. The BLS uses softer suspension settings than the 9-3.”
I only drove the sportiest 9-3 sports, the rather charming 9-3X Sport Combi, and it 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 didn’t do the rest of the disappointing dynamic package any favors.
“Your desire to throw the Caddy on an inviting road is further compromised by a woolly steering wheel, soft braking, tugging and squirming of the front-wheel drive during hard acceleration, and a degree of body roll endemic to any car that appreciates its dynamic emphasis. puts on ride quality. And unlike other, larger Cadillacs, there are no plans yet to develop a sports chassis package for the BLS.”
Saab’s 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 was available, which produced a very healthy 251 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An Audi A4 2.0T would not achieve that power for years. The 0-60 time was nevertheless reported at a quiet 7.5 seconds. You could also get a 1.9-litre diesel and 173-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four.
In a sense you can think of the BLS as the predecessor of the ATS and thus of the CT4. You could of course also think of it as the long-awaited successor to the Cimarron, a far more unfortunate example of badge engineering. The car was only sold from model years 2006 to 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 the UK are always ridiculously cheap by US standards, but if you’re after a surprisingly roomy wagon that’s somehow weirder than a Saab 9-3 Sport Combi… well, you’re quite a straw man, that’s for sure.
And no, there was no BLS-V Wagon. Apparently GM of Europe wasn’t too keen on doing things for funzies.