2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

Automakers do just about anything to make their cars stand out from the pack: Clever technology, far out names, and expensive ad campaigns are the usual approaches. The Cadillac CTS Coupe needs little of that. With sheetmetal that’s as dramatic as a teenager before prom, this 2+2 is easily mistaken for a low flying stealth fighter. Attention is no problem.

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

A few people will grimace at the sight of the latest Art & Science design piece but they’re vastly outnumbered. This is the kind of car that people wait by in the parking lot in order to talk to the owner. The photographer side of me finds this car fascinating, every detail and angle the lens falls on frames up beautifully. Unlike another brand doing angular design, CTS avoids looking like an angry robot, its sharp creased lines maintain an elegant and dangerous demeanor.

More than just bold lines

The coupe is about two inches wider, lower and shorter than the sedan and shares only one body panel with it and its Sport Wagon siblings- the front fender (technically the grille element as well). Nestled in the nicely trimmed engine bay is the expected 3.6-liter direct injected V-6 pumping out 304 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 RPMs. It drinks regular gas at a rate of 17 city, 27 highway whether it’s rear or all-wheel drive.

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

The engine note sounds good with a techy burble. Looks good too with center mounted bee stinger exhaust ports. CTS is keyless, turn the knob and entertainment begins with sweeping gauges and flying Cadillac graphics on the screen rising from the center stack. Choose between a six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic I’m driving. Manual shifts can be done on the console. Order the 19” Summer Performance Tire Package and it adds steering wheel shift buttons.

Fast and faster

My rear drive tester quickly runs from 0-60 in just over 6 seconds (go for the V model if you really think you need 556 horses). The engine is smooth with the proper amount of exhaust reaching the ears. Cornering? If you still think Cadillacs handle like waterbeds I hope you understand that those Little House on the Prairie episodes you’re watching are re-runs. Soft floaty rides are in Cadillac’s past. CTS coupe is a true driver’s car, one of the most satisfying performance vehicles on the road today. Perfectly weighted steering, excellent road feel, and minimal body roll make this machine a joy to pilot.

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

Ride quality is quite good considering lower profile rubber and a firm sporty suspension. My only gripe with the overall dynamic is that the automatic transmission is a bit sluggish to respond to manual shift inputs. A dual-clutch unit this is not. Brakes are as aggressive as the paper airplane design, the anti-lock binders have great pedal feel and stopping ability.

Dramatic inside too

CTS Premium gets a cabin done up in excellent materials, the instrument panel looking especially rich with hand stitched material and Sapele wood inlays. Premium models add LED light piping that flows from the instrument panel to the front doors for a subtle accent at night. The doors are electrically operated with a touch pad on the exterior and a button inside. No confusing user interface here, Cadillac uses well placed buttons and knobs on the center stack in tandem with a touch screen. It’s pretty easy to figure everything out(except pairing a Bluetooth phone, there I gave up and cracked the manual).

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

Talk the dealer into an extended test drive because the firm heated and ventilated chairs feel a bit odd at first. After an hour they magically reveal they’re supremely comfortable, though they could use deeper bolsters for hard cornering. Taller drivers should find a significant bump on the test drive. Hit one and you’ll find the structure is very solid and the headroom is modest. I nailed my noggin when hitting a significant dip in the road.

The Bose 5.1 surround sound system is very good. iPods are supported or rip music to the 40 gig hard drive. Want to hear the rest of Car Talk but can’t stick around? The CTS can record it while you’re gone. The sunroof only tilts, it doesn’t slide open. Got to love the heated steering wheel though.

Widely overlooked is GMs OnStar system that is infinitely useful. Preload directions into the nav system from your home computer, talk to a real person for restaurant suggestions and driving directions or get emailed diagnostic summaries of the car. 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

It will also notify emergency services in the unfortunate event of an accident and pinpoint your location for a speedy rescue. Click here for a link to their site and an explanation of what it does.

Moving to the rear

If you’re thinking of pressing the coupe into family duty understand that it’s a chore to get in and out of the back seat, even with high mounted latches and seat controls. The kids will soon revolt. At 5’9” I don’t have enough headroom. The sedan has belts for three, this 2+2 only a couple but center mount drink holders, map pockets and a power port are handy.

The CTS coupe has a terrific sculpted back end, we should all look so good from behind. Pop the decklid to reveal gooseneck hinge arms that take up space. To achieve a nearly perfect 50-50 weight balance the battery is stashed back here. There’s no spare tire, just a repair kit (sadly a bit of a trend). It gets tricky when it comes to cargo capacity. 5 packs will fit in the space but those hinge arms swing down unusually low, crushing cargo.   2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

So in the end (no pun intended) there’s only room for 4 packs between those struts. On the plus side the trunk can be expanded by folding the split seat backs.

So the CTS coupe isn’t exactly the practical choice. But where else can you get luxury, concept car design, and performance for a reasonable price? CTS Coupe starts at 39 grand, this Premium model with the Summer Tire Package option retails for $50,035. That’s pretty competitive to Audi A5 and S5 and the BMW 335i coupe (which runs around $4,000 more comparably equipped). CTS offers up swaggering bravado that the Germans just can’t match. It looks like the work of a passionate artist, not a committee. If you can’t afford a cubist Picasso, this piece of art is the next best thing.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY GENERAL MOTORS.

13 Comments

  1. apollo says:

    I agree with the rest of the guys here, Honda stuff is looking pretty awful these days. This CTS looks awesome and sounds like a driver too. I can’t believe Car and Driver did that report card thing giving Toyota a D and Honda a C. Really great review Tom, makes me want to test drive this one. Good thing I’m not overly tall!

  2. crash says:

    @ Toaster – Us Canucks clearly have great taste in car boards! I’m from Guelph in Ontario!

    @ Raschmidt – I think you were kind in your analysis of Acura styling…..Honda in general (IMHO) along w/ Nissan have totally lost it for style…..Crosstour / 2011 Civic / Pilot…overall – yawn or yack. Which pains me to say that – I absolutely adore the 2000 Accord (mine is still going like the day I bought it) and the 90 Civic SI Hatch…sweet.

    Also – yes, the price is getting up there versus the G – however I think it’s worth it – the stats are superior. I don’t consider the Genesis coupe is down a league versus this car (however it is a great looking coupe!).

    I stick by my guns though….if I was in the market for a coupe – this would be the one for me!

    • raschmidt says:

      I only mention the Genesis because I found the interior to be a big step up from cheaper sports cars like the Mustang (haven’t sat in the 2010+ ones yet), though the 08+ Accord Coupe I found to have an interior of equal quality.

      Honda/Acura styling has gone down hill, Toyota while boring is at least clean and tasteful (same goes for Lexus), I kind of like the new G37, Maxima and Altima, but that’s about it (don’t really dig the new M).

      GM has been doing a great job though, I think the CTS Coupe is proof of that. I can see how it’d be a bit polarizing but its a very sleek design with alot going for it. Those door “handles” are awesome!

  3. crash says:

    Why on earth anyone would buy an Infiniti, 3 series or any other ‘performance’ coupe over this (height permitting) is beyond me. Easily the best looking 2 door car (yes, even against Camaro) on the market. My only reservation is that I’m 6’2 – so think the roof would be a challenge.

    I haven’t seen many up here in Canada either…shame.

    Who is the other ‘robotic’ angular competitor you mentioned?

    Another great review Tom! Oh ya, I agree w/ Toaser….vid’s are great quality.

    • TV says:

      There are very few on the road I don’t think it has anything to do with being in Canada (unless you’re in Churchill, Manitoba). I just saw my first one in Seattle that wasn’t the press car.

      Somehow visibility is better in the CTS vs. Camaro though I suspect you will have a problem with headroom at 6’2″ (unless you have very long legs). I was referring to Acura as the other origami style.

      • raschmidt says:

        Acura is having some serious styling issues lately, which is a shame because I thought they did a great job on the previous RL, TL, and TSX before they put the chrome beak on them all.

        @ Crash
        I think the CTS is a real stunner, but its price is definitely up there versus the Genesis Coupe, 3 series, and G37

        • Toaster says:

          Agreed. Acura’s new ‘shield’ nose treatment doesn’t do much for me, and the back end of the cars just look big and awkward. I loved the previous TL and thought it was a great looking car.

    • Toaster says:

      Hey Crash,

      Glad to see a fellow Canuck on the boards … I’m from Winnipeg, how ’bout you?

  4. Toaster says:

    Wow. That’s a looker all right. I’ve loved the CTS since the first gen sedan came out a few years ago. One day, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to drive one!

    Tom I have to say, whoever is hosting the videos for you does a great job. The streaming is great, even in HD it doesn’t slow down much, and kudos to your camera. The HD version of the review looks amazing!

    • TV says:

      Thanks Toaster! The videos are hosted by blip.tv and I would recommend them to people who do video. I’ve been playing with the codec for the last few stories and think I’ll be settling with the one used for CTS.

      I use a very high end Sony HDCam unit with a Fujinon lens. Easy to love this set up. Could never afford it myself, the NBC station I work for bought them before the economy went south. The light was particularly good for this shoot too, maybe a bit too foggy for the running footage.

      • Toaster says:

        Speaking of your NBC job, strangely enough one of the NBC stations we get on Shaw cable here in Winnipeg, Manitoba is KING 5. When do your segments usually air? I watch the news segments looking for them from time to time but I’ve never caught one. Is it typically during morning news, or evening, a specific day of the week? Where are you hiding? :)

        • TV says:

          My stories run on the more informal newscasts, the morning and weekend shows. Though they run on KING 5-6 times during the weekend, I wouldn’t bother trying to find them, the versions here are better to tell you the truth. I have to give KING kudos, they are the only TV station on the west coast (and practically the entire US) that airs car reviews and lets me be honest about them. It’s a great place to work. Glad to hear you guys get us! BTW, I grew up in Duluth, not too terrible far from you.

  5. raschmidt says:

    the coupe is a great looking car, the sedan and wagon are too but the coupe really stands out!