2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe — Review
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Any automaker that wants to sell a coupe in today's highly competitive market has to get it right from the get-go, stirring the passions of potential customers by creating a car that looks great and performs well. Cadillac's new CTS coupe does just that. It is a virtual copy of the slick-looking concept car that wowed attendees at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. And, as we discovered on a recent drive, it handles like a champ.
In Performance Collection trim, which adds $4,440, the CTS coupe gets leather upholstery, adaptive xenon headlights that point into turns, remote starting, heated front seats, memory for the driver's seat and mirrors, an iPod adapter, a Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, a universal garage door opener and a Bose 5.1 surround-sound audio system with a USB port and a hard drive.
Premium Collection trim adds $8,945 to the base price and comes with interior ambient lighting, a rearview camera, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with memory, wood trim, a sunroof, a navigation system and the Bose surround-sound system.
Standard safety equipment includes dual front airbags, front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitor, active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control and rear park assist.
Under the Hood
The available navigation system pops up from the top of the center stack. It comes with a 40-gigabyte hard drive with space for music storage. It also has a flash drive that allows pausing and rewinding of radio stations. That's a cool feature for those of us who have grown accustomed to DVRs. The controls are concentrated in a tight bunch on the center stack, and it will take owners a while to get used to the positions of the various buttons.
Front-seat occupants have plenty of legroom, though headroom can be compromised by the available sunroof. Plenty of seat and steering-wheel adjustments allow most drivers to tailor a natural driving position, but like other CTS iterations the seats are overly hard, detracting from comfort on long trips. Fourteen-way adjustable Recaro bucket seats are offered to add to the coupe's sporty appeal.
The penalty for the coupe body style comes in rear headroom and trunk space. While there is just as much rear legroom as in the sedan, the low roof and fast rear window line make the 2-passenger rear seat habitable only by children or shorter adults. While the trunk is fairly useful, it's a bit small. It has only 10.9 cubic feet of cargo room, but the split-folding rear seat opens up for considerably more space.
On the Road
Compared with the sedan, the coupe has a 2-inch wider rear track (the distance between the rear wheels), increased rear suspension stiffness and additional structural stiffness in the roof, rocker panels and center pillars. All this creates more torsional stiffness than the sedan and helps keep the car planted securely to the pavement.
After spending some time at the helm, we can honestly say this coupe is a pleasure to drive. The car responds willingly to driver inputs. It transitions well in quick changes of direction, takes a nice set in turns and tracks through them better than the sedan. The available 19-inch summer tires aid grip, but they'll need to be changed in the winter. Cornering is impressively flat, and the steering is fairly quick and communicative, if a bit light in the driver's hands. The brakes are strong and easy to modulate.
Cadillac has achieved a fine balance between a smooth ride and sporty handling; often the two are mutually exclusive. With a softer front suspension than the sedan, the coupe actually handles bumps better. The rear is stiffer, though, so sharp ruts can pound through in the back.
The direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 is the same engine that powers the CTS sedan and Chevy Camaro. It delivers willing power in any situation; it launches well, accelerates quickly from 30 to 50 mph and has plenty of passing punch. Cadillac is not publishing a zero-to-60 mph time, but we estimate that it will make the run in less than six seconds.
Our one complaint involves the exhaust note. It is too docile. We'd like a bit more burble, which one might expect in an American coupe.
Cadillac didn't make the 6-speed manual transmission available for testing, but the automatic is well-matched with the V6. It responds quickly and offers manual shifting capability through the shifter or a pair of steering-wheel buttons. We like the fact that the manual shifts can be performed at any time, whether you're in Drive or Sport mode, but we're not happy with the steering-wheel buttons. These plastic buttons, on the back of the steering wheel, are hard to reach during performance driving, and they just seem like an afterthought. A pair of metal shift paddles would be much more sporting.
Right for You?
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.