2012 Cadillac CTS

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2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe — Review

This 2011 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

Between looks and performance, Cadillac’s new coupe has what it takes to lure new customers. It rides and handles well and, has plenty of power, and when it hits the road, it will be the hot new thing. The CTS may not have quite the pedigree of the BMW 3-Series, but with this new coupe, the gap is closing.
Pros:
  • Responsive handling
  • Willing power
  • The next hot coupe
Cons:
  • Tight rear seat
  • Smallish trunk
  • Obstructed rear visibility

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.

Model Lineup
The 2011 Cadillac CTS coupe is offered in three trim levels, each with rear- or all-wheel drive. The base version comes standard with vinyl upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar with one-year subscription, a tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and climate controls, 10-way power adjustable front seats, a split-folding rear seat, keyless access and starting, a Bose AM/FM radio with 6-disc CD changer, XM Satellite Radio, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlights, fog lights, sport suspension, a limited-slip differential and P235/50VR18 tires on alloy wheels.

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
Initially, the CTS coupe is offered with only one engine: General Motors' direct-injected 3.6-liter V6. The engine makes 304 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, the later with manual shift capability. EPA fuel-economy estimates are 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway with the manual and 18 mpg/27 mpg with the automatic. Due later in the model year is the CTS-V coupe, which will come with the same 556-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 as in the CTS-V sedan.

Inner Space
Inside, the CTS coupe is very much like its sedan and wagon siblings, and it's one of the sharpest in the General Motors portfolio. The attractive dashboard features hand-sewn accents on the instrument panel, doors and center console. The top of the dashboard is black, so it has a 2-tone look if any color other than black is chosen for the upholstery. Wood and chrome trim add to the decidedly high-end look.

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
Cadillac is going after big names with the CTS coupe, including the Audi A5, Infiniti G37 coupe and, most pointedly, the BMW 335i coupe. With that kind of competition, the CTS coupe had better handle well. The good news is that this two-door delivers, offering even better handling than its already accomplished four-door counterpart.

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?
Coupes are for singles or couples who want to be stylish and drive something different. On these counts, the CTS coupe certainly fits the bill. Not only does it have the looks to turn heads, it's a blast to drive, with handling that rivals German competitors. We'd like to see a couple more sporty touches, like a rumbling exhaust note and proper steering-wheel shift paddles. The CTS coupe can fit four in a pinch. The small rear seat will fit two kids, but they won't be easy to buckle in and even they will lack headroom if they are teenagers.

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.

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BB03 - 8/21/2014 1:15:09 AM