First Drive: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe
This 2011 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Steve Siler of Car and Driver
Although most Cadillac vehicles still have a way to go to satisfy as drivers' machines, the second-generation CTS has appeared on our past three 10Best lists. In awarding its 2010 trophy, we called it "maybe the best American car ever made." High praise, and its combination of unapologetically brash styling, modern luxury, and strong performance credentials — especially in high-po V spec — backs it up. For 2011, the new CTS coupe joins the sedan and wagon, adding more style and a higher concentration of performance to the CTS's winning formula.
Stunning Exterior Styling, Largely Familiar Cockpit
Inside, most CTS sedan components are imported without change, although the mood is intensified due to a lower mounting point for the seats, dropping occupants roughly an inch lower into the dash and console architecture. The window sills are high, making arm-out-the-window cruising a bit awkward, but surprisingly, the super-high rear end doesn't gobble up every shred of rearward vision. It feels purposeful, and we found ourselves very comfortable during our drive.
On the road, these alterations change the character of the CTS. Acceleration is strong, thanks to that more aggressive final drive. Handling feels considerably sharper as well, chalked up to the combination of the wider (by two inches) rear track, staggered-width wheel-and-tire combos (235/50 front and 265/45 rear with the 18-inch wheels; 245/45 front and 275/40 rear with the 19s), stiffer springs, and thicker rear anti-roll bar.
We'll have to strap our test gear to a CTS coupe to determine the measurable performance differences between it and the sedan, but on the challenging, unpredictable, and wildly twisted roads surrounding California's gorgeous Napa Valley and Lake Berryessa, the two-door CTS remained absolutely glued to the rough pavement, even in places where the road literally broke apart as we pounded over it. Meanwhile, the powerful brakes demonstrated remarkable resistance to fade, and the steering proved loyal and communicative. Shifts, although not lightning quick, still came speedily enough when summoned by the buttons. (We tried the sport mode, but it got a little aggressive with downshifts at times, so we generally stuck with the full manual mode.) Confidence built quickly as we acclimated to the coupe's high level of grip. At every break in the route, we arrived energized and wanting more time at the wheel — not something we'd say about every vehicle we've driven on these brutal roads.
Something V This Way Comes
The standard and V CTS coupes will be heavily featured in upcoming advertising; Cadillac tells us the brand intends to display more bravado in relaying the virtues of its cars. Given the goodness of the CTS sedan and wagon, and now this coupe — and provided the upcoming XTS, ATS, and flagship models can display the same sort of competence — we'd say Cadillac deserves to thump its chest a bit.