Thumbs Up: Stunning design turns heads and draws crowds
Thumbs Down: Sport suspension disappoints, back seats for gymnasts or yoga instructors only
Buy This Car If: You want to drive the best looking American car of the past 30 years and don’t care about hauling more than one other adult passenger.
Before you consider buying a Cadillac CTS Coupe, ask yourself this: do you like drawing attention to yourself? Do you like getting more recognition from parking valets than the guy in the Bentley behind you? Are you prepared to answer dozens of questions about the car each and every time you park it? If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe is not for you. You won’t like the attention it draws and you probably won’t like talking to all the car enthusiasts the car attracts. If GM was looking for a single vehicle to draw attention to its brands, then the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe is their new standard bearer.
I’ve got plenty of time behind the wheel of the Cadillac CTS-V, in both Coupe and Sedan body styles, and I’m not ashamed to say it’s one of my favorite cars. I was more than slightly enthusiastic to hear that I was getting the V6 version of the coupe, since I’d only had a limited opportunity to drive it in the past and really wanted to get a better idea of what the car was about. As good as the CTS-V is, the starting price of roughly $63,000 limits the audience to approximately 20% of CTS buyers. If four times as many people are buying the V6 CTS, it’s got to have a personality of its own.
After a week behind the wheel, I can say with certainty that it does. If you’re looking for a sports car, the CTS Coupe probably won’t be to your liking. It’s handling is decent, but nowhere near as good as its bigger brother. In fact, I wouldn’t even rate it on par with other luxury coupes such as the Infiniti G37 or the BMW 335i; the Cadillac just doesn’t feel as sharp behind the wheel. That said, it’s a better Grand Touring car than its rivals, and the CTS Coupe is an ideal place to soak up the highway miles. It still enjoys the occasional twisty road, but that’s not the car’s forte.
The CTS Coupe was introduced by Cadillac in July of 2010 as a 2011 model. Styling is influenced by the “French curves be damned” CTS sedan, but the two cars share very little aside from a name. The Coupe is wider, with aggressively flared fenders (especially in the rear) and a steeply raked windshield. Borrowing from the Corvette, the Coupe’s door handles are push button activated, leaving the exterior devoid of unsightly trim. The low roofline and high beltline combine to give the car a show car appearance, and the C-Pillar trim thankfully doesn’t steal the “Hofmeister kink” from BMW like most of the competition does. Cadillac developed an innovative rear stop light that doubles as a spoiler, and the taillights wrap across the top of the rear fenders to soften the lines. Out back, the center exiting exhausts add to the car’s exotic look, and Cadillac deserves credit for sticking with this design. Sure, a conventional exhaust would have been more cost effective, but it wouldn’t have looked nearly as good. They deserve credit for the front of the car as well, which tastefully restricts chrome to the driving light trim, grille trim, hood trim and crest.
As you climb in, it’s necessary to duck your head to avoid the low roofline. Cadillac’s standard seats are very comfortable, but don’t offer anywhere near the same support as the optional Recaros from the CTS-V. That’s OK, because this car’s role is Grand Touring, not apex strafing, and even the standard seats are better than most. My Premium Collection tester came with the heated and cooled seats, which really do work well to ensure year-round comfort.
The back seats won’t get much use unless you have children. They’re plenty comfortable, but there is simply no graceful way to get into or out of the back seat. First, you trip over the seat belt on both the way in and the way out. Next, the opening is rather small and requires you to lift your foot up and over the tall and wide door sill. Once you have a foot in position, you sort of fold yourself in half and collapse into the rear seat in one semi-smooth move. If you’re taller than five foot ten, your scalp will be jammed into the headliner, requiring you to scoot forward or stay hunched over for comfort. Exiting is even worse, since you have to stay folded over while pulling yourself out of the backseat. Try to avoid tripping over the seatbelt as you bring your knee to your chest and step out over the tall door sill. Yoga classes would be extremely beneficial, and being double jointed is a big plus.
Once you’re settled into the driver’s seat, take a look around. Matte black stitched vinyl covers the dash top, and the lower dash is color matched to the interior. Brushed aluminum trim is used on the center stack and shift surround, and sapele wood trim adds an upscale touch to the interior and dash. The three spoke steering wheel is leather wrapped, except for the upper portion which is woodgrain. I know this is now a staple of luxury cars, but I personally find it distracting to have materials with different textures and different grip on the steering wheel. It really does inhibit high speed cornering, especially in quick left-right-left transitions. I’d be much happier with a steering wheel that was all leather, or better yet all suede or Alcantara.
I’ve heaped plenty of praise on the Bose sound system used by Cadillac in past reviews, and the infotainment / nav system is easy enough to use. The maps used by the nav system could use some improvement, and the navigation instructions can be slow to update, but otherwise entering a destination couldn’t be simpler and the split screen stereo / nav display works well.
Instrumentation is brightly backlit and easy to read at a glance. A large speedometer splits a tach and gear indicator on the left and a combination temperature, oil pressure and fuel gauge on the right. Instrument surrounds are trimmed in chrome, which helps to brighten up the display even further. Base models of the CTS don’t include the CTS-V’s progressive LED tach and speedometer display, which I found helpful for providing data with just a glance at the instruments.
Start the 3.6 liter, 304 horsepower V6 and select your transmission mode. For normal driving, just move the console mounted shifter to D and forget about the rest. If you want maximum performance, you’ve got two options: either move the shifter to the right of D to summon up the Sport mode (which maximizes throttle response and delays shift points) or row the gears yourself via steering wheel mounted buttons or the gear lever. In Sport mode, zero to sixty comes up in around 6.7 seconds, which won’t win you many drag races against other luxury coupes. Still, the CTS Coupe never feels slow, and the performance brake package (not to be confused with the Brembos on the CTS-V) does a reasonable job of scrubbing speed off the two-ton coupe. In a mix of city and highway driving, I saw 21.9 mpg, on par with the EPA’s estimate of 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
On the road, the CTS Coupe is let down by a suspension tuned more for comfort than for handling. The vast majority of CTS Coupe buyers will never notice, and some may even complain that the suspension is much less compliant than Cadillacs of old. This is true, but it’s still not enough to reign in the car’s 3,909 pound curb weight, and body roll is noticeable when you try to change direction quickly. Even with the summer-only tire package, the car tends to push more in corners than you’d expect from a coupe with semi-sporting intentions. Maybe I’m just spoiled by the CTS-V, which somehow managed to feel more nimble and confidence inspiring than its lighter sibling.
My 2011 Cadillac CTS Premium had a base price of $47,835 including destination charge. Options on my tester included the $2,090 Summer Tire Performance Package (19” Polished Aluminum Wheels, 19” Summer-Only Tires, Steering Wheel Mounted Shifters, Performance Cooling System, Performance Disc Brakes), the $995 Crystal Red Tintcoat Paint and the $110 Underhood Appearance Package for a total sticker price of $51,030. By comparison, a comparably equipped BMW 335is would sticker at $57,550, a comparably equipped G37 Coupe would sticker at $52,345 and a comparably equipped Mercedes-Benz E350 would sticker at $58,235.
Is it worth it? The answer all depends on your expectations and sense of style. The CTS Coupe will get you far more attention than any of its rivals, and it’s an excellent choice if you’re in the market for a Grand Touring coupe.