2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyers Guide

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe Premium Collection Review

Want attention? Get a 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe! In the recently-introduced CTS Coupe, Cadillac's "Art and Science" design language that made its production debut on the 2003 CTS sedan has reached maturity. Seemingly all planes and angles, the CTS Coupe looks like a first cousin to the Lockheed F-117, and like nothing else on four wheels. It looks like it should be high-tech and high-performance, and it is, although it's more luxury-performance than performance-luxury. It has all of the conveniences and gadgetry expected in a Cadillac, and a degree of character not expected in an American car.

Which is to say that the CTS Coupe is not boring. It's not boing to look at, nor is it boring to drive. If it has more quirks than expected from an American luxury car ("expected" in this case meaning "none") those quirks -- mainly related to the rear-quarter visibility or lack thereof that is an inescapable part of fastback coupe design and rev-happy nature of the engine versus fuel economy mandate of the automatic transmission -- are easily dealt with by driver involvement, and are, in the grand scheme of things, minor. If you remember sports coupes of the 1980s, you'll remember the (lack of) visibility. Use your mirrors more, and pay attention. The CTS Coupe has a backup camera, something unknown to that previous generation. Power delivery, with the automatic, is fine for regular driving. If faster downshifts are needed or desired, there's manual over-ride. Or a manual transmission. This is a Cadillac that rewards an involved, attentive driver.

The 2011 CTS Coupe comes in three trim levels, base, Performance, and Premium. All have a 3.6-liter, 304-horsepower direct-injected twincam V6 providing power to the rear, or optionally, all four wheels. All have keyless and remote starting and "Autotouch" pushbutton doors. A BoseŽ sound system is found in every CTS Coupe. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard; rear-drive Performance and Premium models may be had with a six-speed manual. Performance gets more standard equipment and available options; Premium comes with everything, including a navigation system, heated and cooled front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Which was much appreciated during the cool early-winter week I spent in a Premium version CTS Coupe. Near-instant finger warmth? What's not to like? Add that that steering wheel is connected rather directly to the front wheels, with plenty of non-intrusive feedback for an informative connection to the road, the driver's right foot is connected (electronically) to a powerful, responsive engine, the driver's body is supported by a Teutonically-firm fully-adjustable heated and cooled seat, and the pleasantly luxurious cockpit is wrapped in wonderfully distinctive sheetmetal, and the CTS Coupe is the best mix of art and science, style and engineering, and performance and luxury from Cadillac yet.

Well, except for its wild derivative, the 556-hp CTS-V Coupe, but that's one for another day.

APPEARANCE: Cadillac can't be accused of copying anyone else in the auto industry. Its lines are distinctively angular, even to details like the pointed combination CHMSL light/spoiler atop the rear of the trunk. At 188.5 inches long on the same 113.4-inch wheelbase as the CTS sedan and wagon, the coupe is not especially small, but it looks much smaller than it is. Must be stealth technology at work… While the Coupe shares the sedan's front fenders, vertically-stacked headlamps, and grille, it's a couple of inches lower and shorter, and features a more-raked windshield and nearly flat fastback roofline. Its low front and high rear emphasize its performance potential. At the rear, the knife-edge vertical taillights are pure Cadillac, and the central exhaust treatment is an interesting feature. There are no door handles - operation is by a touch pad inside the trailing edge of each door. And what look like brake-cooling vents next to the foglamps are functional brake cooling vents.

COMFORT: The CTS Coupe's interior is as striking as its exterior, but there is no detriment to comfort. Hand-sewn accents on the instrument panel, doors, and console balance the high-tech body lines. At the Premium level, the firmly supportive front seats are heated and fan-ventilated. The seating position is a couple of inches lower than that of the sedan, giving a feeing of being more in the car. Latches and auxiliary fore-aft controls at the rear top of the seatbacks allow easier access to the 2+2 rear seats, but this is a coupe, with the expected tradeoff between rear access and style. Once in, the rear bucket seats have a comfortable back angle and adequate room for medium-sized adults. A 60/40 split folding seatback is a surprise, and although trunk access is tight -- it's via a trunk lid, not a hatchback -- there is a useful amount of space for long-distance two-person touring. Some of that trunk space is due to the spare tire being replaced by a fix-a-flat kit, though. Back up front, the driver's office is first class, with a full range of seat and steering wheel adjustability, easily visible instruments, and simple, logical controls and auxiliary systems -- even the navigation system, standard at the Premium level.

SAFETY: It's a real coupe, so set the outside mirrors correctly and pay attention to them when driving. Yes there are blind spots, but no worse than other cars of the genre. Parking safety is aided by the backup camera, standard in the Premium and optional in the Performance, as the high tail does limit close rear vision. It's a coupe. A unibody structure designed to protect passengers, a full complement of airbags, strong antilock ventilated disc brakes, and the StabiliTrak stability control system help protect passengers, and OnStar telematics can provide emergency assistance.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Compared to the CTS sedan and wagon, the coupe gets a firmer calibration of its short-and-long arm front, multilink rear suspension, with a sportier version with summer (non mud and snow-rated) performance tires available. My test car was so-equipped. Spring and shock rates are correctly balanced for a fine balance of ride comfort and driver control. Precise steering with good feedback helps, too. The result is a car that is comfortable but not at all isolated, and engaging, with minimal body roll when playing hard. There is some road noise, not a bad thing as that's information about the road surface. It's more sport-touring than sport, and perfect for the CTS Coupe's mission.

PERFORMANCE: All versions of the CTS Coupe get the latest version of GM Powertrain's lovely 3.6-liter V6, with continuous cam phasing on both intake and exhaust cams, for a wider spread of torque and lower emissions, and direct fuel injection for increased efficiency and power. Direct injection allows higher compression, 11.3:1 in this case, further increasing power and efficiency -- with use of regular unleaded. With 304 hp at 6300 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 5200 rpm, it has the output of a larger V8 of not long ago. My test car had the six-speed automatic, which will probably be the most common choice. It was, in the words of GM, "designed to decrease engine rpm and enhance overall fuel economy". And it does that very well. For everyday use around town and on the highway, it's ideal, and is one reason my average fuel consumption was 21 mpg with as little highway driving as possible. But note that the engine's horsepower and torque peaks are relatively high, at 6300 and 5200 rpm respectively. Because revs are kept low, you may never get familiar with the power unless you shift manually. It's more than merely adequate at lower engine speeds, but, even in Sport automatic mode, is usually two gears below optimum for quickest acceleration, as is needed when merging on to a fast highway from a short on-ramp or other slow-moving situation. At those times, move the shift lever to manual or use the rocker switches on the rear of the steering wheel spokes, down on the left and up on the right. The engine begins to shine above 4000 and pulls strongly right to the 7000-rpm redline, with a good kick at the power peak. For the maximum CTS sport experience, the six-speed manual is the way to go, and Cadillac will probably sell about six CTS Coupes so equipped. Of course, exploration of the upper reaches of the rev range won't help fuel economy any -- chalk it up on the entertainment budget because horsepower = air + fuel and there is 304 hp demanding plenty of both.

CONCLUSIONS: The new Cadillac CTS Coupe successfully combines distinctive looks with European-style luxury and performance.

SPECIFICATIONS
2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe Premium Collection

Base Price			$ 47,010
Price As Tested			$ 50,035
Engine Type			DOHC aluminum alloy V6 with variable
				 cam phasing and direct fuel injection
Engine Size			3.6 liters / 217 cu. in.
Horsepower			304 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			273 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		113.4 in. / 188.5 in.
Curb Weight			3909 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		12.9
Fuel Capacity			18 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				Conti SportContact3
				  F: 245/45 ZR19 R: 275/40 ZR19
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around,
				 twin-piston front calipers
				  ABS, TCS, StabiliTrak standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent short-and-long arm /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 27 / 21
0 to 60 mph				6.4  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
19" Summer Tire Performance Package - includes:
  19" polished aluminum wheels with summer-only
  tires, steering wheel-mounted shift controls,
  performance cooling system and brakes		$ 2,090
Underhood appearance package			$   110
Destination charge				$   825

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