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Cadillac has already impressed us with the CTS sedan and high-powered CTS-V; now the CTS is back with a sport-tuned suspension, a sleeker profile, and two fewer doors. With looks that kill and a full 2 inches wider track than the sedan, the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe makes sporty pretenses, and in the Premium trim it packs an impressive cabin technology package.
Style and performance
If we had to describe our Black Raven with Ebony leather interior CTS Coupe's aesthetic, we'd call it the Cadillac of Batmobiles...or the Batmobile of Cadillacs. Either way, it's an imposing, low-slung bit of kit. From the A-pillar forward, the CTS Coupe is fairly similar to the sedan, punctuated by large prismatic adaptive headlamps and a wide pentagonal chrome grill. It relies on angles and hard edges for its character rather than smooth curves we've come to expect from modern vehicular design.
From the B-pillar to the rear bumper, the CTS Coupe distinguishes itself from its four-door stablemate with swept roofline and rear glass so steeply raked that you'd be forgiven if you mistook the coupe for a liftback. The coupe's profile is so distinct with its thick C-pillars and aggressive angles created by the side windows that it is able to make due without superfluous creases and side strakes that you find on the sides of many modern cars.
To emphasize the coupe's slab-sidedness, Cadillac's designers and engineers have even figured out how to go handle-free on the doors. Instead of the standard lift-and-pull door handles, the CTS Coupe has a finger-size opening where the door meets the body; behind it hides a button that activates the standard smart key entry system. The result both looks and feels quite slick, but did lead to quite a few fingerprints on the Coupe's black paint from confused passengers. Inside the cabin, the handle-free theme is repeated with small thumb buttons on the doors that trigger the doors' opening. In the event of an emergency (such as a dead battery), the CTS Coupe can still be opened from the inside with a pair of clearly marked emergency handles in the foot wells.
Any doubts of the angular coupe's sexiness were immediately dashed as we pulled the CTS out of the CNET garage. Everywhere we went during our testing we were met with upturned thumbs and stretched necks from fellow motorists and passersby. This is definitely a vehicle that makes a good first impression.
Although we'd no doubt be more impressed with the CTS-V's 556-horsepower supercharged V-8 under the hood, our standard CTS' 3.6-liter, direct-injected V-6's 304 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque was more than adequate for the sort of quick squirts of power necessary for on-ramp merges and stoplight shootouts. Torque flows through a six-speed automatic gearbox with sport and manual shift modes before reaching the road via the rear or all four wheels; ours was a rear-wheel-driven model.
A $2,090 Performance package adds steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to the mix--although we hesitate to call the low-profile buttons "paddles"--as well as 19-inch wheels with summer tires, and an upgraded cooling system, suspension components, and brakes. Choosing the Performance package also unlocks the ability to choose a six-speed manual transmission that knocks $1,300 off of the bottom line--an option that, as enthusiasts, we'd very seriously consider.
While driving the CTS Coupe, we were constantly reminded of another GM sports coupe, the V-6 Chevrolet Camaro. It's no surprise, the coupes are about the same size and feature similar power trains based on the same 3.6-liter engine. The Cadillac felt less sharp than we remember the Camaro being, but that's to be expected. The CTS is slightly larger than the Camaro, with a longer wheelbase and carrying about 200 more pounds of comfort around at all times.
Even with the performance package, the coupe is a bit too soft to be counted among the ranks of true sports cars. The six-speed automatic transmission's shifts were a bit rubbery for the constant up and downshifting required by our favorite twisty mountain roads, and the Cadillac's sport-tuned suspension was still a tad soft for our sport driving tastes. We were, however, still impressed with the transmission's willingness to downshift as we braked in preparation for a turn; it may not have exactly been able to run with a true sports car, but the CTS Coupe is definitely willing.
The extra comfort and increased track and wheelbase come into their own during highway blasts and around the more relaxed sweeping turns of Northern California's wine country, where the Cadillac felt planted and sure of itself. The coupe's suspension insulated our ears from road noise and our spines from most bumps, but at no point isolated us from the road, which is exactly what we like in a luxury sports coupe.
Cabin technology in the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe is generally pretty good. Potential buyers are given the option of three trim levels. The base coupe is fairly feature-bare; moving up to the Performance trim level opens up a number of optional cabin tech options; and the Premium model--our as-tested trim level--makes standard most of the CTS Coupe's options.