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.
The Cadillac CTS Coupe's rear end features new sharply angled bodywork.
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.
The coupe's power train and dimensions are similar to the V-6 Camaro, so it's no surprise the performance is similar.
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.
The large 8-inch touch screen can be reduced to a low-profile display at the touch of a button.
Starting with navigation, a touch-screen system is available starting at the Performance trim level and standard on our Premium model. The system features a motorized screen that can be raised to show the full 8-inch display for viewing maps, selecting destinations, and interacting with most of the advanced features of the infotainment system. The display can also be lowered to a point where only two lines of audio source information are displayed. We found this minimalist configuration useful, minimizing display glare for nighttime driving. Additionally, spoken turn-by-turn directions are still read aloud by the system with the screen lowered, so we can appreciate its usefulness for drivers who simply want less visual distraction while on the road.
Traffic and weather data are also piped into the dashboard over the XM Satellite Radio connection. If the navigation system recognizes traffic along the vehicle's current heading, even if a route hasn't been chosen, it will prompt the driver and suggest an alternative path around the obstruction if available.
The navigation system is based on a 40GB hard drive, so its performance is quick and responsive, but this configuration also has a few bonus advantages. The first is media storage, as a portion of the Cadillac's hard drive is devoted to the storage of ripped audio files from CDs. The CTS' hard drive also features the ability to pause live radio. When listening to AM or FM programming, simply tap the pause button and the stereo will begin to cache up to 20 minutes of audio. Users are now free to exit the vehicle to run into a store or pump a tank of gas without missing a moment of their favorite news broadcast, sporting event, or talk show. The radio pause feature is, however, not compatible with XM Satellite Radio programming.
Users are able to take advantage of the Coupe's HDD to pause and cache live AM/FM radio.
Other audio sources include CD audio playback, an analog auxiliary input, and a USB port with mass storage and iPod/iPhone compatibility. However, the Cadillac had an issue recognizing our fifth-gen iPod video as anything other than a mass storage device, possibly because of a firmware conflict. However, tests with a newer iPod Nano yielded better results. Bluetooth audio streaming is not available.
Users are also able to take advantage of that big 8-inch screen for DVD playback--when the vehicle is parked, of course--with full Dolby 5.1 surround. The system will still play back the audio of an inserted DVD with the vehicle in motion, so owners of concert DVDs can take advantage of them while on the road. Audio is pumped through a Bose surround system. Sound quality tended to slightly overemphasize the lower end of the audible spectrum with bass taking center stage even with the three-band EQ set to flat. With a bit of tweaking, we were able to coax more evenly balanced audio out of the system, but lovers of pounding bass lines of rock, pop, hip-hop, and electronica will get the most out of this system. The audio system also featured an automated volume control function that considers vehicle speed and open windows to subtly boost the sound levels to compensate for road noise.
Of course, being a premium GM vehicle, the Cadillac CTS Coupe features the full array of OnStar-based technologies and services. Users are able to contact an OnStar representative from the driver's seat to have destinations for turn-by-turn directions beamed to the dashboard, request roadside assistance, and receive automatic crash response in the event of an accident. From outside the vehicle, users are also able to contact OnStar for issues ranging from reporting a stolen vehicle to requesting remote door unlock in the event of a lockout.
GM and Cadillac's implementation of OnStar is a boon to the CTS Coupe's cabin tech package, but when it comes to hands-free calling things get a bit unnecessarily complicated. Bluetooth connectivity is there, but so is GM's OnStar hands-free calling system. However, neither system seemed well implemented, causing the telephone experience as a whole to suffer as a result. On the Bluetooth side, pairing a phone is handled by voice command with no onscreen prompts or information. Once paired, there is no address book sync, only user-assigned speed-dial entries with voice tags saved one at a time. On the OnStar side of things, users get an in-vehicle telephone number as part of the service that can be used to make or receive calls. The additional complexity of juggling an additional number for the car seems a bit unnecessary, and we'd like to see GM/Cadillac throw more of its weight behind the Bluetooth connectivity with more-advanced features.
Our CTS Coupe was also equipped with an array of driver aids. Standard on all CTS Coupes is rear parking assist, a proximity sensor that beeps with increasing intensity as the vehicle approaches an obstruction while reversing. Optional on the Performance and standard on our Premium model is the rearview camera that displays a view from the vehicle's rear bumper on the 8-inch LCD display while reversing. The coupe's thick C-pillars slightly impede visibility creating a much larger blind spot than the CTS sedan, yet Cadillac does not offer any sort of blind-spot detection technology on the CTS at this time.
Convenient touches--such as power front seats with heated and ventilated seating surfaces and two memory settings with an easy exit preset for the driver's seat, standard universal home remote, a heated steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate controls--round out a well-appointed cabin tech package.
The Cadillac CTS Coupe earns high performance marks for its sporty handling and meaty V-6 engine's straight line power. The direct-injected engine's EPA estimated 18 city and 27 highway mpg also go a long way toward boosting that performance score.
It's also no surprise that the CTS Coupe earns a high design score based on the overwhelmingly positive reaction that we got from our fellow motorists during the course of our testing. A well-appointed interior and cleverly organized dashboard interface also do their part in influencing this score.
The CTS loses a few cabin comfort points for having two rather mediocre hands-free calling systems that tend to step on each others' toes quite a bit. We also dinged the coupe for its lack of advanced safety features, such as blind-spot and lane-departure warnings. Yet, the CTS makes up for these flaws and omissions with an infotainment system that, despite being a bit dated as cabin tech packages go, still packs most of the features that we like to see from the driver's seat.
Finding oneself in the CTS Coupe's driver's seat trim begins with forking over $47,010 plus an $825 destination fee for our RWD Premium trim level vehicle. At this level, nearly all of the features are standard; one only needs to add $2,090 for the Performance package and $110 for a dealer installed Underhood Appearance package to reach our as tested price of $50,035.
|Model||2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe|
|Power train||3.6-liter direct-injected V-6, RWD|
|EPA fuel economy||18 city/27 highway|
|Observed fuel economy||n/a|
|Navigation||40GB HDD based, XM traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||yes|
|Disc player||Single-disc CD/DVD|
|MP3 player support||USB, iPod, analog auxiliary input|
|Other digital audio||XM Satellite Radio|
|Audio system||5.1 surround Bose|
|Driver aids||Rearview camera, rear proximity sensor, adaptive headlamps|
|Price as tested||$50,035|