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2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe review: 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
6 min read

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2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

The Good

A tremendously powerful supercharged engine accelerates the <b>2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe</b> into near-supercar territory, while a magnetic suspension keeps it firmly grounded. The OnStar app offers remote unlocking and car start, along with other features.

The Bad

As expected with such a big engine, fuel economy earns a gas guzzler tax. The Bluetooth phone system lacks a modern feature set.

The Bottom Line

If it weren't for the poor fuel economy, the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe would work well as both a weekend racer and a daily commute car, combining exceptional sport performance with practical cabin tech.

With its car-from-the-future design, you would expect the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe to be powered by a Mr. Fusion reactor. The CTS-V Coupe may not fly or run on banana peels, but its supercharged V-8 can surely get it to 88 mph faster than Doc Brown's DeLorean in "Back to the Future."

The CTS-V Coupe has dramatic features, taking Cadillac's angular styling language to an extreme degree. The fenders run forward with a bold, sharp crease, and are capped by vertical headlights. The roofline covers side window graphics so sharp you could slice tomatoes with them.

Rear pillars continue the CTS-V Coupe's geometry lesson, with flat strips bracketing the rear window and ending in the taillights, which fold up over the rear fenders. The design of the CTS-V Coupe suggests it could benefit from an anger management seminar.

The CTS-V Coupe's radical styling includes center-positioned dual exhaust pipes.

The additional V appended to the model designation notes that this is the performance version of the standard CTS Coupe. The V expresses itself with a wire grille and lower intake, along with colorful V badges around the car. CNET's car also came equipped with optional 19-inch wheels in black, revealing yellow brake calipers on the discs.

Supercar acceleration
The standard CTS Coupe runs off a 3.6-liter V-6, which only barely does justice to the no-nonsense look of the car. With the CTS-V power train, it really earns its dramatic styling. With this sharp-edged design, you would expect the car to leave all others in clouds of its dust.

Similar to the CTS-V sedan and wagon, the CTS-V Coupe uses a supercharged 6.2-liter engine, producing so much torque that the car wants to slip and twist when powering off the line. It takes a gentler touch on the gas to achieve the best 60 mph acceleration time, as it is too easy to waste precious tenths while the wheels look for traction.

This engine comes from GM's LS line, and the addition of a supercharger gives it ridiculous power.

By the numbers, this engine produces 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. GM says it takes the CTS-V Coupe to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds, pushing into supercar territory. Under acceleration, the engine's roar is muted by Cadillac's luxury sound deadening in the cabin, but the whine of the supercharger comes through clearly.

Other numbers for the CTS-V Coupe are not as pleasing. Try 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, according to EPA testing. CNET's car turned in an average of 14.9 mpg over the course of mixed driving on freeways, city traffic, and on roads more appropriate for testing out the acceleration and handling.

The CTS-V Coupe can be had with a six-speed automatic transmission, but the six-speed manual is the only sane choice for a car with this kind of performance. Shifting feels a little rough, the linkage delivering a messy, mechanical feel, rather than the soft precision of a typical European manual transmission.

But the transmission is well geared for the tremendous power of the engine, making it possible to moderately accelerate from a city traffic light without attracting the attention of the local constabulary. Of course, 556 horsepower lets you choose just about any gear you want--fifth gear at 30 mph is perfectly reasonable in this car.

An $800 package adds 19-inch wheels to the car, in this black finish with yellow calipers.

Another essential element of the CTS-V Coupe's performance equation is its magnetically controlled suspension. This ingenious bit of technology uses ferrous fluid in the shocks. When magnetic coils in the suspension activate, the fluid becomes more viscous. A computer in the car uses sensor data to constantly adjust the fluid viscosity individually at each wheel.

The result, when the transmission is in Sport mode, is amazingly good and controllable cornering, with virtually no body roll. The meaty tires grip the pavement as the car flips around apexes with race car rigidity. Driving over a section of undulating pavement, the suspension kept the tires in constant contact with the road. It didn't go airborne at each rise, nor did the body bounce up and down.

Cadillac rightly labels the suspension's non-Sport mode as Touring, since Comfort would have been a complete misnomer. The suspension never achieves a soft, luxurious ride, merely doing an adequate job of damping road imperfections when it is set in Touring mode.

Familiar electronics
Cabin tech in the CTS-V Coupe is essentially the same as in the standard CTS. Cadillac should have added some CTS-V-specific features--maybe a performance screen on the pop-up LCD showing a g-meter and a lap timer. A head-up display would also have been nice.

The navigation system includes some 3D-rendered buildings in perspective view.

The cabin tech available is generally good, though it doesn't push many boundaries. The hard-drive-based navigation system shows high-resolution and easy-to-read maps in both 2D and perspective views. The interface for address entry is aesthetically pleasing and very usable. Cadillac combines a touch screen with buttons and a dial on the console, letting the driver use whichever input method makes the most sense.

The car brings in traffic and weather data over its satellite radio feed. One particularly nice feature is that the CTS-V Coupe will proactively warn of traffic congestion on the road ahead, even when the navigation system doesn't have a current destination.

The onscreen audio interface is another stand-out feature. It takes any storage media containing MP3 files--such as a CD or USB drive--and indexes the music based on the ID3 tags. It constructs a library interface similar to that of an iPod, letting you browse music by artist, album, genre, and track. And not only can you rip standard audio CDs to the car's hard drive, you can also copy MP3 tracks off of a CD to the hard drive, something not many other cars support.

Where most cars merely show folders and files, this stereo builds a music library for MP3 CDs from ID3 tags.

Music plays through a Bose audio system with 5.1 surround sound. That audio processing probably isn't really necessary for music, although you can watch DVDs on the car's entertainment system when parked. With 10 speakers, the audio system is robust, with full-sounding bass and detailed high frequencies. It is an above-average system, although drivers of the CTS-V Coupe will be more interested in listening to the engine.

As the CTS-V Coupe is a GM car, OnStar comes standard. Along with the traditional concierge and safety services, OnStar now includes a mobile application that works with the CTS-V. This app lets you do things like remotely lock and unlock the doors and start the car.

OnStar includes a hands-free phone service, yet most people will want to use the car's Bluetooth phone system paired with their own phones. The CTS-V's Bluetooth phone system is mediocre compared with other carmakers' systems. It is purely voice command-based, and doesn't import the phone's contact list. It is primarily good for receiving calls while driving; dialing out is a hassle.

In sum
With such massive power combined with excellent handling, the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe earns a good score for performance. Cadillac did an excellent job fitting it with a supercharged engine and giving it the magnetic suspension technology. Too bad about the fuel economy, though.

The car also incorporates some ground-breaking design, not only in its radical concept car styling, but also in the cabin tech interface. The screens on the LCD look good and it is very easy to operate navigation and stereo.

When the newest version of the CTS first came out, it sported some of the best cabin tech available, but in the intervening years the navigation system has been surpassed by competitors, pushing it closer to average. The stereo remains good, with many audio sources, but the Bluetooth phone system is a poor effort. The new OnStar app gives the CTS-V Coupe a boost in the cabin tech department.

Tech specs
Model2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe
Power trainSupercharged 6.2-liter V-8, 6-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy14 mpg city/19 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy14.9 mpg
NavigationHard-drive-based with traffic
Bluetooth phone supportStandard
Disc playerMP3-compatible single-CD/DVD player
MP3 player supportiPod integration
Other digital audioHard-drive storage, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio
Audio systemBose 10 speaker 5.1 surround-sound system
Driver aidsBackup camera
Base price$62,165
Price as tested$69,440
2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 6Performance tech 7Design 8


Available Engine GasBody style Coupe