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First Drive: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe Review

Two is greater than four

Chris Allen
by Chris Allen
June 21, 2010
4 min. Reading Time

I promise I really did pay attention in math class. I know that in mathematical terms, the number four is greater than the number two. Thing is, even during those classes, it was two-door cars I was sketching in the margins of my homework, not 4-doors. It's no secret that in the automotive realm less can be more. Weight, doors, roofs, all benefit from a dose of less. Most buyers can admit that if family toting or business pretenses are out of play, lightweight, roofless, 2-door machines reign supreme. The CTS Coupe employs one of those three "less is more" categories, but where it's portly and roofy, 2-doors and dramatic design to make up for it. In photos, the CTS Coupe is stunning. In person, it's take your breath away, drop-dead, holy cow she's out of my league gorgeous. GM is on a tear lately with building production cars that are almost carbon copies of their respective concept vehicles. The Volt aside, the Camaro is spot-on, and the production CTS Coupe looks like it rolled right off of the auto show pedestal. Truly, stylistic concessions are few, and thisundefined is soon to be the hottest car on the road. Mark my words. From the base of the windshield forward, the coupe is the same as the CTS Sedan and Wagon. Head rearward, and it's a car all its own. The windshield is sloped back 2 degrees, the side windows are incredibly short, and the rear window is nearly horizontal with the road it's tearing over. In back, is center exit exhaust (watch your legs when loading things in the trunk) along with a center taillight that doubles as a spoiler. Flanking the rear are taillights that sweep up into the c-pillar with stunning LED light pipes that add that extra dose of flair at night. Pushed out the edges, and draped just right with the fenders, the optional rolling stock is 19" wheels with monstrous 275/40 meats in the rear, and 245/45's in the front. All told, the Coupe oozed performance. Cadillac, the styling department deserves a raise.

Interior Overview

Inside, you find standard CTS Coupe garb. The steeply-raked windshield and lower greenhouse result in somewhat diminished headroom, though my 6'4" frame fit with only a few discomforted hairs. The seats were unfortunately a disappointment, as the active headrest system pushes on the center of your back in the wrong place. GM engineers assured me that a fix is in the works, though there will be a few months worth of Coupes that roll off the line with the wonky seats. Chrome, wood, and leather wrap most of what you can see and touch, though I still find the interior design to be a bit on the busy side. Materials are excellent, and the fit and finish belies its traditional GM badge. Technically a 2 plus 2 configuration, the CTS Coupe makes a few sacrifices in comfort for style. When front seat legroom is ample, the rear seats have enough to accommodate a baby confined to a baby seat. Adults can fit back there, but be prepared to hug the steering wheel if you're driving, and if someone's over 6 feet, please insist on themundefined riding shotgun. Trunk space is surprisingly cavernous, and the opening is almost the opposite of the Camaro, offering a nearly vertical opening that accommodates tall objects and oddly shaped items with ease. Finally, you can look good loading the 80-pack of toilet paper from Costco in your vehicle. The same navigation set-up as in the V  is found in the CTS Coupe, so efforts to pair my Bluetooth phone and make phone calls were futile. That aside, the Bose audio system, with the optional 10 speaker upgrade, will pump out tunes to your ear's content. I sampled a DVD audio disc as well as tracks off a simple MP3 CD, and the simulated 5.1 surround is excellent. Unable to sample the "base" 8-speaker Bose system, I can't recommend the upgrade with conviction, though I doubt you'll be disappointed if you do check that box. I spoke with a representative from Bose, and he claims that every single vehicle with a Bose branded stereo system has the system engineered for that vehicle. Overkill? Not when you crank up the volume knob.


Handling Review

Once on the road, the CTS Coupe really starts to show its colors. Much like the sedan, what was a large vehicle on the outside, shrinks around you as you get comfortable in the pilot's seat. The miniscule greenhouse does limit visibility, but it doesn't take long to get acclimated to the physical boundaries of the car. I did long for the alcantera-wrapped steering wheel from the V, as I found the spokes on the leather and wood steering wheel in the coupe just a bit too think for a comfortable 9 and 3 hand position. The dislike for the steering wheel diminished however, as I explored the particularly high limits of adhesion in the wide-track coupe. undefined Grip is a game of more is never enough, and it's the name of handling with the CTS Coupe. Tenacious, uh-oh my spleen is in the passenger seat, levels of grip. Suspension engineers paid close attention to suspension tuning, and what started out as a bit of a harsh ride over rough roads, translated into pancake-flat, planted handling in the twisties. Steering feel is a tad numb, and there was a discernible slop in precision as jiggling the steering wheel mid-turn or in a straight line didn't disrupt the front wheels. Once it did though, it did so with purpose and grace, making sudden direction changes a pleasing venture. It's really hard to believe that it's a 3,900 lbs. car. The limits of the CTS Coupe are so high, that if you find them, you're going to be way in over your head. This is a car that is confidence inspiring, and way too easy and fun to drive fast.


Engine and Transmission

Speaking of fast, the CTS Coupe's standard 300 horsepower, 3.6-liter direct injected V6 provides adequate thrust. Spoiled by the raunchy V, I found the 3.6 manages to leave a little something to be desired. Lacking a bit in low-end torque, and getting winded in upper RPMs, the 3.6 seems to be a few ponies short of a stable. A turbocharger may bring out the hidden ponies...GM, are you listening? Truthfully, the 3.6 is a decent motivator, letting down only the most thrust-thirsty drivers (timid slow hand raise here). Adding to the "adequate" ambiance is a wheezy exhaust note that's more truck-like than it is sport coupe. Just turn up the Bose system, and you'll forget all about it. The 3.6 translates through either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, and an aggressive 3.73 rear end helps to boost off-the-line acceleration. Unable to sample the three-pedler, I found the 6-speed automatic once again adequate for motivation. Downshiftsundefined are a bit lazy, and the sport mode hangs gears when it doesn't need to, and shifts when you don't want it. Leave it in "D" and you'll never notice a difference. It's in its element cruising around town, or scooting briskly over back roads. Only the most performance oriented driver would be disappointed, and you'll be wanting the car with the V badge anyway, which comes out in a few months. Sweeping through the sweet hills of Napa valley, vineyard after vineyard blurring together, the CTS Coupe shines in it's embodiment of this lifestyle. This is a car meant for throwing the clubs in the trunk, grabbing the apple of your eye, and heading for a nice weekend in the countryside. It stands out for all the right reasons, and for the price, starting at $38,990, I challenge you to find another vehicle that's more up for the task. Country club, valet, or downtown, this car shines. In a market a mostly by itself, the CTS Coupe will please anyone looking for something that's progressive and edgy, yet quintessentially American. The suspension tuning is phenomenal, providing confidence inspiring grip that is unsurpassed. A top-tier sport coupe, the CTS Coupe is worth a look if you don't have a need for a useable back seat. An excellent car, it's going to be instrumental in rebuilding Cadillac's image on our shores and beyond. I couldn't ask for anything less.



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