2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

Review and photos by
Chris Chase, Autos.ca

Even if it’s based on an existing vehicle, a coupe will generally attract a different kind of buyer than a similar sedan, particularly if the coupe is distinguished from the sedan by more than the elimination of a couple of doors.

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

Certainly the Cadillac CTS Coupe, a new addition to the brand’s entry-level line-up for 2011, is recognizable as a modern Caddy, with its razor sharp lines, but a carbon-copy of the sedan it ain’t. It shares the four-door’s front clip and dashboard, but the rest of the look is unique to the two-door model.

Less unique is the coupe’s running gear, which consists of a 3.6-litre V6, a standard six-speed manual transmission, and an optional six-speed automatic. That leaves out the 3.0-litre V6 that serves as base power in the sedan. The CTS Coupe can also be ordered in high-performance “V” trim, complete with a massive 6.2-litre V8 and up-rated everything designed to deal with its extra poke.

The 3.6 is a good motor, but not a great one in this context. Its power figures – 304 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque – are competitive, but the engine is seriously lacking in refinement compared to the turbine-smooth straight sixes found in a BMW 3 Series. The BMW’s top-line turbo mill is much stronger in its low-end, making for lots of punch off the line, where the CTS’ motor must be revved high to get at its peak power.

Six gears should be enough, but this car feels like it could use a seventh; if you’re not pushing it, the engine falls easily out of its power band as you work up through the ratios. Of course, more gears would mean more shifting. As much as I prefer manual to automatic transmissions, my tester’s stickshift was no joy to use, and the clutch’s short take-up and lack of feel made the car hard to drive smoothly. As counterintuitive as it seems in a car seemingly designed for sport, I’d recommend going straight for the automatic version of the CTS.

Natural Resources Canada rates the CTS’ fuel consumption at 11.4/6.9 L/100 km (city/highway) with the 3.6-litre and manual transmission; I managed an average of 11.6 L/100 km, including a whole lot of highway driving.

The CTS’ tires aren’t particularly wide for the class, but their tendency to follow ruts in the road was pronounced, more so than the 3 Series coupe I drove a few weeks prior to this car. It’s something I don’t recall from my last drive in a CTS, though that was ages ago, in 2008. Regardless, it was off-putting and took away from a chassis that otherwise has it together. The ride is the right mix of firm and cushy, and the only thing that discouraged me from taking advantage of the car’s competent handling was the vague steering.

Inside, you’ll find front seats that are comfortable but totally lacking in lateral support. The feeling is one of sitting “on” these seats, rather than “in” them, which also discourages enjoyment of the car’s decent cornering feel. The back seat is best used for proving to others that your car has one; getting in and out is not fun, and there’s not much room, either.

Opening the doors is done via electric buttons, inside and out. At first, it’s cool, but I quickly tired of it. Where I’d normally open the driver’s door with my left hand, doing so with this car forces the wrist into an unnatural position. It’s easier with the right hand, but then it’s a two-step motion to get the door open: grab the handle and open the door with the right hand, and pull the door the rest of the way with the left.

The trunk is more impressive, proving roomy enough for a couple of guitars, an amp and a duffle bag of clothing. Its 298-litre capacity is a big downgrade, however, from the sedan’s 385 (which itself is no great shakes). The coupe’s rear seatbacks fold down, but far from flat, which is a shame, as the opening between the trunk and cabin is large.

Aside from a very annoying creak in the console every time the shifter was moved into its right-most gate, my tester’s interior was attractive and well-assembled, with the stitched leather dash and accent lighting as highlights. The navigation screen, which slides down into the dash when it’s not needed, is a nice touch, too. Quibbles include the temperature controls, which are too low on the dash, and the 30-km/h intervals on the speedometer, which leaves the all-important (at least in Ontario) 100 km/h position unmarked. The digital speed readout in the trip computer menu proved particularly useful, in light of this omission.

Opening bids for the CTS Coupe start at $47,625; with the $7,085 Premium Collection (power sunroof; interior trim; rear vision camera; interior accent lighting; alarm system; heated/ventilated front seats; power tilt-telescope steering column; heated steering wheel; interior cabin odour filtration), my car came with an as-tested price of $54,710.

If you want a CTS coupe that’s worth the bucks, spend more of them and get the CTS-V coupe, a car that’s more than just a big motor. Its chassis is all that much more composed, and everything else about it, from its major controls (steering, brakes, shifter, clutch) to its seats are simply more satisfying to use. If Cadillac wants to be taken seriously as a builder of sporty cars, it’ll have to put better engineering in all of its models, not just the ones it wants to charge big money for.

Pricing: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

Base price: $47,625

Options: $7,085 (Premium Collection of power sunroof; interior trim; rear vision camera; interior accent lighting; alarm system; heated/ventilated front seats; power tilt-telescope steering column; heated steering wheel; interior cabin odour filtration)

A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,550

Price as tested: $56,360

Crash test results

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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