The 2011 Cadillac CTS coupe goes on sale in August 2010, thirty-one long months after a thinly disguised concept-car version of it debuted at the 2008 North American International Auto Show. The good news is, the CTS coupe’s exterior lines look just as good on the road in summer 2010 as they did under the hot lights of the Cadillac stand in January 2008, and there were plenty of heads turning on the streets of Ann Arbor when I drove it. Although this car is a serious performer, I imagine it will be purchased primarily for one reason and one reason only: it looks like a million bucks. Let me return to the April 2008 issue of Automobile Magazine, where our Design Editor, Robert Cumberford, sung the praises of the CTS coupe and its creators:
“Bob Munson, [the automotive designer] whose initial sketch was chosen for development, is a thirty-five-year veteran at General Motors Design, unknown to the wider world but much appreciated by his peers and his bosses….His work in maturing and refining the edgy, raw, faceted Cadillac design language is proof that nothing beats experienced talent. The exceptionally comfortable four-seat interior, the work of Eric Clough, feels more like a true luxury car should than have most recent models from the former self-proclaimed ‘standard of the world.’ It really does feel special to sit in this car.
“The long, low feel of the 1960s front-wheel-drive Eldorados is long gone; this coupe is actually pretty chunky, giving the impression of strength and solidity rather than useless mass and unnecessary volume. This car is smaller but has a bigger cabin. Some may miss the long hoods of yesteryear, but this is a more practical, logical, and elegant solution.”
Thank you, Robert. Although I agree with Mr. Cumberford that the CTS coupe cabin is nicely designed, its similarity to the CTS sedan cabin means it’s not as special as it might be, as that design is now three years old. But the fact that the CTS coupe even exists is a small miracle: it was supposed to debut a year ago, but GM’s government-sponsored bankruptcy pushed off its arrival by a year. The CTS coupe was one of the gems that members of the Automotive Task Force discovered when they were given tours of GM’s design studios; one member in particular, a former Wall Streeter named Harry Wilson, reportedly was enamored by the CTS coupe and I would imagine and hope that he is one of the first owners.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The CTS Coupe is, as Joe DeMatio says, all about the looks. Of course the car is incredibly stable at speed, smooth around town, and luxurious inside, too.
I really wonder what the CTS Coupe is supposed to compete with in the marketplace. In terms of size, the CTS is bigger than potential competitors like a BMW 3-Series, but smaller than a 6-series, and priced somewhere between the two BMWs. If you base your choice in terms of design, perhaps the Audi A5/S5 coupes are the only two on the market that make strong enough visual statements to be worthy competitors, but the design language at Audi couldn’t possibly be more different than Cadillac’s Art & Science theme. With respect to performance, Mercedes’ E350 coupe feels most similar and both Cadillac and Mercedes use navigation screens that disappear when not in use. But none of these other coupes really feel like natural competitors to the CTS.
At first glance, the CTS Coupe and CTS-V Coupe appear to be the most exciting Cadillacs coming out this year. Keen enthusiasts, or at least the type of people who troll Internet forums all day long claiming to be car enthusiasts, have already forgotten about the coupes because they are drooling over the CTS-V Wagon that goes on sale later this year. Despite the compromises for design (who needs headroom, anyway?), the CTS and CTS-V coupes will sell like proverbial hotcakes compared to the CTS-V Wagon. Perhaps the Internet trolls are aware of how scarce the V Wagons will be and thus dismiss the Coupes as relatively pedestrian and uninteresting.
After driving the CTS coupe, it seems like a convertible is a more natural extension of the CTS brand than a wagon. With limited resources it’s easy to see why the convertible isn’t possible, but perhaps Cadillac should have scrapped the wagon plans and found a way to bring a stylish convertible to market.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Producer
I know that Robert Cumberford is much more qualified to critique design, but I have to disagree with him. To my eye, the rear quarter of the Cadillac CTS coupe is ungainly and clumsy. The broad expanse of sheetmetal suggests a heavy car and at 3900 pounds, the CTS coupe actually is on the heavy side.
Despite that, the CTS coupe drives very nicely, both as a comfortable daily driver and as a sporty two-door on the back roads. The 3.6-liter V-6 is strong at the top of the tachometer as a reward to driver’s who click the gear selector into manual mode and hold the lowest possible gear. The transmission swaps gears quickly when the wheel-mounted shift buttons are pressed, yet is unobtrusive when left to automatic mode. The CTS coupe steers and handles well, too. However, when driven casually, the CTS coupe doesn’t exude much personality.
A handful of relatively small improvements would go a long way in making the CTS coupe more appealing. The seats are seriously uncomfortable for taller people with a bottom cushion that is far too short and a back that is too flat and too firm. Replacing the small shift buttons on the steering wheel with sexier, taller paddles would be both functional and play up the coupe’s sporting pretenses. Finally, an updated navigation interface would bring Cadillac closer to BMW, Audi, and Infiniti, all of which have nav systems with a much more modern feel.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe
Base price (with destination): $38,990
Price as tested: $49,925
3.6-liter V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
18-inch aluminum wheels
Tire pressure monitoring system
Stabilitrak stability enhancement system
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
AM/FM/XM/CD radio with MP3 capability
Bose audio with 8 speakers
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Dual-zone climate control
Heated exterior mirrors
Remote vehicle start
Rear parking assist
Stainless steel exhaust with chrome center exit pipes
OnStar with one-year subscription
10-way power adjustable front seats
Options on this vehicle:
1SF premium collection — $8845
Adaptive forward lighting
LED light pipes
Bose 5.1 surround sound with 10 speakers
40GB hard drive with USB
Heated front seats
Deployable navigation screen
Heated and ventilated front seats
Heated steering wheel
Power telescoping steering wheel
LED interior ambient lighting
19-inch summer tire performance package — $2090
Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tire
Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters
Performance cooling system
Performance suspension and brakes
6-speed automatic transmission
Key options not on vehicle:
All-wheel-drive — $1900
6-speed manual transmission — $1300 discount
17 / 26 / 22 mpg
Size: 3.6L direct-injected V-6
Horsepower: 304 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
Curb weight: 3909 lbs
Wheels/tires: 19 x 8.5-inch polished-aluminum wheels
245/45R19 front; 275/40R19 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 2 performance tires