Driven: 2011 Cadillac CTS coupe

The Cadillac CTS coupe is a car for realists. Sure, it looks like a concept car that took a wrong turn leaving the convention center, but, in fact, it's an entirely logical and even conservative step in a brand renaissance that's changing course. After a decade in which Cadillac reached for the stars with sexy halo models and pie-in-the-sky concepts like the Sixteen, General Motors' luxury division is adjusting its ambitions to reflect new realities. So, whereas Cadillac's last two-door car, the now-defunct, Corvette-based XLR, was an ambitious, low-volume sports car with an oversize price, the CTS coupe is a natural progression of the brand's most successful model. Since it shares its sheetmetal from the cowl forward and almost all of its mechanical components with the CTS sedan and wagon, the coupe is an easy way for GM to target a segment currently dominated by BMW, Infiniti, and Audi.

But the coupe almost never happened. Cadillac says that although it always planned a CTS sedan and wagon, it decided to produce a coupe only after designers mocked up a concept. Regardless of how true that is - it's hard to imagine that no one outside the design studio thought of doing a mid-size two-door when so many premium competitors have one - the coupe is positively gorgeous. Several cues, including the rakish roofline, slab-sided doors, and shaved door handles, reprise the Art and Science theme that Cadillac debuted way back in 1999 with the Evoq concept, but a new level of attention to detail keeps this car fresh. For instance, the CHMSL is mounted on the deck lid in such a way that it reduces lift at highway speeds, eliminating the need for a rear spoiler, and the high-flow mufflers vent through distinctive squarish tips integrated into the center of the rear fascia. (The CTS-V coupe, which will come out a few weeks after the V-6 model hits dealerships in June, gets larger, nonintegrated round outlets better suited to handle the V-8's extra heat.) In terms of pure looks, the CTS coupe should rocket to the head of the luxury pack, especially since competitors such as the Infiniti G37 coupe and the Audi A5 have already been out for a while. Potential buyers, at least the ones we encountered as we drove around upscale Scottsdale, seem to agree. It's pretty common to catch lots of stares when testing a radical-looking new car - less so to have those bystanders come up and try to find out exactly where and when they can purchase one.

Considering the excitement generated by the coupe's exterior, it's a bit of a letdown to find that the cabin carries over pretty much unchanged from the sedan and the wagon. Although the CTS interior was a breakthrough for GM when it debuted nearly three years ago and still has very few overt faults, the addition of a significant new body style halfway through a model cycle seemingly would have been the perfect time to introduce some updates. Instead, the only real change of note is the availability of the CTS-V's Recaro seats in any coupe or sedan. We'd personally stick with the standard seats, though, which are firm and very comfortable and offer excellent lumbar support. At least the lack of changes should ensure top-quality fit and finish. Even our nonsalable development mule was free of the issues one usually finds on early-build models.

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