Driven: 2011 Cadillac CTS coupe

The sedan's mechanicals, which were already updated slightly during development of the wagon, also carry over, although there are a few key tuning changes. The coupe's body is two inches wider in the back, which facilitates the use of wider rear tires. Engineers offset that change with a thicker rear antiroll bar, resulting in more overall grip without hurting the car's handling balance. The direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 is unchanged from the sedan but is paired in rear-wheel-drive coupes with a numerically higher, 3.73:1 final-drive ratio and a standard limited-slip differential (the sedan's 3.0-liter base engine will not be offered here). Fuel economy ratings remain the same as the sedan's, with automatic-gearbox coupes earning EPA ratings of 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway and stick-shift cars rated at 16/25 mpg. No matter the transmission, the two-door can sprint to 60 mph in about six seconds, according to Cadillac. That's slightly quicker than the sedan, thanks to the gearing advantage and a nineteen-pound weight reduction, but still at least half a second slower than the G37 and the BMW 335i, which are both half a size smaller and significantly lighter than the CTS.

And yet overall, the CTS coupe gives up nothing to its Japanese and German competitors simply because this time around, Cadillac has gone to finishing school. For instance, the deck lid opens wide and reveals a surprisingly deep trunk. From the driver's seat, there's the expected C-pillar blind spot, but otherwise the cabin feels far brighter and airier than those of the G37 and 3-series coupes. Most important, when it hits some curves, the Caddy coupe is every bit as sporty as its fighter-jet looks promise. The uprated FE3 suspension on our test car manages the coupe's 3931 pounds with supreme confidence, keeping body motions in check through quick switchbacks. All the extra time that engineers spent tuning the car pays off with exceptional balance, as the rear end slides around hairpins smartly and predictably despite its staggered Continental performance tires. This, just in case you were wondering, is where the CTS coupe would leave a V-6-powered Chevy Camaro for dead, despite the fact that the Chevy uses an identical powertrain and weighs about 150 pounds less. The precise ZF steering rack, unchanged from the sedan, is as communicative as that in any German car, although there's still a bit too much power assist.

The biggest surprise, though, would have to be the transmission. We were disappointed at first to find our test car equipped with a six-speed automatic instead of the standard six-speed manual, but by the time we reached the end of a particularly thrilling paved mountain road and turned around for another pass, we were glad to have it. In sport mode, the transmission's programming adjusts the shift pattern according to acceleration, braking, and lateral g-forces. Other cars do this, but few we've experienced do it so well. Indeed, the way the transmission slammed down a gear the moment before a hard right-hander and avoided an upshift through a long banked turn was enough to make us wonder why other sporty cars bother with the complexity of dual-clutch automatics. Strong, perfectly progressive brakes round out the package. Keep in mind, though, that very little of this capability is unique to the coupe. The sedan and even the much-heavier wagon will acquit themselves nearly as well if given a chance. In that sense, our spirited drive was less a revelation than it was a reminder that the CTS, regardless of body style, means business.

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