Full 2011 Cadillac CTS Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Cadillac CTS is largely unchanged from last year.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS embodies the company's push to become more competitive with the dominant models from foreign manufacturers. The days of bloated land yachts lumbering down the interstate are gone, as the CTS is significantly more tidy and compact than previous Cadillacs. Edgy styling and improved performance are definitely steering the company in a new direction.
There's a lot that's new for the CTS lineup, but that pertains mostly to the all-new coupe version, which is covered in a separate review, as is the extra-spicy CTS-V model. As it stands, the 2011 CTS sedan remains relatively unchanged from the previous model year.
Returning for the 2011 CTS sedan are the same engine choices -- a 270-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 or a 3.6-liter that makes 306 hp. A choice of suspensions is also still available, with varying degrees of sporty handling dynamics. Unfortunately, all of the same drawbacks remain, including an awkward driving position, poor rearward visibility and a rough ride (with the sportier suspensions). We're also a bit leery of the CTS's reliability, as a 2008 long-term CTS test vehicle we owned was plagued by inconsistent build quality and some electronic gremlins.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS is definitely a step in the right direction, but it still trails the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class in terms of quality and handling. We're also very fond of the Hyundai Genesis, as it delivers similar levels of luxury with a significantly lower price tag. The CTS is worth a look, but we would still highly recommend checking out the competition before making a final decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Cadillac CTS is a five-passenger midsize luxury sedan that is available in five trim levels: 3.0 base, 3.0 Luxury, 3.0 Performance, 3.6 Performance and 3.6 Premium.
Standard equipment on the 3.0 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a rear center armrest with a pass-through, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, premium vinyl "leatherette" upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-speaker CD stereo with satellite radio.
The 3.0 Luxury adds 10-way power front seats, heated front seats, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a wood-and-leather steering wheel, interior ambient lighting, Bluetooth and a six-CD changer.
The 3.0 Performance has the Luxury trim's equipment plus 18-inch wheels, foglights, performance brakes, upgraded FE2 sport-tuned suspension, a limited-slip rear differential and adaptive HID headlamps. The 3.6 Performance adds a bigger V6 engine and a 10-speaker surround-sound stereo with digital music storage and a USB/iPod audio interface.
Both Performance trims qualify for the available Luxury Level Two package that adds rear parking sensors, a split-folding rear seat, heated and cooled front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, keyless ignition/entry and remote engine start. The 3.6 Premium has the Level Two equipment plus a panoramic sunroof (optional on all other CTS models) and a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and weather.
A rearview camera and the navigation system are optional on all but the base CTS. The 19-inch Summer Tire Performance package (available on 3.6 models) adds 19-inch wheels, summer tires, an upgraded FE3 performance suspension and enhanced power steering. Nineteen-inch wheels with all-season tires are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
2011 Cadillac CTS buyers can choose between two V6 engines. The base 3.0-liter V6 produces 270 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque and achieves an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. The 3.6-liter V6 produces 306 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque and earns estimates of 18/27/21 mpg.
The 3.0 base and Luxury models come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard, with a six-speed automatic available as an option. The automatic transmission is standard for all other models, but the manual is also available with the 3.6-liter engine. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive offered as an option on models equipped with the automatic transmission.
In performance testing, the 3.6 V6 with the automatic propelled a rear-wheel-drive CTS sedan from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds.
Standard safety features for the 2011 Cadillac CTS include antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and GM's OnStar emergency communications system.
In government crash testing, the CTS earned four out of five stars for frontal crash protection and a perfect five stars for side protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the sedan was awarded the best rating of "Good" in frontal-offset and side impact testing.
In brake testing, the CTS 3.6 Premium with FE2 suspension and all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 117 feet, which is very good for a luxury sedan. With the 19-inch wheels and summer tires, that distance drops to a very impressive 109 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2011 Cadillac CTS features a pleasing angular theme to match its exterior edginess. Soft-touch materials are plentiful, accented by tasteful wood trim. The optional navigation system emerges from the top of the dash and retracts almost fully, leaving a small section visible as a touchscreen display for the audio system -- an ingenious and elegant alternative solution to having a separate control panel.
Unfortunately, the interior also comes with its fair share of flaws. Many find the driving position awkward because of slightly offset pedals and compromised knee room due to the sweeping center stack. Rearward visibility is notably poor, forcing the driver to rely on the optional rearview camera when maneuvering in reverse.
Overall comfort is hampered by flat and stiff seatbacks, and rear seat passengers will fare even worse because of the low roof line. Trunk space is decent, but the narrow opening requires quite a bit of jostling in order to fit bulky items. Golf clubs will not fit width-wise, and will eat up the available space, as they must be placed diagonally.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS tracks through curves with much more athleticism than you might expect. The steering is precise and well-weighted, making the CTS competitive with its European rivals. However, this road-holding performance comes at the expense of ride quality. Those expecting the luxurious ride of Cadillacs past will likely find the FE2 suspension on the Performance trim models too firm for their tastes. The even stiffer FE3 sport suspension, then, would likely be far too harsh and unforgiving for most.
Power delivery from the base 3.0-liter V6 is sluggish compared to the broad-shouldered 3.6-liter engine. Considering that both engines achieve virtually identical fuel economy, we suggest springing for the bigger V6 if your budget allows.