Full 2011 Cadillac STS Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Cadillac STS loses its V8 option.
Being the middle child can be pretty tough; just ask the 2011 Cadillac STS. Sitting between the Euro-flavored CTS and the ever-popular, old-school DTS land yacht, the STS is almost invisible, earning less than half the sales of its siblings. Yet the STS is a well-rounded member of the Cadillac family, offering handsome exterior style, respectable performance and relatively agile handling. It also offers a decent collection of high-tech gizmos to keep savvy consumers happy. But now on its seventh model year since being introduced, the STS looks a little aged compared to newer and fresher luxury sedans.
This year Cadillac has discontinued the V8 engine option, leaving the 302-horsepower V6 as the sole engine choice. It's not such a big loss, to be honest, as the V6 has been the better pick anyway, but now the STS is out of contention if you really must have a V8-powered luxury sedan. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the STS's athletic handling, not to mention a price that typically undercuts this car's European rivals by thousands.
Yet we can also see how this middle child gets lost in the schoolyard of the luxury-sedan segment. Not only are there the typical rivals such as the 2011 BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS and 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but also the 2011 Infiniti M37 and 2011 Hyundai Genesis. In particular, the Genesis presents intriguing value thanks to its choice of powerful V6 and V8 engines, handsomely crafted cabin and hard-to-resist price tag. There is also the all-wheel-drive Acura RL as well as the aforementioned Cadillac CTS, a smaller version of the STS package that offers an even more sporting drive as well as a much lower price.
Overall, the 2011 Cadillac STS remains a decent luxury sedan. But with so many superior entries in this segment, we'd still advise you to check out the competition before making a decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Cadillac STS is a large luxury sedan available in three trim levels: V6 Luxury Sport, V6 Luxury and V6 Premium.
The V6 Luxury Sport (an odd name for a base trim) comes with 17-inch wheels, leather seating, aluminum interior trim, eight-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, satellite radio, an eight-speaker Bose sound system and OnStar. The V6 Luxury (yes, it's a step up from Luxury Sport) adds wood trim, power lumbar for the front seats, a CD changer, Bluetooth, driver memory settings and heated front seats. The V6 Premium adds 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, a rear spoiler, auto-dimming xenon headlights, an upgraded audio system and a navigation system.
Options for the Luxury Sport are minimal, consisting of a performance brake package and all-wheel drive. The Luxury trim can be had with a sunroof, an automatic load-leveling suspension and many of the Premium trim's features via several optional packages. The Premium trim offers a Performance Handling package (includes upgraded brakes, high-performance summer tires and chrome wheels) as well as a Premium Luxury Collection package (includes a sunroof, a blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and a head-up display).
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine on the 2011 Cadillac STS is a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 302 hp and 272 pound-feet of torque. It comes matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. All trims come standard with rear-wheel drive, and AWD is an option on the Luxury Sport and Luxury trims.
Cadillac estimates put the V6 at 6.5 seconds for the 0-60-mph sprint, while EPA fuel mileage estimates for both rear-wheel-drive and AWD versions stand at 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
Antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability control and a full complement of airbags are standard on every 2011 Cadillac STS. The airbags include front-seat side and full-length side curtains. Lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems are optional.
The Cadillac STS has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. The sedan's 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new tests) were four stars (out of a top five) for both driver and passenger in frontal-impact tests. In side-impact tests, the STS scored four stars for front passengers and five stars for rear passengers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the STS a rating of "Good" in frontal-offset crash tests, the highest score possible. It scored a second-best rating of "Acceptable" for side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Depending on trim level, the STS's cabin is fitted with aluminum accents and real wood trim as well. Fit and finish is solid, and luxury buyers should be pleased with this Cadillac's generally high-class ambience. Minor demerits include the use of some low-grade plastic trim pieces that you won't see in competing luxury sedans.
The controls are straightforward and easy to use, with the exception of the confounding memory-setting procedure for the driver seat, mirrors, radio and climate controls. Unlike traditional systems, which place buttons on the door or driver seat, you must dive deep into the navigation touchscreen to set memory functions. It's frustrating, but at least it's something done only occasionally. The trunk is also a bit small, with 13.8 cubic feet of total capacity.
Although it's certainly large, the 2011 Cadillac STS sedan feels three-fourths its size when driven with enthusiasm, much like the CTS from which it's derived. Turn-in is sharp and the car stays composed when pressed on a winding road. And yet when it's time to gobble up hundreds of freeway miles, the STS provides the smooth, quiet ride expected of a vehicle wearing the wreath and crest of Cadillac. The V6 provides respectable power, with strong acceleration both around town and while making passes on the open highway.