Let's be honest here. Looks count, especially when you're talking premium cars. And the looks of the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe will challenge you.
Some of you will call it modern, edgy and unique. Others will figure that if it were silver and had a giant paper banner coming out of the sunroof, it might double as the parade float version of a giant, chocolate Hershey's Kiss. But we've learned that no matter what this car might look like, the way it rockets up an on-ramp is a thing of beauty. Thanks to Cadillac's 556-horsepower supercharged V8, the CTS-V Coupe can show its taillights to some considerably more pedigreed nameplates.
Yet this hot-rod Cadillac also surprised us in ways that had nothing to do with burning rubber or whipping around little orange cones on the test track. Usually, it's the highest-performance version of a given model that's tougher to live with. But in the case of the Cadillac CTS Coupe and the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, it's the other way around. The CTS-V represents an improvement in refinement and composure, not just power and performance.
For a price that starts at $62,165, no other car can touch the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe for sheer performance. But if you can trade off a bit of that face-flattening acceleration, there are other tempting choices. You might consider the Mercedes-Benz E550 coupe, which offers a more airy cabin courtesy of its pillarless roof design, the simply gorgeous Audi S5 or the more involving BMW M3 coupe. They all have great personalities, so it might just come down to which looks best to you.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe is motivated by Cadillac's high-tech, supercharged, direct-injection V8, which produces 556 hp and 551 pound-feet of torque. Coupled to a six-speed manual transmission, this engine powers this rear-wheel-drive brute to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds and then dismisses the quarter-mile in a scant 12.2 seconds. And it's accompanied by a rocking exhaust note so addictive that we found ourselves killing the radio and lowering the windows nearly every time we drove through a tunnel. Yet when you're not cranking up the soundtrack or teasing punks in Camaros and Mustangs, this super sport coupe is as docile and smooth-running as grandpa's Cadillac DTS.
Blessing the Caddy's six-speed manual gearbox (a six-speed automatic is available) is a shift lever that moves precisely through the gates, yet delivers a smooth, slick action. We never really thought about the clutch, as working it is a mostly subconscious act thanks to its light effort and linear engagement.
Reining in all the kinetic energy is the responsibility of massive Brembo brakes, and they live up to their lofty reputation in this application. At the track the binders hauled the CTS-V down from 60 mph in just 107 feet, a number a lightweight sports car would be proud of, let alone a 2-ton luxury sport coupe. Brake fade during repeated panic stops was virtually nil, and despite their prodigious power, the brakes boasted an easily modulated pedal.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe has handling chops as well, so much so that it feels light and agile when you're hustling it along your favorite back roads thanks to an adaptive suspension that quells body roll in quick transitions. The steering provides crisp turn-in as well as ample feedback, while the effort level firms up nicely when you're bending the car into the curves. A few of our editorial staffers felt the effort was a little too light for a high-performance car, but most drivers will probably be perfectly content.
With a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and the multiple adjustments of the driver seat, the CTS-V can be tailored to fit most any driver comfortably. Up front, we found the optional Recaro seats perfectly shaped for support in fast corners, yet also perfectly padded with the right amount of give for all-day comfort. The Recaros are pricey at $3,400 for the pair, but we think it's money well spent in a world-class performance car.
As we've already discovered in the standard-issue Cadillac CTS Coupe, the rear quarters aren't nearly as accommodating. Once seated, shorter passengers should be comfortable, as there is decent thigh support and plenty of legroom. But anyone over 5-foot-7 will likely find headroom limited.
The CTS-V's standard adaptive suspension once again earns props from us when it comes to comfort, this time for providing a supple ride over the crumbling, pothole-ridden pavement that's becoming all too common in this age of city budget deficits. The V-spec actually rides with notably more compliance than the standard CTS Coupe with its sport option package (Summer Tire Performance package).
At speed on the open highway, the CTS-V upholds its Cadillac lineage with a quiet ride unmarred by excessive wind or road noise.
As long as you're looking forward, outward visibility from the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe isn't bad, and the sharply defined front corners actually aid with parking. Out back, it's a different story, because the rising beltline, cheeky C-pillars and steeply raked rear window force you to rely on the outside mirrors and standard back-up camera while reversing. That said, parking sensors and the camera make parking fairly easy.
Despite all the standard gizmos, the CTS-V Coupe's various controls are intuitive to operate. The dual-zone climate controls, for instance, are located on either side of the center stack and canted thoughtfully toward the driver and passenger respectively. The instrument gauges are large and easily read. The audio system provides fairly crisp, powerful sound, and iPod connectivity is standard. Though the navigation system is easy to use, it doesn't mute the stereo quite enough when giving its voice prompts.
Storage space within the cabin consists chiefly of a covered bin between the seats and rather shallow door pockets, though a small compartment is found in front of the shift lever. At 13.6 cubic feet, cargo capacity would seem to be ample, at least for this segment. But the narrow opening is further restricted by the large gooseneck hinges that intrude deeply into the trunk when you close the lid and crush your cargo. Our editorial golf bag with its longish driver would only fit if placed diagonally (consuming more space than it should), while our editorial rollaway suitcase still fit in.
Installing a rear-facing child safety seat in back can be done, provided you have the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil performer. Once you've secured it, however, there is plenty of room in front of it to allow a taller passenger to ride up front.
Design/Fit and Finish
We've already gone over the exterior design, which seems to leave onlookers split like fans of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, firmly in one camp (Fantastic) or the other (Fuggedaboutit). But a few key elements still deserve mention, such as the old-school, mesh-type grille inserts and the high-mount center brake light integrated into the spoiler on the deck lid.
The cabin is not nearly as polarizing as the exterior bodywork when it comes to design; few would argue that it's very attractive with its appealing shapes, high-quality materials and handsome upholstery stitching. And we've always dug the CTS navigation screen, which recedes into the dash when it's not being used, yet leaves behind the top portion of the touchscreen display screen available for the audio system.
Overall build quality on our test car was very good, with even panel seams and not a squeak or rattle to be heard.
Who should consider this vehicle
Like it or not, the styling of the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe makes a strong visual statement, and yet, like a Corvette, it backs up its strong looks with equally strong performance.
Actually, we think of this car as a kind of four-seat Corvette, offering the same kind of balance between performance and everyday utility, only with far more refinement and room for more passengers besides. If you're taken by the styling and don't require a big backseat, we could also easily see you being won over by the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe's strong, yet still affable personality.