Cadillac CTS Coupe Review

Cadillac CTS Coupe

Not every car GM produces these days is pure gold. We loved the Chevy Volt, which is an economical car that fills a void by running on electricity for your commute, and on gas for longer trips. The Chevy Cruze is also an economical car with enough pep to get you that one last parking spot at Target. And we know the automaker is planning some brand new redesigns for next year as well.

But the Cadillac CTS Coupe? It’s a luxury car that might get lost in the high-end segment. Spending several hours driving around Detroit, on back-roads and twisting two-lane highways, during a rush-hour commute, and around a suburban area, we found the vehicle to be powerful enough, sleek and well-accented inside and out, and certainly a major notch forward from the typical sedan. However, even at the reasonable base price of $38,165, we expected more advanced technology features.

Luxury, American style

The CTS Coupe is a two-door luxury car that has “basic” luxury features, such as a heated steering wheel, in-car navigation screen (on our test model, it rises up out of the dash), and adaptive headlights that tilt to compensate for curves in the road. These extras push the base price up another $10,000 or so. The model we tested also had 10-way adjustable heated seats. Cadillac has positioned the car against the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the BMW 3-Series, and the Audi A5 – all sporty models that are not full-size sedans.

On paper, the CTS Coupe has a bigger engine – a V6 running at 304 horsepower — compared to the Mercedes and Audi but about the same as the BMW. The CTS Coupe is 188.5 inches long, which helps make it feel a bit roomier than the competition. All of these smaller luxury vehicles come standard with the typical safety features, such as traction control and anti-lock brakes.

Cadillac CTS Coupe

What curves?

The exterior styling has caused quite a fuss with Cadillac fans. Posts around the Internet claim the car is a flashy throwback to a bygone era with a radical and sleek design that stands out in a crowd. Indeed, the Coupe does break from the norm and yet still has a few of the typical Cadillac design traits – including a larger backend than you might expect — even from pictures and vertical taillights. The centered tailpipe is one of the most unique design changes, and it’s one of the features that helps you pick the car out in a crowd, and matches (copies?) the exhaust styling of the discontinued Cadillac XLR.

That said, and depending on your tastes, the CTS Coupe looks a little boxy in person. We prefer the curvy design of the Infiniti M37X and the trim European look of the Audi A5, but the CTS Coupe actually looks a bit like a metal arrow driving down the road. Cadillac did introduce a nifty change on this model, though. When you open the door, you slip your hand into a compartment and press a digital hinge that opens the door, instead of a more analog latch. This gives you the immediate impression that the Cadillac has “gone digital” and is not quite as much of a throwback to earlier models.

Innovation, or lack therof

When it comes to advanced safety features, the CTS Coupe falls a few notches behind the competition. This Coupe lacks any real innovation in terms of safety — it uses the same features found in sedans and coupes since about 2005. There is no adaptive cruise control, no blind spot warning, and very few sensors for collision warning or avoidance. Actually, the Coupe does have sensors when you go in reverse, and a back-up camera, but those options are even in the typical minivan these days.

There are no radical tech offerings – such as the feature on the latest BMW 5-Series, which can read the speed limit sign using a camera and let you know if you are a lead foot, or the lane departure intervention feature on the M37X that nudges you back into the lane. Similarly, the 2011 Buick Regal, at about $12,000 less than the base price for the CTS Coupe, also lacks any real tech innovation. It left us wondering if all of the smartest engineers at GM were too busy working on the Chevy Volt.

Cadillac CTS Coupe

Another ding against this model: There was a sunroof on the model we tested, but it can’t be opened – it’s just for looks. This is not that surprising for a coupe, but a bit annoying considering that one of the best ways to use a sunroof is to get a wisp of fresh air flowing through the car.

OnStar

Cadillac has somewhat made up for the lack of on-board tech features by adding the latest OnStar technology, now common on many 2011 models. This means you can use an iPhone app to unlock the car and turn on the horn and lights (either to find the car or for safety). The OnStar package also includes the ability for law enforcement to slow the car if it is stolen by having OnStar disable the accelerator, something that none of the German automakers offer (as far as we know).

We like OnStar – it works reliably and the voice control system works well. There’s just this nagging sense that there are few in-car tech features that we’d expect at this higher-end sector.

Driving impressions

The main impression you walk away with after driving the CTS Coupe is that the vehicle is responsive, offering tight steering and smooth handling, but can lack pep around corners and for fast acceleration. (We’re hoping to test out the CTS-V Coupe at some point, which is actually quicker compared to the BMW.)

Since the engine has plenty of power, and the vehicle weighs only 3,909 pounds, with its sleek and aerodynamic, razor-cut look, the actual driving experience is fairly sporty for a vehicle that is based on the standard CTS sedan. That is to say, this may not be a sports car, and feels like a luxury sedan, but the styling makes you want to throttle up around corners. Because of its lighter weight, the CTS Coupe doesn’t have the tank-like feel of an Audi or BMW, but instead gave us the impression that the Coupe provides a luxury ride without the drag.

Cadillac CTS Coupe

The CTS Coupe’s interior is roomy and comfortable, just like the standard CTS. The nav screen rises up like a periscope from the dash. (You can also push a button to lower it while driving.) We’re always keen to compare the stereo system, and the Bose 10-speaker surround system on the CTS Coupe was a notch better than the one in the Infiniti M37X, but not quite as ear-pleasing as the sound system in the Audi A8 or Jeep Grand Cherokee. The CTS has the power, but not the same audio crispness.

More flash than fire

The CTS Coupe looks like a sleek sports car with razor-like lines, a unique tailpipe and a few interesting accoutrements – like the digital door handles. When you climb in, you feel like you want to start taking corners a little faster than maybe the car can actually deliver. In reality, there were times when we missed the jarring acceleration ability of an Infiniti or BMW. This means Cadillac matches up more closely with a vehicle like the Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe, in that the ride is more like a family sedan with all the luxury appointments you’d expect but without the zip.

Unfortunately, in the final analysis, the CTS Coupe can’t match the technology and safety features of the E350, even if it aspires to the same lofty luxury car designation.

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