2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe Review

Cadillac Expert Reviews

By Mary Ellen Ash


  • Sharp, distinctive, angular styling
  • Sporty suspension and handling capabilities
  • Comfortable, quality interior
  • Hand-assembled center console
  • Great warranty and service


  • Heavy Death Star with sluggish acceleration
  • Headroom for tall passengers in the rear seat only if positioned correctly
  • Fingerprints spoil the black gloss finish

The Cadillac CTS series has been around for a few years with its sedan and recently the wagon model was added, but 2011 is the first year for the coupe. So when the new 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe landed in our test drive fleet, we had to come up with a plan and find the best way to experience it. None of the regular day tripping or commuting would suffice. At the mere sight of this vehicle, you immediately knew this is a special breed of luxury vehicle that was designed for enjoying the open road. And what could be the best way to experience a Cadillac?


For our test drive mission, we took this luxurious creature on a diabolical road trip through a massive portion of the Golden State known as California. We logged close to1200 miles and journeyed from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego and back again. The trip included such sights as the Garlic Fields in Gilroy, the very straight and mundane drive down CA I-5, trekking through the jungles of Los Angeles (translation = lots of slow moving traffic), cruising along the crystal clear Pacific Coast Highway and down to the southern tip of California to Chula Vista, and back through the Mojave Desert and California Central Valley.

Driving Impressions

If the essence of Darth Vader could be turned into a car, this is what it would look like! It easily camouflaged into the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills neighborhoods but even there, heads were turning in our direction to catch a glimpse. On the freeways slow moving vehicles hastily moved out of the fast-lane when they saw the CTS approaching in the rear-view. When your car looks like something Darth Vader would drive, people just know to step aside.

As they say, first impressions really set the tone of any relationship. The CTS was already sets a good impression by its outwards appearance. Our CTS Coupe is dark, handsome, sleek, and has the appeal of a dark lord, but it’s what under the hood that counts right? Our test model came equipped with a powerful 3.6L direct injected V-6 rated at 304 horsepower, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Sounds like a good amount of oomph, but sadly this is where the CTS Coupe did not impress. Normally, a 300+ hp engine would more than sufficient, but in a car weighing almost 2 tons it just doesn’t provide the performance you’d expect from a $50,000 car. With the automated shifting, it felt more like a lethargic 4-cylinder Toyota than a sports coupe.

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

When just using the automatic shifting alone, we found acceleration to be sluggish and non-linear. The only way to get the CTS coupe to demonstrate its power was by using the steering mounted paddle shifters giving better control of the power band. Only when we managed to get the revs above 4500 RPM could you get a nice powerful surge of power and torque. Just tap down a gear or two, go to warp speed around the slower object, then ease up and continue at cruising speed. While having the paddle shifters definitely increased the overall drive experience. GM says a six-speed manual, featuring a revised clutch and dual-mass flywheel offers better clutch pedal feel and improved engine isolation.

Fuel economy was very respectable for this heavy, well-equipped V6 sports coupe. On our journey south to San Diego, we averaged 21.5 mpg – with the ruthless LA traffic. Our journey back to the Bay Area was a tad longer with a detour through the Mojave Desert and garnered 22 mpg. EPA estimates of 18/27 (city/hwy) matched up with our numbers when we calculated the CTS fuel economy numbers for city and highway driving. It also runs on less expensive regular unleaded gasoline.


Steering and braking performance of the CTS Coupe relays very detailed feedback to the driver. As driving speed increases, the force required to steer or to brake also increased in a pretty linear fashion. Especially with the steering, there is wonderful feedback to the driver in this manner that communicates very effectively what the car is going through and how close the wheels are to the limits of adhesion.

For our highway driving experience, the feedback steering really made the CTS feel like a race-car at higher speeds as the driver felt very involved with the actions of the car. With the optional Performance Tune suspension, the CTS hugged the corners and shot out of the apex. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun to drive. Thankfully we could make on-the-fly speed with the steering mounted shifters to blast around slower vehicles. Drop down 1 or 2 gears, and the CTS can really take off. These brief moments of adrenaline were most welcome on the sometimes dreary drive.

To discover how our test vehicle could handle itself at city speeds, the perfect handling ‘test course’ was discovered during a detour in the Los Angeles metropolis. At this point in our driving journey, the CTS had only been exposed to major highways or two-lane highways. The CTS beckoned for some a little spice and something with a few more turns. Exiting Hwy 405 at Sunset Boulevard, we headed east. Bel Air and Beverley Hills were the first to greet us. The roads were much narrower compared to the highways and we could definitely feel the CTS’s size on the road. Sorry CTS, but you are kind a little pudgy. But boy do you blend well into these luxurious surroundings!

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

As we kept driving, past the huge mansions, UCLA, and into West Hollywood, the suspension became more noticeable on the no-so-well-maintained LA roads. All the imperfections and pot-holes were quite apparent and at times harsh. A harsher ride quality is a small price to pay, if that means good overall handling. Highway handing: check. City handling: unknown.

It was time to get off of Sunset Boulevard and explore the Hollywood Hills. And we found what we were looking for: really tight and narrow roads through some beautiful neighborhoods. The housing setting had a very European feel and was the perfect course to test our CTS. Happily, this Cadillac doesn’t drive the narrow roads like your grandma would. We pushed the CTS through the tight and narrow roads, up and down and all around, and it was nimble and precise, never twitchy. It was like a roller-coaster and a race course mixed into one.

At our city driving speeds (25-40 mph), the steering feedback mentioned above gave the CTS a noticeably different feel and handling ability. The CTS became very nimble and agile. The CTS suspension and wide wheelbase helped it corner and maneuver like a champion. No problem. And we didn’t feel motion sickness either!

Another nice touch added to the CTS: the headlamps followed the road with their Adaptive Forward Lighting, which ensured the road was always visible at night even through the corners. Seeing where you’re driving is always a good thing.

(Continued on page 2)

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  • Derek says:

    @Vangelis – Thanks for clarifying what Mary Ellen was experiencing. Your explanation is spot on.

    For someone seeking low-end torque AND good fuel economy, the 335d (sedan) fits the part.

    Max. torque hp/rpm: 425 lb-ft/1750-2250

  • Vangelis A. says:

    Straight off the manufacterer’s web site

    horsepower (@ rpm) 304 @ 6400
    Torque (@ rpm) 273 lb-ft @5200

    This equals narrow power band. Shes not saying the car has no power shes saying theres no down low torque (and power). And how often do you get an automatic to be revving near the redline, which I assume is 6500rpm. Id like you to find a car that develops all its torque at such high rpm, I bet you can’t.
    Its the cookie jar on the top of the unreachable shelf syndrome. And try lugging that huge car around at 2000 rpm with no torque. Shes very correct in her assessment and I bet shes a better driver than you.

    For comparisons purpose BMW 335i

    Power (SAE net): 320 bhp @ 5900 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 370 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm

    This is a great power band, good low end torque and lots of power and high revs. Won’t matter what gear your in, the car will go.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    I have driven this car and it is awesome.I believe you don’t wont to like this car .I can’t imagine any reviewer of merit mentioning as a con smudges on black paint.That tells me this car can not win with you because of prejudice .Your complaint about power tells me about your driving skill. The 300 hp was plenty of power not on the level of the more powerful V enough to waste the entry level 3 and 5 BMW.This is the best looking car Car Views have reviewed since the Z4 .This is one beautiful car and yes it’s American and there is nothing wrong with that.

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