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2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

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wsj_print.gif JULY 3, 2010

Cadillac Sculpts One Sharp Coupe—On the Outside

The CTS two-door has some flaws inside, but drivers smitten with its exterior won't much care


Whether you think it has a face that launched a thousand ships or launched a thousand lunches, you can't be indifferent to the new Cadillac CTS Coupe. I'm not. This is a tremendous bit of car fettling—wicked, cool, extralegal, tougher than ballistic nylon. The CTS Coupe seems like the car Frank Gehry and "Batman" animator Bruce Timm would design if their lives depended on it. The CTS Coupe looks like it was beamed in from a near future when gangsters are armed with lasers.

So, yeah, I like it. You don't? Well, you wear black socks with sandals, don't you? Your favorite chair has some kind of lever built into it.

I don't want to overstate the achievement here. To create the CTS Coupe, Cadillac stylists merely eliminated the two rear doors of the familiar CTS sedan, and the fact is, you could take two doors off the Smithsonian and make it look edgier and more aerodynamic. Under the skin, the CTS Coupe is virtually identical to the CTS sedan, which is a good but not great automobile. Cadillac also builds a CTS Sport Wagon and is in the process of sticking the supercharged, 556-hp monster engine from the CTS-V performance sedan into the coupe (and, probably, the wagon). By the end of the year Cadillac will likely have six versions of its CTS on the market, which smacks of going to the well too often.

And yet the familiarity of Cadillac's fractal design language doesn't seem to diminish the impact of the coupe. This thing looks amazing, and never more so than when it rolls up next to a competitive car—say, a BMW coupe or Infiniti G37. These cars, pretty attractive in their right, suddenly look like Larry King in the steam room.

Sidelined during General Motors' recent unpleasantness—I love that euphemism—the coupe is arriving on the market about a year later than originally planned, and that might be fortunate. For one thing, a year ago you couldn't drive people into GM showrooms with vials of anthrax, so the coupe's awesomeness would have been wasted. Also, the extra time gave Caddy engineers a chance to fine-tune the car's ride and handling. We'll get back to that.

The downside of the delay is that it exaggerates the car's biggest comparative liability: a dated interior. The switchgear, instrument displays and shiny trim materials in the coupe—which Cadillac puts in everything but its coffee—simply aren't competitive with the likes of Audi, Infiniti and BMW.


The Specs

Base price: $38,990

Price as tested: $47,835

Powertrain: Direct-injection 3.6-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 with variable valve timing; six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode; rear-wheel drive with optional limited-slip differential.

Horsepower/torque: 304 hp

@ 6,400 rpm/273 pound-feet

@ 5,200 rpm

Length/weight: 188.5 inches/3,909 pounds (with automatic and RWD)

Wheelbase: 113.4 inches

0-60 mph: <6 seconds

EPA fuel economy: 18/27 mpg, city/highway (regular unleaded)

Cargo capacity: 10.5 cubic feet

Extraordinary Rendition?

The CTS Coupe applies many of the techniques of hot-rodders. The roof is chopped, the windows narrow and squinting, and the windshield slicked back. The body seams are "leaded in," except GM uses laser brazing instead of lead filler. The doors are "shaved," which is to say, there are no exterior door handles (hidden electrical switches instead). The slab-sided fuselage reads as tough, up-armored. All things considered, the Barris brothers would be pleased.

Not Much of an Inner Life

Interior refinement is the new luxury frontier, with Infiniti and Audi going to extraordinary lengths, and costs, to bring bespoke-style refinement to the cabin. Caddy has lost the plotline when it comes to high-end interiors. This is where GM's recent corporate drama manifests itself in product. To save costs, product planners lock into long-term, high-volume deals with suppliers—providing parts such as instrument displays, dash fascias, switchgear—and that leaves the vehicles vulnerable when competitors spend more to update interiors faster.

Blinded by Art and Science

Cadillac's distinctive design idiom, called Art and Science, really works on this car—so well, in fact, that I predict many buyers will happily overlook the point-by-point comparisons and just go for the drop-dead look of the thing.

The coupe does get some very racy Recaro seats. My butt may never walk again.

A quick walkaround: Virtually identical to the sedan from the cowl forward, the coupe is 2 inches lower, shorter and wider than the sedan on the same wheelbase. The windshield is raked back at a heroic 62 degrees—which is getting into Lamborghini territory—and the back glass sweeps nearly horizontally back to the car's huge rear bustle. The middle roof pillar—the B pillar—is blacked out and incorporated into the windows' narrow, turret-style opening so that the car looks like what used to be called a pillarless hardtop. The effect of all this bravura glasswork is, predictably, a constrained outward view for the driver. I predict no one will care.

The roofline chisels its way back to the vertical taillights, and between them, on the trailing lip of the decklid, is the high-mounted brake light doubling as a spoiler. Below the rear bumper, in the fascia, the exhaust is routed to the midline of the car and finished with a trapezoidal steel bezel.

There are a couple of minor sour notes in the design. The door release recesses in the body panels couldn't be stamped out—well, they could, but the price was too high—and so the recesses have a separate piece that kind of spoils the clean line of the thing. (Note: The coupe uses electrical switches like the Corvette instead of mechanical door latches.) Also, the gracious swale of sheet metal above the rear wheels tends to dwarf them in a way that could be disagreeable from some angles. It's a fine point, to be sure, but if I'm buying this car I'm getting the 19-inch wheels and tires, simply to minimize that effect.

The coupe's powertrain is almost unchanged from the sedan: a 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 with scads of refined horsepower (304 hp) and torque spilled all over the tach. The coupe has the option of a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The final drive ratio is a little peakier (3.73:1) for better off-the-line acceleration (0-60 mph in about six seconds) and buyers can opt for the mechanical limited-slip differential, which is lovely. It all adds up to a fairly amusing car to thrash: punchy, willing, with sonorous notes from the induction and exhaust.

From the notebook: In the preproduction test car I drove, a little programming gremlin peeked out, as the automatic transmission would occasionally refuse to upshift. Caddy's engineers assured me someone would be beaten.

The coupe's wider rear track and callipygian hindquarters invited bigger rear tires (275/40R-19's with the Summer Tire Performance package), and Caddy's ride-and-handling guys retuned the rear suspension to take advantage of the upsized tires' lateral grip. The car is certainly a star on great coursing sweepers—hunkered down, stable, muscular, level—but it feels progressively less happy as the turns get tighter. The car I drove, with the FE3 sports-suspension option, tended to get a little choppy in turns with uneven pavement, at moments requiring me to gather it in a bit. It's all a reminder that this is, after all, a big automobile, a half-size larger than a 3-series BMW—more meat cleaver than filleting knife.

Pre-1995 - DTC codes OBD1  >>

1996 and newer - DTC codes OBD2 >> https://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/gm/obd_codes.htm

How to check for codes Caddyinfo How To Technical Archive >> http://www.caddyinfo.com/wordpress/cadillac-how-to-faq/

Cadillac History & Specifications Year by Year  http://www.motorera.com/cadillac/index.htm

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  • 10 months later...

Updating this article, Cadillac's new XTS model is due out on 2012, and the XTS will replace both the STS and DTS models. No date has yet been announced for production to start. However, General Motors first plans to sell off the remaining DTD and STS models on their dealer's lots.

From the spy photographs I'd say the design looks promising, but some people says that the exterior hasn't gone much change from the former models and a tad disappointing. Nonetheless, the interior looks breathtaking to me. ^_^

[Link removed. Note original article about CTS Coupe not XTS]

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Better late than not at all. Maybe.

What is obvious to me in my corner of the world is - I have yet to see a CTS Coupe on the road or in the grocery store parking lot. If GM/Cadillac dealers are delivering any of these vehicles to retail buyers, where are they??

What I do see is the expected mix of vehicles including Cadillac CTS, DTS, the occasional XLR, and even dinosaurs like my 1990's version of the Seville. But the CTS Coupe is absent.


Drive your car.

Use your cell phone.


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I see Cadillac CTS Coupes on the road here. And I hear people commenting on twitter about seeing a Coupe in person and their (favorable) impression. The CTS Coupe is rolling art, as long as you are not sitting in the back seat :D


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I see one a day here on Long Island, they are beautiful

Pre-1995 - DTC codes OBD1  >>

1996 and newer - DTC codes OBD2 >> https://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/gm/obd_codes.htm

How to check for codes Caddyinfo How To Technical Archive >> http://www.caddyinfo.com/wordpress/cadillac-how-to-faq/

Cadillac History & Specifications Year by Year  http://www.motorera.com/cadillac/index.htm

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