The first thing to talk about with the Cadillac CTS coupe is the styling.
General Motors committed to this folded-metal/origami motif several years ago with its Caddy line and, well, some like it and some don't. Put me firmly in the latter category.
To my eyes, the whole visual effect is unrefined, awkward, and hasty. Cars in this category are supposed to be aerodynamic and sleek, not angular and trapezoidal. Compared to its rivals - BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class, etc. - the CTS falls short and looks outdated. It also has too much chrome.
There are sedan and sport-wagon versions of the CTS as well, and the latter is much more pleasing to the eye, somehow. But the coupe and sedan don't do a thing for me. That said, the CTS is distinctive and, anyway, taste is a personal thing, and some folks are bound to love it.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the two-door coupe, the styling also affects the rest of the car, specifically, the interior. Head room is at a premium here, and the back seat is more of a token gesture than somewhere to park yourself and spend time. This is one of those cars that had me pranging my head on the roof just about every time I got in and I felt hemmed in once inside.
Nicely appointed, though. Standard equipment includes things like leather upholstery, tilt/telescoping steering, steering-wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and cruise control, heated and ventilated front seats, remote start, XM satellite radio, back-up camera and a voice-responsive navi system. This latter item is displayed via a centre-dash monitor that slides up from the bowels of the dashboard as soon as you start the car - not sure whether I like that setup or not. The back-up camera, on the other hand, is a godsend, because rear visibility is atrocious with the coupe. Next to the new Camaro, this may be one of the most difficult cars on the road to parallel park.
There is also a vast sunroof that tilts as well and it comes with a manual sunshade. I tend not to be a fan of sunroofs, but if I have no choice in the matter, I'd prefer the kind that allows you to block out the sun completely. Sunshade, shmunshade. The CTS also has an electronic parking brake, which I can take or leave.
My tester had the sport package, which included 19-inch wheels and tires, up-rated suspension, steering-wheel paddle shifters and various other bits and pieces. It adds $1,770 to the price tag, and gives the CTS that extra shot of performance and handling. But this car - at least, the one I drove - still lags behind its European rivals. It's not necessarily that it won't match them in the corners or that it lacks punch -it has both of those things, but it falls short in braking and, most importantly, balance.
Get the CTS on a track in the hands of a competent driver and put it up against a similarly equipped Audi or BMW, and I guarantee you they'll run away and hide. As a seasoned race driver once explained to me, it's not the straight-aways that determine the outcome of a race, it's the corners and, more specifically, how deep you can take a car into a corner before you hit the brakes and how quickly they will scrub off speed. GM is pitching the CTS as a performance coupe, but if push comes to shove, it's not there yet, as far as I'm concerned. Brakes are four-wheel-disc with ABS.
Two engines are available: a 3.6-litre V6 and a formidable 6.2-litre supercharged V-8. My tester had the six, and it develops 304 horsepower. Mated to a six-speed automatic, it provides more than enough snap and power availability is not an issue. I also made frequent use of the paddle-shifters in my car - a nice touch. Just for the sake of comparison, the V-8 CTS will give you 556 horsepower, which is a staggering for any street car. Fortunately, the CTS is either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, which is a good thing - can you imagine a front-drive car with this kind of grunt?
So, even though I'm not a huge fan, compared to what came before it, the CTS Coupe is a minor triumph for GM. When we think of Caddies, we don't normally conjure up visions of a nimble, high-performance two-seater that can be flung through high-speed corners and will light up the rear tires in the blink of an eye. Even though it's not quite as well-rounded as the Europeans, this particular Caddy will run rings around just about anything the company has ever made in years gone by.
Nothing wrong with that.
2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe
Type: Two-door luxury coupe
Base Price: $47,625; as tested, $59,425
Engine: 3.6-litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 304 hp/273 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.4 city/6.9 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class, Acura TSX V-6, Lexus IS250, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Infiniti G37 Coupe