Cadillac CTS Coupe Wrapup

Cadillac CTS Coupe: A resounding "Meh."

I can’t say I don’t like the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe, because in a lot of ways, I think it’s pretty sharp. On the other hand, with all the competition Cadillac faces, and with its $48,000 price tag (in V6 Premium trim, with all-wheel drive), it should completely blow the driver away. And it doesn’t.

It’s not about the styling. I’ll get to why I put the styling in the High Points in a minute, but the best thing about it is that it’s distinctive. That’s truly saying something in today’s marketplace of blandmobiles. And it’s not about the overall build quality, which appears to be pretty damned good. Tight lines, even gaps, beautiful materials in use everywhere.

Love the analog clock. Hate the levitating nav system

And it’s certainly got nothing to do with the engine power or the driving dynamics. The 304hp V6 certainly doesn’t lack power. It’s more of a high-revver than, say, BMW’s torquey inline-six, but it does give the Cadillac a completely different character. Handling felt stable and well-suited for the car that it is. One thing I did really appreciate was the fact that chassis engineers didn’t make a 3-Series out of it. It certainly has an “American” feel, with well-boosted power steering and the ability to take up an expansion joint or two without transferring every road irregularity directly to the driver. I never understood why that was a good thing, and I’m glad Cadillac’s taken the opposite tack.

Love or hate the appearance, at least you can find it in the parking lot

Overall, maybe it’s like going to see that movie that everybody’s been talking about for so many months. You finally sit down with your popcorn and your Dr. Pepper and two hours later, you wonder why you wanted to see it so badly. The entire experience is slightly underwhelming.

I’m a big fan of Cadillac, and a big fan of GM products in general. I think they’ve largely been dismissed by a lot of people who haven’t seen a GM product since their Aunt May bought a Citation in 1980. But with both the Regal and the CTS Coupe, it seems like GM is a lot more comfortable selling a lower priced car (like the Malibu, for example) or a higher priced car (such as the Corvette or the V-line of cars from Cadillac). These mid-priced cars seem to slightly miss the mark for some reason.

It’s not a failure by any stretch of the imagination. This is a really nice car, in fact. But did it blow me away? No. And that’s unfortunately what Cadillac needs to do to put asses in seats right now.

High Points:

  • Styling: It’s kind of “love it or hate it,” but at the very least, it’s distinctive. My informal poll of valets at the Providence Westin and Zooma restaurant on Federal Hill concur: This is a nice looking car that is a step above the sedan. These guys see a lot more cars than I do every day. How can I argue?
  • Interior: The cabin is laid out well, and seating position seems infinitely customizable. I’m sick of cars with telescoping steering wheels that don’t extend enough. The CTS’s wheel offers a nice range of motion so you can get yourself comfortable behind the wheel
  • Engine/Transmission: That 304hp V6 is a hoot, and the paddle-shifted automatic provides firm shifts when you want them, and a relaxed driving experience when you don’t. Stepping up into the CTS-V obviously nets a whole different driving experience, but there’s no shame in owning the V6. It scoots.

Low Points:

  • Navigation System: Confusing and hard to program. I managed to figure it out, but it took several minutes of fumbling around to do it, and not just once, either. It was every time I used it. Fail.
  • Frippery: The pushbutton interior door latch, the navvy system/radio monolith that rises from the dash via an electric motor, the fact that the doors lock automatically when you walk away from the car. All useless nonsense that a) serves only to annoy people and b) is damned likely to break at some point.
  • Child Seat Anchors: Some day I’m going to make good on my threat to stand out in front of the New York Auto Show with a film crew and have car company executives sweat and swear as they attempt to install a baby seat in their products. The CTS’s latch anchors were buried in the seat cushions. The top anchor point was completely inaccessible because, try as I might, the rear headrest on the driver’s side wouldn’t move. It worked fine on the passenger side. Annoying. And yeah, it’s a coupe, and most people aren’t putting child seats back there. But it was a snap on the Mustang convertible I drove a few weeks before, so there’s absolutely no excuse. Poor design.

About Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald is an automotive writer, photographer and editor with credits in Hemmings Motor New, the Boston Globe, Forbes, the Washington Post, Esquire and
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