Cadillac introduced the CTS to the world in 2003, and since then the standard sedan and its V variant have been completely reworked, while the Art and Science design language have carried over to a pair new body styles: the CTS Coupe and CTS Sport Wagon. While the wagon adds an excellent dose of utility, the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe represents the purest expression of Art and Science to date.
The Coupe's design is further proof that math is beautiful, with enough hard edges and creased angles coming together to make Euclid proud. Step back and the entire shape creates an elegant solution to a complex equation. Solve for X and you get one of the strongest styling statements from Cadillac in nearly 50 years.
But is Art and Science enough to compete with the tried and true champs of the luxury sports coupe segment? Class is in session, so open your Trapper Keepers, grab a pencil and pay attention.
Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL
In our First Drive of the CTS-V Coupe, we called it "angular, unhinged glory." The high-performance version is demonically handsome for sure, but the non-V Coupe takes a less sinful approach. The overall sense of aggression is still clearly evident in the design, but this two-door is much more muted. It's hardly soft, but the standard CTS Coupe simply isn't as its supercharged sibling.
While the anger has dissipated, the Coupe's crisp exterior elements still form some very hard edges. Tight angles, vast open plains and a handful of parallel and perpendicular lines all contribute to the sexy wedge shape. It all starts with a single point below the front fascia's bottom grille which creates an acute triangle that reaches back towards its shortest segment. The irregularly shaped pentagonal headlamps set the width as you slip past the 19-inch alloy wheels with seven bifurcated spokes, across the vast expanse of doors and terminate just aft of the flared fenders that conceal the wide rear track.
The reason your eyes keep moving towards the tail is that the design demands it. The CTS Coupe ditches traditional door handles in favor of hidden C6 Corvette-style buttons, so your gaze just slides uninterrupted along the doors on its way towards the rear. There you'll find gorgeous dual, center-mounted exhaust outlets that anchor a tall vertical line cutting the rear in two. The result is a raised rear end that seems to have the car leaning forward in anticipation.
At first glance the cabin appears to be a mix of luxurious and sporty touches, but the materials say otherwise. The dash is covered in leather, but feels hard as a rock thanks to little or no padding beneath the surface. The plastic ashtray and cupholder covers feel like they'll snap off in 15,000 miles, while the center stack is surrounded by metallic-colored plastic and fitted with buttons that are hard to read with anything less than a stalker's stare.
Perhaps these are minor issues, especially for a luxury sport coupe that starts at a base price of $38,165. However, our tester is anything but base. The $51,030 Premium Collection version, which adds high-intensity discharge headlamps, 10-way power adjustable heated-and-cooled leather front seats, an upgraded Bose sound system, Bluetooth, interior ambient lighting, a heated steering wheel and a glide-up touchscreen navigation system with rear-view camera display are all welcome features. The downside is a base price that swells from a palatable $38,165 to a harder-to-stomach $47,010. Throw in the 19-inch Summer Tire Performance package (which includes the larger wheels, sportier tires, steering-wheel mounted shift controls, and upgraded brakes) for $2,090, a useless $110 dealer-installed Underhood Appearance Package and then tackplus destination charges, and the cost of the CTS Coupe crests the $50k mark. This $13,000 price hike should give you enough in return that you're pleased to have splurged for the best CTS Coupe that money can be, but instead you'll feel like your pockets just got turned inside-out by a casino's best blackjack dealer.
The interior falls short of true luxury car excellence, but it's not all bad news inside the CTS Coupe. Supportive without the bouncer's grip of the optional Recaro seats in the CTS-V models, the front seats pick up the luxury slack. On the flip side, the rear seats should be used only for carrying small items or transporting legless friends. This is a two-door sport coupe though, so complaining about a lack of room in the back is like ripping on a minivan for too much body roll; that's not what it's made for.
The view out the windshield is clean and unobstructed thanks to the massive slab of glass, and while we expected the view to the sides to be as minimalist as the Chevrolet Camaro, the Cadillac somehow managed to trick our senses. We only had visibility issues when trying to see what's going on over our shoulders as those massive C-pillars are the auto equivalent of horse blinders, so an extra dose of attention is required for changing lanes. Visibility is equally distressing for what's directly behind, but Cadillac offers a rear-view camera, making reverse operations an effortless endeavor.
That large, center-mounted display is a touchsceen sitting atop the center stack and is usually used for navigation and interfacing with the infotainment system. It displays basic information related to the audio system when lowered into the dash, but will rise up and show the whole screen when more functions are required. Keeping the big screen out of view when it's not needed is a worthwhile feature, but it will automatically deploy when shifting into reverse to display the back-up camera's view.
Motivation is provided by a 3.6-liter V6 with direct-injection, producing 304 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 273 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. Although an all-wheel drive version is available, the power on our tester was sent to the rear wheels, and according to Caddy, pushes the coupe from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds. Moving forward is only half the fun, as the exhaust note grumbles with authority but doesn't come off as overtly loud, and the six-speed automatic shifts smoothly on its own, while a pair of buttons mounted on the back of the steering wheel allows things to be manually – if oddly – manipulated.
The suspension is surprisingly stiff, allowing us to feel every imperfection in the Southern California asphalt, but take solace in the fact that occasional bumps won't send it scurrying towards the bike lane or center line. Steering was equally tight and the combination of the two results in a rewarding drive on roads that would make MC Escher swoon. Add in the 19-inch alloy wheels wearing Continental high-performance tires, 245-45 front and 275-40 rear, and we have a coupe that could be a contender on Dancing with the Stars. Point the CTS where you want to go and it will take direction while providing a fair amount of feedback along the way – important to remember when flogging something just shy of two tons.
Unfortunately, we wish braking performance was equally responsive. While the upgraded front and rear rotors included in the Performance Brake package haul things down quickly enough, the connection between pedal application and braking action is incommunicado for the first inch or so of pedal travel. Keep stepping and the anchor will soon be thrown out with enough force to emboss the seatbelt's pattern into your shirt. It was disarming at first, but our foot muscles eventually got used to it.
The exterior styling certainly helps the CTS Coupe stand out against a sea of Mercedes-Benz E350 coupes, Audi A5s and BMW 335i coupes. American Art and Science is clearly the aggressor in a war against the Teutonic two-doors, yet the Germans have the edge when it comes to cabin quality. The Cadillac is comfortable, but its materials don't stand up to the Benz, Bimmer or Audi. However, it does offer the most powerful engine of the group, the best powertrain warranty (5 years/100,000 miles) and an exterior design that would have its three classmates giving up their gas money.
A shockingly artful exterior matched with a comfortable interior and an engaging driving experience equals a compelling case for the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe. Graded on a curve, it's a luxury sports coupe that gets the sporty right but falls short on the lux. Despite this, Cadillac has earned a Masters degree in both Art and Science with this latest application of the CTS equation, but now it's time to go back and take a few interior design classes.
Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL