Cadillac CTS Coupe — High impact eye candy

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The 2011 Cadillac CTS coupe is an excellent example of form over function; and the form is nothing short of beautiful. The head-turning good looks trump an assortment of aggravations

So when we weigh both sides of the equation, beauty wins out just proving how shallow we are. This is not to say that the CTS coupe doesn’t have a host of other outstanding attributes. It does. For example, it is a supreme road carver with wonderful handling qualities. It has solid performance from the 3.6-liter V-6 engine making 304 horsepower. And the cabin is an example of elegant, standout design. Its ride comfort is pleasing even to curmudgeons.

But like so many cars that come nearly intact from concept show car to reality, there are some deficiencies. From admiring a cutting-edge design on the turntable it’s quite another to put a working version of the design on the road.

For instance, rear visibility is poor as the rear glass is small and the flanking sail panels are large. Thankfully the backup camera serves as an invaluable aid while navigating in reverse.

Additionally, if you drive a model with the sunroof, headroom is at a premium. For those who are long in torso, even if you’re only 5’6” you will find that you’ll have to pull a limbo bend to get into the car and unless you power the seat to the floor you may find the hairs on the top of your head (if you’re lucky enough to have any) scrubbing the headliner.

While the front seats are wonderfully comfortable the back seat passengers, once squeezed into place, if at all possible, will also find head room problems, but legroom is decent. If carrying four passengers is the rule rather than the exception, perhaps the CTS sedan might be a wise move.

Then there is the trunk space. To say it is relatively small (10.5 cubic feet) for a mid-sized coupe is an understatement. But the rear seatbacks do fold down for added hauling space; of course reaching for the strap that pulls the seatback down calls for a contortionist.

And finally, as with most coupes, large doors can be hazardous in tight parking situations, so beware of the sheetmetal next to you.

But the head-turning design drew onlookers like a magnet to steel. We constantly had to patiently show the car, answer questions and let some sit behind the wheel. It's not bad duty and we enjoy it. And if we owned one, the curb appeal of the CTS Coupe would surely be a matter of pride reinforcing our buying decision every day.

The coupe is built on the same mid-sized platform as the sedan and sport wagon and carries the delightful 3.6-liter V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic as the only available powertrain. (The CTS-V high-performance version comes with an awesome 556-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8).

You may wish for more power in such a provocative design, but we felt the performance was completely adequate to give the coupe just the right touch of muscle and urgency through the twists and turns of our favorite back-road “test track.”

By the numbers, the coupe can reach 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and complete a quarter mile in 15 seconds reaching a speed of 96 mph. Granted, in this day of ever-increasing horsepower and ever-lower performance numbers, that’s probably no better than mid-pack — maybe even worse — in the luxury coupe segment.

Our test car came with a sport suspension system that some have criticized for yielding a too-harsh ride. But we did not reach that conclusion, determining the ride was certainly not annoying and it provided for outstanding handling. If you don’t carve up roads on the weekend, the base suspension will do just fine. You will save a few bucks, and you will have no complaints over ride quality.

The interior of the coupe is nearly identical to the sedan, and that’s a good thing. It features a very neat dashboard appearance. Soft-touch materials are accented by rich-looking wood trim, and the leather seating was nothing short of scrumptious.

CTS has a unique navigation screen setup, perhaps the best in the business. When in use the screen emerges from the dash at the touch of a button, and when not needed it can be retracted leaving a small section visible as a touchscreen display for the audio system.

The Coupe comes in three trim levels — Base, Performance and Premium — starting at $38,990 including destination. Here’s the thing. The base version will work well as a luxury coupe if your budget won’t stand more than 40 grand. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, 10-way power front seats, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and an eight-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio.

All-wheel drive can be added to any of the trim levels for $1,900.

To get such things as navigation, performance suspension, and an upgraded interior package you will have to opt for the Performance or Premium trim levels. We particularly liked the upgraded Bose 5.1 300-watt, 10-speaker surround sound system with 40 GB hard drive. It comes bundled with the navigation system and backup camera, which includes the eight-inch pop-up screen. It’s a $2,145 option on the Performance trim and standard on the Premium trim level.

Our Premium trim test car with summer tire performance package, special paint and an under-hood appearance package (dealer installed) carried a bottom line of $51,140.

There are numerous luxury coupe choices. If you desire the mind-boggling good looks of the CTS that screams “buy me” then we recommend visiting a Cadillac store. But if more performance and usability is of prime importance, we recommend you shop around.

Base price: $38,990; as driven, $51,140
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 304 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 273 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 113.4 inches
Length: 189.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,909 pounds
Turning circle: 35.9 feet
Luggage capacity: 10.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 27 mpg highway, 18 mpg city
0-60: 6.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Audi A5, Infiniti G37 coupe, Mercedes E350 coupe

The Good:
• Head-turning design
• Stylish, well-appointed cabin
• All-wheel drive available

The Bad:
• Poor rear visibility

The Ugly:
• Devoid of headroom