2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Review - First Drive

Caddy’s new V Coupe combines track capability and every day usability, wrapped up in a luxurious and stylish package

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Review - First Drive
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At a buck forty the supercharged V8 engine continues to pull strong, but there’s no more room to test its power as the large six marker at the start of the braking zone is indicating that the time for the middle pedal is now.

FAST FACTS

1. Like the sedan, the CTS-V Coupe makes 556-hp and 551 ft-lbs of torque from a supercharged 6.2L engine, delivering a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds.

2. That’s 106-hp more than the Audi RS5 and 234 ft-lbs more.

3. Cadillac partnered with the best in the business to build the V Coupe with Brembo brakes and Michelin tires.

4. Pricing starts at $62,990, just $4,000 more than a BMW M3.

Then again, maybe I’ll wait for the 5 marker. Or maybe even the four. No, not this time. Not after that high-speed straight. Not without a few more laps… or maybe never.

And then the Brembos dig in, like a high-tech aluminum and iron anchor tossed out the back. Incredibly, the car is completely stable under such tremendous braking.

“Dammit!” I think, having slowed perhaps a bit too early. I could have made more of that back straight. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t risk more. After all, this isn’t my high-performance luxury coupe. It belongs to Cadillac.

Yes… Cadillac.

MORE THAN JUST A TWO-DOOR CTS-V

A noble effort the XLR was, but the CTS-V Coupe is a purebred, without the flash of a retractable hardtop. Besides, this Cady coupe already has flash to spare, from a cutting edge design to a very large and very chrome grille.

More than just a two-door version of the CTS-V sedan, the coupe is lower and wider, with a modified platform and almost entirely new body panels. The actual height is roughly 2-inches shorter for a sleeker profile, while it’s also shorter in length giving it a more compact look. What’s really unique, however, is the rear track, which is an inch wider than the sedan’s.

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While providing extra stability and added grip, it also allows you to over-drive the car, provoking more understeer if you greedily get on the throttle too early in the corners, eager to make the most of tremendous power and torque down the next straight. The fault here belongs to the driver, however, and not the car.

SUPERCHARGED V8 DELIVERS A STREETABLE 556-HP

Power comes on with a tidal wave of torque and the rear grip is astounding. Like the sedan, the CTS-V Coupe makes a total of 556-hp and 551 ft-lbs of torque – that’s 106 more horsepower than the Audi RS5 and 234 more ft-lbs of torque. Paired with either a six-speed auto or manual, acceleration to 60-mph is in the realm of exotic cars, taking just 3.9 seconds. Given the opportunity, it will pull just as strong to at least double that speed.

As a daily driver, it isn't hard to love how easy going the engine is, delivering effortless acceleration thanks to all that torque. And while that low-down grunt is easy to appreciate on the track, with max power at 6100 rpm, the next gear comes quickly, which takes away some of the rev-it-up excitement you expect from such a performance-oriented car.

Adding emphasis to the limited revs is a typically slow-shifting automatic transmission. Acceleration in the early gears is so extreme that hitting the fuel cutoff is easy to do, as often an up-shift is required as early as 5000 rpm in order to have the gear swapped by six. Complicating the matter are shift buttons located on the wheel, rather than in a static location, like being connected to the steering column.

On the street, when you’re not asking for 100 percent from the powertrain, the auto-box works admirably and we have no complaints. If Caddy is going to keep up in this segment, however, it will need a proper dual-clutch automatic.

LUXURIOUS YET SPORTY INTERIOR COULD USE A REFRESH

The interior, like the drivetrain, is essentially a carry-over from the V sedan, which is derived from the standard CTS. Debuting back in 2008 it’s starting to look a little dated, despite updates that include things like an LED tracer for the tachometer. And as much as GM products have improved as of late, there’s still plenty of room to improve to match the likes of Lexus or Mercedes.

What we do love about the interior are features like the pop-up Nav system, as well as the microfiber steering wheel, shift knob and seat inserts, all of which give you a genuine sense that you’re behind the wheel of a racing machine.

Those in search of the most sporting interior will want to opt for the Recaro seats, while added luxury and style comes with a Saffron interior that includes light-colored microfiber seat inserts, while the same color is used for the stitching on the steering wheel and dash.

Outside, a great new option for the coupe is a set of black wheels, which can be added on individually, or as a part of a package with yellow calipers. With huge six-piston clampers up front and 4-pistons in the rear, Cadillac contracted Brembo for the binders. The brake experts came through with a tremendous setup that uses an iron rotor with an aluminum inner hub to help keep weight to a minimum.

ON THE STREET

While delivering serious performance advantages on the track, Caddy’s magnetic ride shock absorbers also make for a better ride around town, adjusting the shock damping every millisecond. Initially developed for Cadillac, many high-end automakers have since followed suit. As standard equipment on the V, there are two settings to choose from with a Touring mode and a Sport mode for serious driving.

Despite it’s tremendous performance prowess, the V Coupe is a perfectly suitable daily driver – if you’ve got the funds to afford its $62,990 price tag. It’s a manageable size, the steering is relaxed enough and the throttle isn’t too touchy, meaning you can drive it just like the standard 300-hp version. Very little brake pressure is required for daily driving, although the pedal is heavy so it doesn’t feel touchy at all. We were even surprised that rear visibility isn’t much of an issue. Plus, while the exhaust is potent when revved up or when you’re on the throttle hard, it’s quiet around town or when cruising at freeway speeds.

Looks wise, we’ll admit the back end is a bit controversial (especially the center-exit exhaust pipes), but straight on and from a profile it’s simply stunning, with an aggressive demeanor that can’t be ignored. The car even gets an excellently designed set of 19-inch wheels.

Fuel economy is expectedly dismal at 12/18-mpg city highway for the automatic and 14/19-mpg for the manual.

ON THE TRACK

Back on the racetrack at the Monticello Motor Club it’s surprising how well the car doubles as a companion. A more sensitive throttle and more direct steering would be ideal, but then the V wouldn’t be as comfortable for daily driving – so the trade off is acceptable. This issue could be solved, however, with a Sport mode like the ones offered on numerous European sports sedans.

Brake pedal feel is excellent, with that stiff pedal always offering more stopping power the harder you push.

For such a luxurious coupe body lean is minimal with the well-balanced chassis offering plenty of confidence for executing even the trickiest of corners.

And assisting in all areas is a set of extra-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires, arguably the best in the business and a must-have for any high-performance car.

THE VERDICT

For a luxury coupe, the CTS-V’s performance is exceptional. Yes it delivers massive straight-line acceleration like many AMGs, but it also does so much more than that with M-like capabilities when the road curves.

And while capable on track with sticky Michelins, form-hugging Recaros and speed-shedding Brembos, the most remarkable feature may be how well this high-performance machine works as conventional, albeit luxurious, transportation. Huge credit here goes to the adjustable suspension and an incredible engine that doesn’t have to be strung out to deliver serious levels of streetable power.

While track performance may sell a car like this, sadly, few V Coupes will ever hit an apex. Track potential and a unique design may get buyers in dealership, but what will keep them are the car’s ease of use in everyday life, which is not just limited to the driving experience but that fact that the trunk still has almost 11 cubic feet of space while the rear seats will actually hold an adult male – although not comfortably.

Performance-wise, you simply can’t ask for more from the V Coupe. Instead, it could use a little added luxury and an updated interior. But should you take it? For the money, you bet!

LOVE IT
  • Civilized road demeanor
  • Style – from most angles
  • Tremendous power, excellent handling and impressive brakes
LEAVE IT
  • Rear end design
  • Interior looking dated
  • Steering and throttle response could be improved

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