Test Drive: 2011 Cadillac CTS-V coupe

General Motors has made plenty of missteps over the last few years, but no one can accuse their product planners of not having a sense of adventure. Even through their financial troubles, GM has continued to push the envelope with their performance cars and has maintained their ALMS racing program with the Corvette. The Cadillac division even gets in on the fun with the CTS-V, which is a perfect example of a modern-day car company keeping the spirit of American hot rodding alive.

Available in sedan, coupe and wagon flavors, the CTS-V is the most powerful product line in Cadillac’s long history. All three models share what is basically a detuned version of the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 from the Corvette ZR1, which in the Caddy still makes a whopping 556hp and 551 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to move this car that weighs well in excess of two tons to 60mph in just a tick over 4 seconds, which is very quick. With all that torque on tap, this is the kind of car that really pushes you into the seat when you get hard on the throttle, but it can also amble easily around town if you’re easy on the inputs with your right foot.

What may be even more surprising than the power this car puts out is how well the chassis and brakes handle it all. With that Cadillac badge on the grill, you can’t help getting some visions of blue hairs in Florida driving around in Sedan de Villes, but any previous notion you may have about what a Cadillac should be changes forever when you get behind the wheel of a CTS-V. There’s no wallowing suspension and soft brakes on this car. Instead, the chassis is firm and well-controlled, with minimal body roll for a car that weighs as much as it does. Handling is precise with accurate and feelsome steering. Dynamically, the CTS-V feels more like a BMW than any Cadillac you’ve ever driven before.

Even with its sport-tuned suspension, the CTS-V is still comfortable to drive on the highway, and does a good job of ironing out rough road without making things uncomfortable for its passengers. You do find yourself stopping for fuel a lot though, as the car has a smallish fuel tank and gets only 18mpg on the highway. Much of the car’s ability to be as much at home on twisty back roads as it is on the interstate is due to the effectiveness of the active magneto-rheological shocks, which make constant and instant adjustments to the firmness of the shocks to adapt to the road and the driving style. The shocks are adjustable by the driver, with a button on the center console that can be set for either Sport or Touring settings. The system works very well and the ride and body motion differences between the Sport and Touring settings are immediately felt when pushing the car on a twisty road.

With its big Brembo brakes, the CTS-V also stops as well as it goes, with good feel through the brake pedal and fade-free stops. As good as this car is, we do have a few complaints. Our test car had the optional automatic transmission, which tends to hunt around too much for the right gear and is not as quick as it should be to respond to throttle inputs. Like most automatics today, it has controls for manual shifting, but instead of more usable paddles, it has buttons on the back of the steering wheel which are more awkward to use. In any case, the manual shifts are not as smooth and seamless as those in many other automatics today, so if you really want to get the most out of this car, order it with the 6-speed manual transmission.

Inside, the fit and finish of the cockpit is spot-on and the driver gets a wide range of information from the gauges and the onboard computer, including oil pressure, transmission temperature, tire pressure, water temperature and supercharger boost. It even has a built in g-force meter so you can see how much grip you’re really generating when flinging this car around corners. We would like to see a larger tachometer though, and the navigation system and stereo are not particularly intuitive to use. Like the Corvette, the CTS-V also has electronic pushbutton door openers, which are a pain. Our car had the optional Recaro seats ($3,400), which gave good lateral support, and the back seats were surprisingly comfortable for passengers, though we never had any tall adults sitting back there.

The CTS-V coupe looks like nothing else on the road. Styling preferences are purely subjective, but judging from the many people that saw this car during the week we had it, the feelings on this car are very positive. Personally, there are some elements I like and some I could do without. I love the front fascia and the power bulge on the hood, as well as the aggressive look of the dual center-outlet exhaust pipes. On the other hand, I could do without the boomerang look of the middle brake light (which is functional to help reduce rear-end lift) and from the straight-on side view the design makes the car look a little too bulky from the doors back. I personally prefer the look of the four-door CTS-V sedan, which I think has better overall proportions than the coupe. But hey, that’s just me. Like I said, everyone else that saw this car loved it.

All in all, the CTS-V coupe is a great car, with great power and handling, as well as good fit, finish and comfort in the cockpit. Love it or hate it, the design of the car also makes it very distinctive on the highway. We’ll be seeing this car on the race track this year too. You may remember that Cadillac raced the CTS-V sedan in Speed World Challenge a few years ago, and they’ll be back this season with a pair of coupes driven by Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim. With the performance credentials of the road car and drivers like O’Connell and Pilgrim, we’re guessing its going to be a long season for anyone that decides to race against them.

More info:



$63,465 (including destination freight charge)


6.2-liter Supercharged V8


556hp @ 6,100rpm


551lb-ft @ 3,800rpm


Independent front/rear


4.1 seconds


6-piston front, 4-piston rear Brembo brakes

Fuel economy

12 city, 18 highway

Curb weight

4,240 lbs.

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