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The formula: At its simplest, pack a version of the Chevy Corvette ZR1 engine into the Cadillac CTS and take aim at some of the leading sport machines from Germany, with the "V" designating the performance version of Cadillac's rear-wheel-drive midsize model, aimed squarely at the BMW 5-Series, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the Audi A6. That formula had been applied to the sedan, and now it's been expanded to Sport Wagon and Coupe body styles. In any case, the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V involves far more high-performance changes than just the engine, and is built in small numbers, and considerably more expensive.
This year, the rakish shape of the new-for-2011 CTS Coupe brings an especially distinctive 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. For 2009, the CTS-V was reintroduced as a much more aggressively styled and more powerful vehicle, picking up the refinements inside and out that the CTS gained for '08. The CTS-V isn't as smooth or rakish as rival sedans in this class; from either the front or rear, it's boxy and angular, though the roofline and door lines help soften the proportions a bit. Overall, the exterior is different and probably won't appeal to everyone, but inside, the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V follows a smoother yet still very fashionable design. Trim alongside the doors extends across the instrument panel from both sides and slopes downward into a V-shaped center console that contains audio and climate controls and additional vents, LED accent lighting is piped in, and an available navigation display retracts neatly into the dash when not in use.
So what's it like to drive? In a word, brilliant. Like its sedan counterpart, the lusty 556-horsepower supercharged LSA V-8 under the hood is docile and smooth around town, but absolutely stonking when unleashed. The ride quality is great, despite being able to deliver over 1g of lateral grip thanks to an inch wider rear track than the V sedan and big 19x9-inch (front) and 19x9.5-inch (rear) wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires, plus Cadillac's magnetic ride control suspension.
The interior is several notches above the standard CTS, on par with the Germans in most respects—better in the dash area, thanks to the cut-and-sew leather. The leather Recaro seats—finished in a breathable and grippy microfiber—are some of the best in the industry, and it delivers on nav and entertainment features too. The backseats are a little tight, but in all but Coupes (where it's mainly just tough to get into the back seat) there's enough space for two adults in reasonable comfort. The instrument panel is a love-hate thing; it's attractive, with some impressive features and design details, but rather cluttered overall, with the climate controls especially low, near the driver's knee.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V is offered as a single model, pretty much including everything that's expected in a traditional luxury car plus a few additional tech features. Xenon HID headlamps, Adaptive Forward Lighting, ultrasonic rear parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, heated power front seats, and dual-zone climate control are all there. So is a surround-sound audio system with a 40GB hard drive, USB connectivity, DVD compatibility, and a Bluetooth interface plus, if you choose to upgrade to the nav syste, one of the best screens we've tested; it's retractable and incorporates XM NavTraffic to provide live traffic information on maps and dynamic rerouting.