- ZR1 power in a more practical package
- Track-ready suspension and brakes
- Smooth ride from magnetic dampers
- Easy drivability
- Attractive interior design
- Cluttered, crowded instrument panel
- Steering lacks much road feel
- Paddle-shifter use requires manual shift gate
The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V packs the Corvette ZR1's powertrain, and much of its excitement, into fashionable Coupe, Sedan, or Sport Wagon variants that are track-ready but day-to-day comfortable.
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. Only two years ago, the CTS-V was reformed into a more aggressive shape and performance-first machine, while picking up some of the manners given to the CTS before it. The CTS-V isn't as smooth as its contemporaries, it wears its hard-edge on its sleeves. The exterior won't appeal to everyone, but inside the CTS-V adopts a more rounded form with more comfort-friendly shapes. LED interior light highlights some of the softer shapes, while an interior design theme draws eyes and fingertips toward the center of the console. A very nifty retractable navigation screen is sharp and one of few optional extras offered.
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-sewn 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 CTS-V is available in a single trim level, stuffed with as many goodies as you might imagine. Rain-sensing wipers, parking assistants, heated power adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate controls, xenon headlights, and a standard 40 GB infotainment system are all included. Bluetooth and USB connectivity help keep it flexible, and we'd recommend springing for the navigation system—it's one of the best we've found.