- Distinctive styling—especially Coupe and Wagon
- World-class interior quality
- Plenty of top tech features
- Great handling and braking
- Busy interior design
- Needs a Weight Watchers program
- Balky manual gearbox
Attention-getting style, solid driving dynamics, quality materials, and a very competitive price put the entire 2011 Cadillac CTS lineup on level-or-better footing with most of the competition.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS is a truly world-class sport sedan, sized slightly longer and wider than the BMW 3-Series, the Infiniti G37 / EX35, the Audi A4, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. And after last year's new CTS Sport Wagon and the new 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe, there's an entire family capable of going against those rivals.
The 2011 CTS is, in some eyes, the most distinctive of all the vehicles in this set; and with the addition of a flashy new CTS Coupe for 2011, the lineup has an even stronger style statement. Just as in the CTS sedan, we like the sparing use of chrome in the grille, and the contrast between gray plastic and chrome vertical accents with the chrome Cadillac wreath. And the swept-up-and-back headlamps are still almost mesmerizing in their detail. And there's a great contrast in the way the plentiful fine details in front and in back volley with the deliciously neat and uncluttered side profile. Sharply folded edges, a chunky stance, and lots of chrome details give the sedan a stubby, sporting look, while we like the V-shaped trunk and tailgate detail in the Wagon and Coupe. There's a subtle motion along the body that emphasizes, rather than subdues, the big rear end. If you're no fan of Cadillac's "Art & Science" styling theme, it doesn't get any softer with the added wagon back.
The interior design is attractive, but it might not suit everyone's tastes, especially those used to the Teutonic design approach of less is more. It's smooth and flowing in its contours, but far glitzier than any Audi you may have sampled, and some plastic pieces seem to stand front and center for attention-a trend we're also noticing in other high-end brands.
The 306-horsepower, 3.6-liter direct-injected six-cylinder is eager to please, handled respectably by the six-speed automatic transmission, and offers plenty of oomph for freeway maneuvers. The six-speed manual available in the sedan isn't an option, but GM's six-speed automatic, with paddle shifters and sweet gear changes, does all the teamwork to combine the power with either rear- or optional all-wheel drive. The CTS has great steering and can be ordered with tighter suspension settings, but our clear favorite is the "FE3" setup on rear-drive versions, shod with summer tires.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS comes with a snug but comfortable interior; longer rear door openings make the Wagon a little more pleasant; the Wagon adds 25 cubic feet to the passenger space, and lets owners flip down the rear seats for a total of 53.4 cubic feet of room. The new CTS Coupe doesn't have much less rear legroom than the sedan, in theory, but headroom is tighter. Inside, the CTS is quiet, with just the right amount of growl when you open it up. Comfortable, with firm-but-not-harsh suspension feel over beleaguered city streets is the vibe. Fit and finish is high-quality—provided you avoid the base 'leatherette' on principle, like we do.
All 2011 CTS models are loaded; it's just a matter of tech and audio upgrades, mainly. The sedan comes with power doors, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; automatic dual-zone climate control; a power driver seat; a tilt and telescoping steering wheel; an AM/FM/CD/XM audio system with auxiliary jack; an air filtration system; and automatic headlamps. The Sport Wagon adds a power tailgate to that list. The major options include a panoramic sunroof; Bluetooth connectivity; a particularly advanced, easy-to-use entertainment system with hard-drive music storage and memory to hold radio broad-casts; a navigation system with real-time traffic; ventilated seats; a pet cover for the wagon's cargo hold; and 18- or 19-inch wheels and tires, to go with different suspension packages and all-weather or summer tires.