2011 Cadillac CTS-V

2011 Cadillac CTS-V

The Basics:

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.

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.

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.


The CTS-V is hardly a subtle car on the outside, with wider fenders, an aggressive metal mesh grille and air intake, and of course a splendid burble of an engine note—also just as much part of its style. With its last redesign, in 2009, the CTS-V became a more aggressively styled and more powerful vehicle, picking up the refinements inside and out that the CTS gained for '08. The CTS-V doesn't cut a smooth hole through the wind, rather it makes use of sharper angles and a boxy body to knife through the air. Softer door lines help smooth some of the shapes, but the CTS-V is undeniable on the road. Smaller details such as jeweled headlights, a sculpted front bumper, mesh upper and lower grille, and vertical taillights are worth the extra effort to notice. V-series badges all around and big 19-inch wheels wrapped around huge Brembo stoppers set the CTS-V apart from the rest of the CTS line in a good way.

The CTS-V is friendlier to softer shapes inside, although it's still very fashionable. Trim from the doors extends through the instrument panel and cuts down into a V-shaped center console that houses infotainment and audio controls. LED accent lighting bathes the interior with a nice glow, and a retractable navigation screen hides out of sight when not in use. Hand-finished cut-and-sewn leather surfaces and chrome accents lend a fantastic feel up close. Altogether, it's a bold design, brasher than its German counterparts, but everything works together.

But the real impact of the CTS-V Coupe is its street presence. The standard Coupe cuts a similar silhouette, but the widened fenders, aggressive front- and rear-end treatments and the throaty burble of the exhaust mark the car out as something beyond a pretty shape.

The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V is more than a little intimidating from a performance perspective. Planted underhood is a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 with 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. That kind of gumption rivals anything from Bavaria and rockets the CTS-V up to 60 mph in under 4 seconds when equipped with the 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. The top speed is 191 mph. Not that the CTS-V Coupe is a hard car to drive. The engine is smooth and unobtrusive—Ireson called it "docile"—until it's unleashed. And it feels firmly planted at all times.

The amount of torque can be alarming and intoxicating; it pushes driver and passengers further back into their seats in a good way. With judicious use of the pedal, smoother takeoffs are possible—although much less fun. A 6-speed manual is standard, and has a light clutch, while the 6-speed automatic operates well with the paddle shifters, provided you tip the gear into manual mode first.

The power is put down to the pavement thanks to GM's Magnetic Ride Control system that uses adjustable dampers to firm or soften the suspension. It can cover up blemished roads on bad days, keep the CTS-V taut and ready on good days. We've found Sport mode to be a willing participant in track drives, with a Competitive Driving Mode feature available to put the balanced chassis, powerful engine, sticky Z-rated tires, and firm brakes into zen for a harmonious, and savagely fast, ride.

The all-new CTS-V Coupe is only about 5 pounds lighter than the sedan due to the extra bracing needed for side impact safety because of the longer doors, and its shape creates a bit more lift at high speeds than the sedan, so it may have a slightly lower top speed—though at 191 mph for the sedan, the bar is insanely high to begin with. Under the skin, the wider rear track is accomplished with wider wheels rather than relocated suspension pickup points and a widened chassis.


Interior comfort is good in the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V, especially if you're sitting out front in the well-bolstered leather sport seats or the even better available Recaro seats—finished in a breathable and grippy microfiber—that add lateral support for high-performance driving and supportive thigh extensions for taller drivers. The backseats are a little tight, but 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 new CTS-V Coupe rides on the same wheelbase as the CTS-V Sedan, so in theory backseat space should be comparable. It is, however, much more challenging to get in and out through the narrow opening. Such is the price of fashion. In the opinion of the editors, the CTS-V Sport Wagon is very fashionable and also more comfortable and practical, with longer rear doors for easier access, as well as a larger cargo space and more versatility.

Surprisingly, the ride quality is very good no matter which model, courtesy of Cadillac's unique magnetic ride control suspension. It uses electric current to change the consistency of magnetorheological fluid in the shock absorbers multiple times a second, permitting independent control of each shock's compliance rate depending on driving conditions.


The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V models are closely related structurally to their companion CTS models, and in either case, safety doesn't take second stage. In fact, the CTS is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with top 'good' results from the IIHS in frontal offset, side impact, and roof strength tests. Although the CTS hasn't yet been rated by the federal government in its revised 2011-model-year crash-test procedures, NHTSA gave the 2010 Cadillac CTS five stars for side impact and four and five stars for frontal impact (just four for the driver). Cadillac's excellent StabiliTrak stability control system with a special track-oriented performance mode is standard along with anti-lock braking, front side airbags, and head curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers.

Visibility can be a major issue in all versions of the 2011 CTS-V—especially the CTS-V Coupe. Sedans aren't too bad, but the CTS Sport Wagon's thick rear header can get in the way, and rearward vision leaves a lot to be desired in CTS Coupes.

The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V is wonderfully easy, provided you have the money.

Just one model is on the order sheet, and it includes everything you'd expect from a luxury car. Parking sensors, heated power adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, and xenon headlights are standard. A surround-sound stereo with USB and Bluetooth connectivity is standard, and a 40 GB hard drive for internal storage.

Opt for one of the few add-ons available on the CTS-V and you're greeted with one of the best navigation screens we've tested. The color screen extends out of the dash for more navigation features, or retracts for simple audio controls. The navigation also uses XM data to reroute around traffic, which we've found handy in congested metro areas. For 2011, the CTS-V, like all Cadillacs, gets Cadillac Premium Care Maintenance, which covers all oil changes, inspections, and other scheduled maintenance for four years or 50,000 miles.

A rear vision camera and heated steering wheel are newly available, and OnStar has been upgraded.

With its huge, supercharged V-8, the CTS-V has, as you might expect, quite unimpressive fuel economy figures. It's a thirsty beast. With the automatic, it's rated at 12 mpg city, 18 highway, while the manual comes in at 14/19 mpg.

Buying Tips:

We love the available ventilated/cooled front seats and think that you will too—especially if you decide to take the CTS-V out for track time. They’re part of the excellent Recaro sport seat upgrade, which you’ll probably appreciate whether or not you’re at the track.

Other Choices:

  • 2011 BMW 3-Series
  • 2011 Audi S6
  • 2011 Lexus IS F
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
  • 2011 INFINITI G37 Sedan

Reason Why:

Although the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V is closer in size to the BMW M5, Mercedes E63 AMG, and Audi S6, it competes with the slightly smaller Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and Audi S6. Of them all, the C63 AMG has a driving feel that’s closest to that of the CTS-V—stout, though surprisingly crisp and responsive on the track—but with less power, the C63 isn’t quite as fast. It's a close match for the Cadillac, though many would prefer the Merc's materials and finish quality over the American competition. The BMW M5 can accelerate about as quickly as the CTS-V, but it’s about $25,000 more than the CTS-V and includes a complex set of electronic controls (M Drive) that can be overwhelming. Another rival remains the Audi S6, which comes with a 435-horsepower, 5.2-liter V-10 engine and all-wheel drive; it’s a smooth, confident sport sedan with a lot of personality and a beautiful interior, but it’s just not as fast. Jaguar’s XFR is another rival to the CTS-V, with a warm, classy interior and amazing straight-line acceleration, but it’s not as precise a handler or curve-carver. Finally, the limited-production Lexus IS-F is a possibility, with a 416-horsepower V-8 and some serious track credentials. Among all of these possibilities, only the CTS-V and M5 are offered with a manual gearbox.

The Bottom Line:

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.

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