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2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe: Two-door luxury redefined

Posted by Bill Griffith  October 5, 2010 12:10 PM

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(All photos: Bill Griffith for Boston.com)

The normal routine is that you take your car someplace or, conversely, your car takes you places.

This week's test vehicle, the four-passenger 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe took me many places — and did that in style — but it also sent me someplace unusual ... to the dictionary.

The word in question was dihedral. It's one of those words that sounds intriguing, promising an exotic mix of geometry and technology.

The context for its usage was in GM's description of the coupe's "center-outlet exhaust with twin dihedral-shaped tips that pass through the rear fascia."

It would have been easy to open a new window on the computer and visit Dictionary.com. However, I'm old school and prefer going to the good book of words, a Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. The definition wasn't particularly enlightening: "a figure formed by two intersecting planes."

Kind of disappointing, much like Cadillac's decision to abandon some of the industry's great names — DeVille, Seville, Fleetwood, and Eldorado — for its present alphabet soup (Escalade excluded) of CTS, DTS, SRX, STS, and XTS.

What's not disappointing is this CTS Coupe, especially its styling. The CTS is a "real" coupe with no B pillar behind the doors. There are hidden door latches that help accentuate its slab sides, raked windshield, and low roofline. The signature Cadillac grille, vertical LED taillights, and those dihedral exhaust tips complete a vehicle that begs you to "Give me a second look and admire me."

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The interior is equally striking with a distinct cockpit feel. Mrs. G likens it to the ambience of her fondly remembered 1988 Jaguar's interior. Cadillac has made great strides in interior design. The stitched leather dashboard and side trim is impressive. So is the wood trim. At night a discreet line of accent lighting runs across the midpoint of the dash.

Our test vehicle was the top of the line CTS Premium Collection with a $47,835 MSRP (including destination) and a $51,030 price as tested. Mrs. G, who has a pretty strong sense of value, thought the sticker would have been pushing $60,000. A base model starts at $38,990. All-wheel-drive is available in all three (base, Performance, Premium) trim lines.

However, all wasn't perfect.

A coupe remains by definition (no dictionary needed) a vehicle with difficult access to the rear seat. Let's say it's a place for the young and/or nimble. I got back there to check legroom (adequate), headroom (barely adequate), and to take a photo of the dashboard.

Mrs. G called the front legroom "more than generous," which it was. However, especially with the optional sunroof, headroom was barely adequate for taller drivers. We'd pass on the sunroof, especially since it only tilts and doesn't slide wide open. GM said the optional heated and ventilated front seats incorporate "thin seat" technology for maximum comfort. We felt the operative word was "thin" and that one didn't send us to the dictionary.

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Cadillac incorporated some nice interior touches, including the push-button door latch and retracting navigation screen. The screen slides up when you put the CTS coupe into reverse, showing the view from the rear-view camera. That rear view is a plus because the coupe suffers from the compromised rear visibility inherent in coupes. When navigation isn't in use, the top area of the screen shows audio system information and outside temperature in a built-in dashboard window. It's clever, effective, and innovative.

On the road, the standard 3.6-liter direct injected V-6 offered all the oomph we needed. It sends 304 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission and limited-slip rear differential. A nice value is that it only requires regular gas. The EPA mileage range is 18 city-to-27 highway. We achieved a middling 21.1 mpg in a lot of in-town driving.

At night, the adaptive (turning) headlights were a joy, especially on twisting back roads.

Our test vehicle had a $2,090 19-inch summer tire performance package, a bump up from the 18-inch wheels and standard all-season tires. It also adds beefed-up cooling and braking systems, and steering-wheel controls. We found the ride on the harsh side and would opt for the standard tire and wheel package.

A CTS-V version of the coupe will offer a 556-horsepower "detuned" version of the 6.2-liter V-8 used in the Corvette ZR1 to do marketing battle with the likes of Cadillac's targeted competitors, the Audi S5, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37, and Mercedes E-Class coupe.

All-in-all we found the CTS to be the definition of a luxury coupe.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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