Cadillac's new CTS Coupe (almost) always a pleasure

The Cadillac CTS Coupe.

The Cadillac CTS Coupe. (Credit: Wieck)

The CTS family of "small" Cadillacs got its third -- and likely final -- member this summer with introduction of a coupe to join the sedan and wagon. It's a worthy but unfortunately weighty entry for affluent buyers. Its major flaws are inherent in cars with just two doors.

A quiet and sumptuously-appointed cabin makes driving the 2011 CTS Coupe almost always a pleasure, although you might wish, as I did, for a manually adjustable suspension that can be set to a more compliant mode for bad road surfaces.

Cadillac's current styling is powerful -- and, therefore, controversial -- but to this beholder it works particularly well on a coupe. The long and heavy doors tend to get tiresome, though, as one runs Saturday errands and struggles into and out of the car in cramped shopping center parking stalls. And, although there's a rear-facing camera to help back out of those stalls, visibility to the rear corners is severely limited for lane changing by the last roof pillars.

CTS Coupes begin at $38,990 with freight, $40,890 with all-wheel drive. The coupe, sedan and wagon are available in all-wheel drive. And the coupe and sedan are offered in a "V" version with rear drive only, and 556-hp. V-8 engines.

Government fuel economy estimates for a coupe or sedan with the 3.6-liter and automatic transmission are 18 miles per gallon in city driving, 27 mpg on highways on regular gas. I averaged about 19.5 mpg in mostly highway miles.

The 304-hp. engine is impressive, although one has to keep in mind the coupe's 4,000-pound weight. Car and Driver says zero to 60 mph takes 6.4 seconds. The six-speed automatic hesitates annoyingly before downshifting for passing.

The coupe's 35 inches of minimum rear legroom is only about an inch less than the sedan's, but there's more than 2 inches less headroom.

Consumer Reports says reliability of the CTS sedan has been "below average," with troublesome brakes and various squeaks and rattles, based on its annual survey of its reader/car owners. But J.D. Power and Associates calls the CTS "better than most" - both in the first three months and first three years of ownership - based on its own consumer surveys. Go figure.

At least there's agreement on safety: The government says the CTS is almost an A-plus, while the insurance Institute for Highway Safety goes even further, calling it a "top safety pick."2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

Vehicle tested:

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 304 hp.

Fuel: Regular

Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear wheel drive

Safety: Six air bags; 4-wheel disc brakes w/anti-lock, stability control, brake assist; rear camera; rear obstacle warning; swiveling headlamps; fog and daytime running lamps; tire pressure monitoring; OnStar automatic crash notification.

Place of assembly: Lansing, Mich.

Trunk: 10.5 cubic feet

EPA fuel economy estimates: 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway

Price as driven: $50,035 with freight

Bottom line: Candy for the eyes, sporty handling - and a coupe's disadvantages.

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