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The 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

3.6L V6 engine

Yountville, Calif.—The new 2011 CTS Coupe should have been a 2010 model—but it was put on ice—frozen for a full year.

Bob Munson, chief designer of the Cadillac CTS, first sketched the rakish coupe in 2006. According to chief engineer Dave Leone, Bob Lutz was so impressed his response was: “Just go do it.” With that blessing, the CTS was fast-tracked through the production process, landing at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show as a concept that looked amazingly production-ready. It was set to arrive in dealerships in 2009.

But in the turmoil surrounding the bankruptcy and bailout of 2009, a sporty Cadillac coupe was not necessarily the new company’s top priority. Now, with U.S. auto sales rebounding and a new sense of optimism within GM, the two-door version of Cadillac’s successful CTS is ready to take on the coupes from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.

The Specs: A coupe’s success depends in no small part on its styling. The CTS is striking, handsome from many angles, and certainly unique. But it’s also risky. Although it has a traditional trunk, the CTS Coupe appears as though it could be a hatchback from some angles. Two-door hatchbacks based on luxury sedans have not been particularly successful in the U.S. In the past, both BMW and Mercedes-Benz attempted to sell four-cylinder hatchback versions of their popular 3-Series and C-Class sedans. Each lasted only four years before they were cancelled.

Yet this Cadillac, along with the market today, is different. The hatchback style is gaining traction with four-door luxury sedans like the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera. And the CTS Coupe is not a watered down four-cylinder version of the sedan. No, this coupe has the same 304-hp 3.6-liter V6 as the sedan. And it comes paired to the same six-speed manual or six-speed automatic driving either the rear wheels or all four. The CTS Coupe uses 3.73:1 gearing instead of the sedan’s 3.42:1 cogs —so should be marginally quicker than other CTS models too.

Take a long slow walk around the CTS Coupe, absorbing the design from all angles, and it’s difficult to believe that it rides on the same 113.4-inch wheebase as the CTS sedan and wagon. The two-door looks much more compact. In fact, the Coupe is shorter by about 2 inches, lower by another 2 inches (thanks to the chopped roof), and wider at the wheel arches by 2 inches. Yet at 3909 pounds (automatic rear-drive) it weighs about the same as the sedan.

To impart a sportier character, the chassis received significant tweaks. The Coupe loses two doors compared to the sedan, so engineers flared the bottom of the B-pillar’s structure to provide additional reinforcement. There’s also a revised rear subframe for added stiffness (as on other 2011 CTS models). And, according to engineer Leone, the shorter roof and all that additional structure along the sides of the body contribute to a small but not insignificant 5 percent increase in torsional stiffness.

The suspension wears firmer dampers along with revised sway bars—smaller diameter up front and larger at the rear—in order to help reduce understeer and provide more neutral handling. The wider rear track and the summer tire performance package’s staggered 245/45R19 fronts, 275/40R19 rears not only boost grip but contribute to a 2 second improvement in Nurburgring lap times over the CTS sedan, according to Leone. Less aggressive 18-inch wheels and tires are also available, and that model also receives softer damper tuning.

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