Since its inception, the CTS line has rewritten the Cadillac tome, maturing the division's "Art & Science" design theme into something handsome and instantly recognizable. The second-generation CTS, introduced in 2008, erased all memory of the dowdy Catera; the CTS-V which followed blew our skirts up, annihilating any lingering notions of Cadillac as an old man's car. The wagon proved Detroit five-doors don't have to be frumpy.
And now we have this. And oh — oh — is it hot.
We recently wrangled some right-seat time in a production-intent CTS Coupe. The car belongs to Cadillac communications manager Nick Twork and is the seventh to roll off the production line in Lansing.
The attention we received was mind-blowing. We stopped twice during our half-hour drive, once for gas and once to take pictures, and both times we were set upon like a wheat field in a swarm of locusts. There were honks in traffic, people asking how much and when, and many, many cameraphone pictures. We haven't seen this kind of reaction to a car since the debut of the Dodge Challenger, and that response was arguably less impressive — the Dodge is steeped in nostalgia and has a ready-made fan base, while the Cadillac is a new and polarizing design. The CTS's man that's got a big ass styling, which appears so odd on a show stand, looks brutish and purposeful on the street — it's like somebody at Hot Wheels defected to GM and got a design through the approval process before anyone noticed.
At first glance, the coupe looks wildly impractical, a stark contrast to its more traditionally packaged bretheren. Just look at those C-pillars and the high belt line — it must be impossible to see out of, right? Not really. If you've been in a CTS before, you'll find familiar territory, subtly tweaked for two-door use. The coupe gets its headliner color matched to its upper dash trim, a pushbutton door release borrowed from the Corvette, and a heated steering wheel. The front seats have been redesigned to flip forward and feel more supportive. The trunk offers a surprisingly large opening; you don't so much drop things into the boot as slide them in horizontally.
Let's be honest here: a "first ride" is a gimmick, especially with an early-build model like this one and a car still being broken in. Forming opinions on a car you haven't driven may seem silly, but there's no denying first impressions, however small, matter.
On balance, the CTS Coupe reminds us of a regular CTS, as it should. It's a comfortable balance between sport and luxury, and it doesn't bash you over the head with technology. The direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic get the job done, but knowing
the CTS-V coupe is on its way makes 304 hp feel like a nonevent.
What this car does is offer a machine for people who want to be seen. The CTS coupe is a stare magnet, and that's a niche Cadillac hasn't occupied for some time. When you consider the last coupe the division built was the 2002 El Dorado — a front-wheel-drive, torque-steering pinup for everything wrong with the brand — the evolution is shocking. The CTS coupe has swagger and sex nailed. We can't wait until it gets 556 hp and we get behind the wheel.