The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is an attractive and classy high-performance aspirational vehicle. Naturally, the tuner parade will seek to make improvements, regardless of necessity. In lieu of a works AMG Black Series, Kicherer has elected to create its own "Black Edition."
The neo-Gullwing is wrapped in matte black foil and gets blacked-out badging and grillework, a lip spoiler, and tweaked rear bumper details. Oh, and let's not forget the black wheels that look as if they came off the rack at your local tire store. Awful. Still, we're sure the valets at the Mall of the Emirates will be ecstatic.
Under the skin, Kircherer re-flashes the Benz's ECU, then adds a new exhaust system and adjustable suspension. Power output is supposedly elevated to a brawny 620 horses. We'll take that extra muscle and leave the tediously predictable appearance mods to others. Kicherer's website doesn't have any pricing info posted yet (as if you care, anyway). It does have techno music, though. Fist pumps all around.
Italophiles, take note: Lamborghini has announced it's built the 10,000th Gallardo. Naturally, the supercar manufacturer is pleased with this performance, pointing out that the now ubiquitous Gallardo is officially the most successful model Lamborghini has ever created. Says Stephan Winkelmann, President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini.:
The Lamborghini brand is extreme, uncompromising and Italian, and the Lamborghini Gallardo has played an exemplary role in defining and delivering our brand reputation into our worldwide markets. Today Lamborghini is represented in 45 countries by over 120 dealers, with the strength and presence of the Gallardo product playing a significant role in the growth and recognition of our brand.
We feel obligated to point out that such success in the marketplace is something of a double-edged sword for Lamborghini. One reason exotic machines from manufacturers like Lamborghini have been so revered in the past is due to their rarity and exclusivity. One the flip side, small-scale automakers simply cannot continue to compete on a global scale without runaway success stories like the Gallardo.
That said, feel free to click on past the break as Lamborghini recounts the history of its Gallardo and to find out where lucky number 10,000 is headed.
Back in the 1970s, the Ford Pinto was the focus of many headlines due to a fuel tank issue which caused excessive amounts of gasoline to leak during a rear-end collision. Now, three decades later, Lexus is having a similar problem with its HS250h hybrid, and has filed a report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a voluntary recall of these vehicles. Up to 17,000 of the luxury hybrids are affected.
In the case of the HS, excessive fuel leakage occurred during rear-end collisions at speeds of 50 miles per hour. We don't need to remind you about the dangers of excessive fuel spillage, but let's just say that the end result can be very, very bad.
As of this writing, Lexus has not advised NHTSA about what steps will be taken to fix the defective HS models.
Mazda says there's a little bit of Miata in everything it does. While it's easy to chalk that up as marketing frippery, when the automaker launched the Little Roadster That Could back in 1989, it proved that great things can come from a machine developed to be simple, reliable and driver-focused. Even now, none of Mazda's wares offer class-leading fuel economy or practicality, but they've proven to be some of the best drivers in their segments. And as enthusiasts, it's easy to exchange a bit of functionality for a larger helping of fun.
Now, Mazda hopes to achieve this same sort of positioning within the B-car segment – a class that's grown substantially in America and is projected to double in size within the next few years. The 2011 Mazda2 comes to town right on the heels of its sister car, the Ford Fiesta, but as we found out after a lengthy drive through the city of Montréal and the countryside of Canada's Québec province, it's a wholly different machine. And while the Fiesta is sure to provide some serious competition for the 2, there are plenty of other well-to-do B cars in the U.S. that are ready to be sized up against the minuscule Mazda.
If you only look at the stats, you wouldn't think Mazda has positioned the 2 to be anything overly special. Not only is it the least powerful car in its segment, but it doesn't offer some of the clever technology or unique packaging to make it stand out from its kin. But Mazda is immensely proud of the new 2, and though we looked on with skeptical faces, the people in charge simply told us that the little hatch's story is best told on the road. So let's get to it.
Like the Ford Fiesta, the Mazda2 isn't a new car – it's just new to us (or U.S., as it were). The 2011 model is the mid-cycle refresh of a car that's been immensely popular overseas, so much so that it won the World Car of the Year award in 2008. In reshaping the 2's design, Mazda wanted to break away from what it calls the "mini-minivans" of the world – cars like the Honda Fit that have tall greenhouses and expansive windshields. Instead, the automaker opted for a more coupe-like design (its description, not ours) with muscular front fender arches and a pronounced shoulder at the rear. Mazda's corporate face is nicely integrated on the 2, and we're glad it's not as overdone as the maw on the larger 3. The 2's face is extremely similar to that on the current MX-5 (ahem), but it still reminds us of shoving orange wedges into our mouth during our elementary school lunchtime.
Simple design cues like the swooping beltline, raked rear hatch and short overhangs drive home the point that its main purpose is to provide driver enjoyment before anything else. The 2 shares the Fiesta's 98.0-inch wheelbase, but the overall length is only 155.5 inches – 4.6 inches shorter than the five-door from Ford, and while this reduction in length hurts the 2's overall cargo capacity, it makes for a crisp, chic design.
While we're on the topic, we asked Dave Coleman, Mazda's product development engineer, exactly how much of the 2 is shared with the Fiesta. Obviously, the platform is the same, and while there are many interchangeable parts found on both cars, Coleman tells us that only three parts are exactly identical, although he wouldn't share exactly what they are. Truth be told, we were expecting the 2 to be more closely tied to its Ford brethren, and if we're honest, it only improves Mazda's business case for the car. This simply isn't another rebadge job.
Mazda's offering its diminutive hatch in two flavors – Sport and Touring – and in total, there are only four different configurations: one engine, two trims, two transmissions, no individual options (though there will be a raft of dealer-installed accessories for those who want to stand out). Starting at a base price of $13,980 (including $750 for destination and delivery), Sport models ride on 15-inch steel wheels wrapped in 185/55 Yokohama Avid tires, while the Touring model swaps the steelies for a handsome set of eight-spoke alloys, still measuring 15 inches in diameter. The Touring rings in at $15,435, and a fully decked-out 2 will set you back a cool $16,985 when all is said and done. That isn't too bad, and positions the 2 nicely below the larger Mazda3 sedan and hatch, a car which has an average transaction price of $19,364, according to Mazda's number crunchers.
Inside, the 2's cabin is a toast to simplicity and intuitiveness. Granted, the design is a bit bland, and we can easily see how a smattering of aluminum accents here and there would spruce things up. Still, the interior is a big step away from what you'll find in the Fiesta, and though the Ford's cockpit is more comfortable and comes packing more tech-rich amenities, that extra kit comes at a price. Notice the (cough, cough) MX-5-spec steering wheel, the console-mounted shifter (with a very Miata-like stubby shift knob on manual models), and easy-to-read gauge cluster – things you'd expect in a car that isn't trying to impress you with bells and whistles.
Mazda's focus on keeping cost down does leave us with some quaffs about overall refinement, however. Some of the dash plastics feel cheap and clunky, and those front seats are severely lacking not only support, but overall comfort. The driver's seat is adjustable in six different ways, which allows for a relatively good seating position, but Mazda's omission of a telescopic steering wheel deserves a demerit, especially for short-legged drivers.
Where the 2's squat dimensions really take their toll, however, is cargo capacity. Even with the rear seats folded flat (well, almost flat), there's only 27.8 cubic feet of space. A Honda Fit can schlep 29.5 more cubic feet of haulables (here's to you, Magic Seats), and even the Nissan Versa and Suzuki SX4 are capable of carrying more goods. Could you fit a bike or a full load of groceries in the back of the 2? Of course. But if capaciousness is your thing, best to look elsewhere.
Keep in mind, however, functionality isn't the Mazda2's forte. Where the deal really gets sweet is from behind the wheel. Under the hood is a 1.5-liter inline-four, and while output is only rated at 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque, don't let the meager numbers lead you to believe the four-pot isn't a total workhorse. When we drove the Fiesta earlier this year, we noted that the hatch could definitely benefit from an additional 10 or 15 horsepower, especially in the low end of each gear. But the Mazda, which is down by 20 ponies compared to the Ford, feels quicker and is more willing to – please forgive us – Zoom-Zoom when mated to either transmission. Chalk one up for Mazda's engineering team.
Speaking of transmissions, you may be a bit curious about Mazda's choice to offer a four-speed automatic rather than the five- or six-cogged auto-boxes becoming standard practice across the automotive landscape. Mazda knows that not offering a six-speed automatic will hurt the 2 in terms of fuel economy (not to mention marketing), but the engineers are confident that using a four-speed with taller ratios and fewer instances of gear hunting will keep the car feeling spirited and more enthusiastic on the road.
We drove both transmissions, and while we definitely prefer the manual with its nicely executed shifter and easy to modulate if somewhat vague clutch, the four-speed slushbox isn't as ancient-feeling or out of place as you might think. After all, when you're only dealing with 100 horsepower, its best to keep the engine revving in the heart of the powerband, and having fewer gears allows this to happen with ease. As we mentioned, fuel economy takes the biggest loss here, as auto-equipped 2s only muster up 27 miles per gallon in the city and a modest – more the class – 33 mpg on the highway. The five-speed manual models don't improve those figures by much, offering 29/35 mpg. In a time when 40 mpg is becoming the new standard for small cars, this is sure to hurt the 2's appeal to consumers shopping across the segment. But as Mazda told us, the real attractiveness shows itself during the test drive.
Like the majority of B-segment cars, the Mazda2's suspension employs MacPherson struts up front and a torsion-beam axle out back. Our drive route through the Québec countryside offered up a smattering of both smooth and broken pavement stretches, and the 2 never felt crashy, nor delivered high levels of harshness over the rough stuff. You'll bounce around more in a Honda Fit Sport, and even the Fiesta's suspension feels somewhat stiffer in terms of damping. While engineering the new 2, Mazda was committed to saving as much weight as possible, and managed to cut out a total of 220 pounds versus the previous model sold overseas. Sport models with the manual 'box only tip the scales at 2,309 pounds, which is seriously waif-like in this day and age. This weight reduction not only makes the 100-hp mill feel more powerful when blasting down highways and back roads, but it gives the car a feeling of nimbleness and agility through the bends. A fair amount of body roll is present, but it's better than what you'll get in a Yaris or Versa. A lot better, in fact. Most small cars in this segment are designed to be on their best behavior at lower, city-cruising speeds, but the 2 begs to be driven enthusiastically.
What impressed the most was how the electric power steering matched the feeling of lightness, and Mazda dialed in a lot of driver feedback – a good thing, since a lot of electric racks can feel overboosted, especially at initial turn-in. This isn't Mazda's first crack at EPAS, though – the RX-8 uses a similar system, and we have very little in the way of complaints when it comes time to steer that rotary rocket.
In terms of everyday drivability, the 2 is a charming little whip. The powertrain isn't nearly as buzzy as some of the four-bangers under the hoods of its competition, and even though Mazda's main focus was reducing overall weight, this doesn't mean sound deadening was put on the backburner. The cabin is seriously quiet at speed with minimal wind, engine or tire noise flooding the cabin. It's easily up to the task of long-distance trips, but we might still err on the side of the Fiesta for long hauls, if only for its more supportive seats.
Naturally, we couldn't help but ask about the possibility of a Mazdaspeed2 making its way into production, and while Mazda has teased the idea in concept form, don't hold your breath for the real thing. Sure, the engineers would love to build one, but they're worried that the consumer base just wouldn't be large enough to support it and Mazda thinks there's a possibility that 'Speed3 sales could take a hit. Doubtful, but disappointing nonetheless.
Mazda is hoping to move 20,000 2s annually in the United States, marketing it with the tagline "Zoom-Zoom. Concentrated." The biggest trick will be driving home the fact that the 2 is a driver's car first, and a good all-rounder second. If any brand is going to do it, Mazda has the best chance. After all, unlike the Fiesta, the 2 doesn't need to prove to the world that its parent is capable of making great small cars (take a bow, Mazda3). No, you can't get navigation, ambient lighting, satellite radio or many of the features becoming more important to shoppers, but if you really, truly need these extras, there's a whole world of aftermarket equipment out there. We'd love to own a Fit when it comes time for an Ikea run, but for everyday driving, Mazda's offering is just a bit sweeter. Functionality is nice, but enthusiasts want something better poised to handle the main task at hand – driving.
Ford of Europe has dropped the first official photos of the refreshed 2011 Mondeo, along with some details on the mechanical updates. The only substantive visual change is a reshaped front fascia with a larger trapezoidal lower grille similar to the Fiesta and the upcoming 2012 Focus, as well as reworked driving lights.
Behind that new grille Ford has added the same type of active shutters the Focus is getting to restrict air-flow at higher speeds or colder temperatures, reducing turbulence and aerodynamic drag.
The rest of the engine compartment is occupied by two new powertrain options, including a more powerful 237 horsepower version of the 2.0-liter Ecoboost inline-four that debuted earlier this year. At 179 grams per kilometer of CO2 emissions, the new Ecoboost will have the same fuel consumption as the lower power unit and 20 percent less than a V6 of similar power. This more powerful unit is likely the one that we will get in the Edge and Explorer for 2011. All of the Ecoboost engines are mated up a six-speed dual-clutch Powershift gearbox similar to the unit that just debuted in the Fiesta in North America.
The second new engine is a reworked 2.2-liter diesel inline-four that now puts out 197 hp, a 12 percent bump from the previous edition. The new Mondeos will will be shown publicly at the Moscow Motor Show in August and go on sale in the fall.
The Zero Kit has already been sold to France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Greece, Siberia, South Africa, Australia, America and South Ireland. All of the Zero range is available in both right and left hand drive.
For any enquires about the Zero and Export please contact us 01623 860 990, or take a look at our new website www.greatbritishsportscars.co.uk for more information.
We like to think of ourselves as a voice of the people – a place for the proletariat of the interwebs who clamor for an honest take on the latest automotive hardware. To that end, we've always viewed the constant stream of fawning over BMW with something of a jaundice eye. We get it. The company builds good products, but does it really deserve wave after wave of gushing prose in every car magazine? Even more troubling, does the 3 Series deserve its honored position as the benchmark against which all other mid-sized sports sedans must be measured?
In a word, yes. We say that almost against our plebeian nature, but if you've come searching for a scathing tear-down of the bread-and-butter 3, best point your clickers elsewhere. After a full week with the 2010 BMW 335i sedan, we've come to understand why the bastions of auto-journodom have spent the last 10 years drinking the BMW Kool-Aid. It's just that good. Read on to find out why the latest 3 Series continues the tradition.
BMW has had 35 years to get the 3 Series recipe just right, and stylistically, the car has never exactly shattered the mold with wild bodywork. While Bimmer fanboys continue to debate whether or not Chris Bangle was the brand's savior or Satan, no one will debate the fact that his work on the 3 Series was a much needed change of pace. To this day, Bangle's influence still lingers over the sheet metal of our sedan. While the "Bangle Bustle" never quite made it to the four-door's rear, the subtle creases and slight flares that came into the BMW bloodline under the designer's reign remain to this day. The look isn't something that we'd call outrageous, but it is quietly gorgeous.
Up front, the 2010 335i couldn't be mistaken for anything other than what it is. The nose wears the same flared nostril grille and round headlights as the rest of the Bavarian flock and the slight contour of the hood line gives the face something of a furrowed brow. As a result, you can't help but think that if this car could speak, it would do so in a series of guttural grunts and growls. Whatever the tongue, traffic seems to understand just fine – cars make room for the 2010 335i like a bad habit.
Our tester came dipped in Le Mans blue – a dark metallic paint that makes every crease and curve pop no matter the lighting. The sedan also wore a set of 18-inch, 15-spoke dancing shoes that are part of the $3,750 M Sport package. For that kind of change, BMW will be kind enough to equip your four-door with a slightly tweaked suspension and reworked aerodynamic cues, along with a speed limiter that allows a higher top end. We'll – ahem – have to take their word on that last part. Out back, the 335i can be differentiated from its less potent kin by the prominent dual exhaust and a reworked rear diffuser. When viewed from the rear, the car loses some of its menace, but the design is still plenty attractive.
The M Sport package brings with it a smaller, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an M-branded shift knob and door sills. Our tester also came with a snappy two-tone interior, complete with beige leather seats and a black dash with faux metal accents. The overall effect is attractive, though the M goodies seem at odds with the light-colored leather. That's okay, though, because that steering wheel and shifter feel fantastic in the palm of your hands, even if they look like the 335i is wearing a pair of running shoes with a three-piece suit.
While some buyers may find the dash a little plain, we're smitten by the fact that it isn't awash with unnecessary buttons or dials. In a world where most manufacturers have taken pains to turn their consoles into quasi functional art, BMW seems content to make everything easy to find and a cinch to operate – at least in this spec. A calm, uninterrupted line carries all the way from the instrument cluster to the passenger side door. And speaking of the instrument cluster, BMW has stuck with its standard two dials. There's a speedometer, a tachometer, and not much else.
The front thrones are supportive enough for long interstate hauls with bolsters capable of keeping your rear planted should you decide to fling the sedan through the mountains. The rear seats are also nice, but don't quite have the same derrière-gripping ability as what you'll find up front. They offer decent leg room, though, so passengers in the six-foot realm can reasonably fit back there, even for extended periods of time.
That's a good thing, considering we found ourselves hijacking our passengers for extended romps through a variety of backroads. Few things will talk you into taking the long way home quite like the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that BMW has used under the car's hood since 2007. The engine produces a dead even 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, and the muscle is enough to hustle the sedan's 3,593-pound curb weight through traffic. We noticed a considerable amount of lag below 2,000 rpm, which other 3 Series have complained about and BMW has acknowledged and attempted to fix at least once. That said, we expect this issue to be addressed with the 2011 model that features a single, larger turbo.
According to the specs, the inline-six manages to crank out its full torque from just 1,400 rpm, but the power simply isn't there until the mill begins to spin a little quicker. Fortunately, the revs build fast and it's easy to keep the engine where it needs to be thanks to the six-speed manual transmission. Shifts are quick and gear changes feel precise without being notchy. We did notice that hard shifts from first to second require a certain amount of patience, though that could have just as easily been attributed to the fact that our tester came with over 7,000 brutal miles at the hands of the cruelest of the cruel – auto journos.
Buyers familiar with typically weighty steering from BMW will find the tiller in the 2010 335i a comfort. The wheel feels a little on the heavy side while you're muscling around the parking lot of the local Target, but comes into its own should you decide to do any hustling down your favorite stretch of tarmac. Turn in is excellent and there's little doubt it could get around a track with purpose. That sensation is bolstered by the brakes on the 335i. With 13.7-inch discs up front, the sedan has no problem scrubbing speed for the corners or coming to a complete halt should you demand it. In all, it's the balance in the big bad 3 Series that kept the grin on our faces.
With a damn-near perfect 50.9/49.1-percent front/rear weight balance in manual transmission guise, the car begs to be flung around. Throw in springs that are firm without being brutal and spot-on dampening, and the turbo 3 series is – to put it lightly – magnificent to drive. Despite the button down exterior and executive interior, the 2010 335i has bones that are simply meant to be flogged and truly enjoyed – something we have a hard time saying for nearly any other car in this segment. From the bark of the dual exhaust to the bushels of grip and braking power, the 335i leaves little to complain about.
But hey, we're the motoring press. If we weren't complaining we'd be on a cold slab in the county morgue. According to the EPA, sane drivers should manage to see somewhere around 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway – decent numbers given the horsepower on hand here, but not exactly figures you'd want to bring home to your mother, either. Do some quick averaging, and you realize that combined fuel economy sits at a shave above 21 mpg. Speaking of naughty digits, BMW does make you pay for all of the engineering goodies that it's packed into the 335i. The car carries an MSRP of $40,600, and that's before you start adding on fun stuff like the M Sport package or special paint.
Set your eyeballs on that price tag, and it's easy to start nitpicking all that the 335i doesn't have as standard equipment. As a base model, you don't get navigation, satellite radio, a rear facing camera or any of the other tech goodies more economical manufacturers hand over for next to nothing these days. And at first, that really irritated us. But as the week drew to a close, we began to realize that the car's price tag wasn't wrapped up in useless electronics or bells and whistles we'd use once and then forget about. No, each and every penny in the 2010 335i is soaked into what matters most in a car to people like us – the engine, transmission, chassis and suspension. The 3 Series is a driver's car and it deserves every accolades it receives. The aforementioned 2011 model packing BMW's new N55 single-turbo engine should receive even more.
According to a report out of Italy, Audi boss Rupert Stadler has said that the Audi A1 e-tron concept will not see production. Apparently the house of Audi believes that the conventional A1 will be sufficiently frugal and kind enough on the environment with its stop/start and brake energy recovery system. Additionally, there seems to be some issues with the A1's platform and its ability to house all the necessary EV components. If true, 'tis a shame – that cargo-floor-mounted Wankel engine paired with lithium-ion batteries was supposed to be good for 154 mpg, and the A1 e-tron is a package we would have enjoyed by being so green we made grass jealous.
According to Hyundai, its new 274-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine for the 2011 Sonata sedan is going to be a real gem. To wit, the Korean automaker says the boosted-four will propel its midsize sedan to 60 miles per hour in just 6.5 seconds. That's serious speed for the segment and it means the Sonata will at least have the accelerative chops to stick with the rest of the sport sedan competition.
Of course, these days frugality is just as important as horsepower, and Hyundai assures us that its 2.0T-powered Sonata will be able to return the promised 22 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway – all on regular-grade fuel. For those who like to keep track of such things, Hyundai claims those figures are 16% and 17% better respectively than the outgoing 3.5-liter V6.
Want more? Well, that's all we can share for now... but our initial driving impressions will be on their way just as soon as Hyundai gives the word. Stay tuned.
Today Simon Turton came all the way from West Yorkshire to the GBS Factory to show us his finished Zero Kit. He bought a Zero Superspec Kit, which took him approximately 7 months to build. The total build cost came to just over £10,000. All the team at the GBS Factory were very impressed with Simon’s car. For more information about the Zero Kit please visit our new website www.greatbritishsportscars.co.uk
We love to hear from all of our ‘Zero’ customers! If you would like your ‘Zero’ to feature on our blog then please get in touch via email and we will show case your kit car online. Or if you are passing be sure to pop in and we can take some photos for you.
Simon is also a member of the RHOCaR Club his name is Simon.zero. (If you wish to get in touch with him please go onto the RHOCaR website www.rhocar.org and search for him in the members section Simon.zero)
There was a time when General Motors was a design leader. Before the Aztek, before the Catera, before the Sunfire and before the Citation, GM was synonymous with bold, strong, emotional automotive design. The General was so good at it that in the 1950s it was able to flood dealerships and stress factories just by tweaking a given model's sheetmetal a few shades. Imagine anyone caring about a new rear end on a 2011 Chevy Malibu. Yet the revised bodywork of the 1956 Bel Air was a major cultural phenomenon.
The name Harley Earl – the legendary head of GM design from 1927 until 1958 – still strikes reverence into the hearts of many. One glance at his famed Buick Y-Job, a 1949 Cadillac or the original Corvette is enough to see why. Earl's parting shot was the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado – the one with the tail fins that could nearly touch the moon. Then you have Earl's successor, Bill Mitchell, the man responsible for the third generation Corvette, the 1966 Toronado and the magnificent boattail Buick Riviera.
For a variety of reasons, in the 1970s General Motors and striking design parted ways. GM's styling wandered through the desert, swapping glitz, purpose and chrome for tighter profit margins, increased badge engineering and a large patina of plain ol' dull. All you need to do is take a gander at the third-generation B-bodies to see how far GM went in the wrong direction. Let's not even mention cladding.
For the last decade or so there have been signs of hope. Vehicles like the Chevrolet SSR, Pontiac Solstice, C6 Corvette and the new Camaro were proof that GM and great design are on the road to reconciliation. As a division, Cadillac has made the biggest strides with their Art and Science design motif, showing great signs of life. The front end of the second generation CTS is fantastic. From a pure design point of view, and with the possible exception of the now dead Pontiac Solstice, no General Motors product has been world class since Mitchell retired in 1977.
It's difficult to describe just how striking the CTS Coupe is in the flesh. Fresh, crisp, bold, sexy, smart, savvy and even – to quote Cadillac – audacious. We hate to swallow marketing pabulum of any sort, but in this situation, with this car, the descriptor "audacious" rings absolutely true. What other word could we use to explain the dramatic, emotional and complex combination of lines, angles and curves that make up this new Cadillac? "Brave" perhaps, but regardless of the adjective, the CTS Coupe is a shot across the design world's bow.
The CTS Coupe is not simply a two-door version of the four-door CTS. Instead, Cadillac opted to shorten the car by two inches, widen the rear track by two inches and chop the roof by two inches. Naturally, if you take away two inches of height you have to give it back somewhere else, right? Cadillac says that's not really so, noting that it was able to simply lower the CTS Coupe's seats by nearly two inches making no one the wiser. Caddy also raked the Coupe's windshield back, producing a much racier profile than either the CTS sedan or Sport Wagon. They also yanked the door handles off, instead favoring two pushbutton Corvette-style openers hidden in the doors' metal. When the decision was made to, "Build the concept car," that entailed keeping the dual center-mounted tail pipes where they were. We freely admit that they look quite good, however be prepared to burn the front of your calves when getting groceries out of the trunk.
The most audacious (there's that word again) aspect of the Coupe's design is its rear end. It looks like nothing else on the road. At once muscular yet avant-garde, the straight-on and rear three-quarter view of the CTS Coupe's haunches is mesmerizing. We found ourselves muttering, "That's a good looking car," every time we stopped and looked. From its vertical, LED-filled taillights to the third brake light that's angled up enough to double as a downforce-generating spoiler to more points than a star fish, the CTS Coupe is Tertris meets tangrams meets sophisticated industrial design. It all works fabulously; the Coupe is an aspirational shape, one that simultaneously signifies a suddenly reborn brand. Once again and for the first time in a while, we're talking world-class.
The Coupe's interior is a different chapter from an older book. While there's no question that the second generation CTS' innards are a large step in the right direction, you won't find yourself thinking "The Standard of the World" while sitting in the captain's chair. The wood is nice, and there's leather trim here and there, but there is also a whole mess of fake leather and real plastic. Competitive with Lexus or the Hyundai Genesis, sure, but in no way does the Coupe's interior approach the luxury level of recent, resurgent Mercedes-Benz. And thirty-seconds spent in the new Porsche Panamera will leave you shaking your head in terms of Cadillac's take on luxury.
The wood-capped steering wheel is thick and fully adjustable, and is now heated, but for an exterior design of such sporting pretensions, it still errs on the side of your Uncle Al's Caddy. Cadillac has seen fit to include shift-buttons on the back of the helm (left for down, right for up), but serious drivers will prefer actual paddles. That said, it's a step in the right direction, especially as the CTS' gear-shift manual mode is activated by flopping the lever over to the right, into the passenger's knee space. Curiously, the new SRX's shifter flops to the left, towards the driver. As for the rear seats, they are on par with the space provided by Benz's E-Coupe or the Audi A5, though ingress and egress can be a bit of a squeeze. Really, no worse than the competition, though the front seats in the Mercedes do automatically slide when the seatback is flipped forward.
Then there's the matter of the slide up navigation screen. A nifty trick, but like similar moving parts in the new crop of Jaguars, we're left anxious in anticipation of the day when those little electric motors stop working. However, unlike the Jaguar's gearshift puck and air vents, the CTS Coupe will still be drivable when the nav-screen refuses to rise. When it's up, the display's quality is (again) not nearly up to snuff with what the competition is selling. Actually, forget other luxury cars, a Sync with Sirius Travel Link-equipped Ford Focus features a screen that's roughly five times better. To their credit, the Cadillac folks acknowledged that the interior isn't world class – yet. They suggested several times that we should wait 18 months before issuing final judgment, whatever that means.
On the road, everything that's good about the four-door CTS is amplified in the coupe. You're lower to the road, the wider rear-track and sticky 19-inch summer tires provide gooey gobs of grip and the view out over the hood is definitely sporting. The only available Coupe engine is the more potent 304 horsepower, 274 pound-feet of torque 3.6-liter V6, as opposed to the sedan which can also be had with a less powerful 3.0-liter V6. Well, we shouldn't say "only available" as the full-mental patient 556-hp supercharged LSA motor will be available in the CTS-V Coupe when both models go on sale later this summer. However, Cadillac chooses to view the V Coupe as a separate model, and for the purposes of this review, so shall we.
The direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 provides adequate if not good forward thrust, though introducing a new model into such a hyper-competitive segment and not being the most potent in class can be viewed as a bit of a head-scratcher. For instance, the Coupe is more powerful than the E350 Coupe and Audi A5, but is nearly thirty ponies down on the Infiniti G37 Coupe. Likewise, both the Merc and the Audi can be had with more powerful mills – the E550 Coupe and S5, respectively. We asked Cadillac if they planned to offer a CTS Coupe with the 6.2-liter LS3, with its 425 or so ponies and 420+ lb-ft of torque (depending on tune) or even the (slightly) less potent L99 6.2-liter V8. Our thinking being that a butt-kicking V8 would endow the CTS Coupe with performance worthy of its looks while smothering the competition without breaking the bank like the CTS-V is sure to do. For their part, Cadillac said "no," but we observed more than one suspicious smirk while they were answering. Either way, more power would do the Coupe wonders.
For the launch, Cadillac only had automatic-equipped Coupes on hand. A pity, sure, but we should point out that there's a less than thirty-pound weight penalty should you opt for the slushbox version (the manual Coupe weighs about 3,900 pounds, the automatic about 3,930, while the all-wheel drive Coupe, which is automatic-only, tips the scales at a hefty 4,100 pounds). The six-speed cogswapper performs quite well in both low-speed traffic situations and on back roads, where a heavy right-foot will convince the transmission to hold a gear until near redline. The wheel-mounted button-shifters work fine, and for the first time in a Cadillac, you don't need to move the gearshift into manual for the buttons to work. A very handy feature. If you do select a gear while in auto, the transmission moves in manual-mode for about ten seconds before reverting back to full-auto. The shifts, however, are on the slow side, and as far as we can ascertain, no dual-clutch transmission is in the immediate future.
As mentioned, the grip is copious if not prolific, in part due to the well sorted chassis and wider rear-track, though mostly, we suspect, because of the super-sticky Continental summer tires (245/19/40 front, 275/19/35 rear). For such a heavy two-door, the Cadillac is able to admirably change direction. At least as well as the G37, Audi A5 and E-Coupe, though its moves are not nearly as graceful and athletic as the thoroughbred BMW 3 Series. This is still good news, and a touch surprising when you compare the Coupe to the same-engined, similarly hefty Chevy Camaro. Again, this points to the inherent sportiness of the CTS' Nürburgring-tuned chassis. Remember, too, that come 2015, both the CTS and the Camaro is expected to ride on GM's new Alpha chassis, along with the upcoming Cadillac ATS, a dedicated 3 Series fighter.
The Coupe's ride isn't quite up to its handling. Cadillac has decided to go with floaty as opposed to tight and tied down. That makes the CTS Coupe something of a handful when the going gets really twisty. In fact, Cadillac made a point of offering us motion sickness hand wraps that they had procured after the previous day's drive. In fairness, we were turned loose on some rather excellent roads in California's Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties that would surely upset several stomachs no matter what car we were driving. We didn't get sick, nor did our passenger, but we found ourselves begging for firmer dampers and less bounce. Unlike the upcoming CTS-V Coupe, the regular flavor Coupe isn't available with GM's excellent MagneRide suspension, which is a shame.
At the end of the day, however, ride and handling, acceleration and even the interior aren't the point of the CTS Coupe. Style is, and in that regard Cadillac has grand-slammed it. Take a look at the competition. All of the previously mentioned Germans and Japanese two-doors simply can't hold a candle to the Coupe's glorious lines. The shape and the shape alone is what will attract buyers. And really, by taking the bold way out and "building the concept car," Cadillac has accomplished something we think is really, truly special. With the already gorgeous front end of the CTS coupled to the sculpted, athletic profile and sleek, groundbreaking rear, the Coupe is a powerful statement. Announcing that not only is GM on the road to recovery, but that Cadillac is once again ready to compete with the world's best.