The real V is back! | This is a true challenger against the immensely popular European models.
Cadillac’s ATS took the North American automotive industry by surprise. I’ll be the first to admit I had my doubts when Cadillac announced they were going head-to-head with the segment benchmark, the BMW 3-series. However, any doubts I may have had were quickly washed away after I spent two weeks during the holidays of Christmas 2013 with a brand new ATS sedan with the 3.6L engine. The chassis was fantastic and the car had so much potential; I even liked the 3.6L as the top-of-the-line motor. Fast forward a year and a half and after many teasers, I finally got behind the wheel of the 2015 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe at a media event
First off; this car looks fantastic from every angle. The one area Cadillac is excelling in right now is with regards to styling. Over the past couple years, the new CTS, Escalade, and even the XTS boast aggressive styling that’s unlike anything else in the industry and is uniquely Cadillac. Even the regular ATS took us by surprise and modernized the Art & Science design to the next level. This coupé was given a dashing metallic red paint scheme and had great black leather interior. The ATS-V gets unique ground effects and a front splitter to isolate it from the regular model, and gets quad tailpipes that emit a boisterous growl. The grille has the new sportier Cadillac shield logo, and the V gets a unique upper and lower grille design, as well as a new hood. Out back, there’s a large lip spoiler off the trunklid that is easily my favourite spoiler design out there right now, and sets off the rest of the car strikingly.
Apart from the conspicuous styling, there’s a lot more to the ATS-V than meets the eye. The engine is a 3.6L twin-turbocharged V6, and yes, this is the same block that’s used in the CTS Vsport and XTS Vsport. What makes it truly unique is the fact that the entire thing has been thoroughly reworked for the ATS-V, including pistons, titanium rods, and a crank that are all new. It dishes out 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque (at 3500RPM), and can sprint to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. The model I sampled was equipped with the 6-speed manual, definitely the choice I’d have if I were shopping. These numbers put the ATS-V right in line with the BMW M4 and the Audi RS5, a great group to be in.
An additional benefit to this transmission, a Tremec unit, is the amount of technology packed into it. It automatically rev-matches downshifts for maximum performance, as well as implementing a no-lift upshift feature. This means you can keep the throttle planted while snapping through upshifts on hard acceleration, allowing the ATS-V to scoot to highway speeds like a deer during hunting season. The optional automatic transmission is the in-house 8-speed unit that we have previously seen in the CTS Vsport. It’s a very good gearbox as well, and sports quick and effortless downshifts.
Where the ATS has always been a winner is in the dynamic department – the chassis is excellent, and GM’s Magnetic Ride Control makes all the difference with regards to suspension. This system is now in its third generation and is better than ever. The rest of the suspension has been stiffened up significantly, and the electronic differential helps deliver grip for days on end. I found myself taking some corners with far more confidence than I ever have with a Cadillac before, and the ATS-V handled them like a true champion. Adjusting the drive mode to “Track” opens everything up and the car comes alive. The steering setup adjusts with the drive mode as well, and the on-center feel is bang-on. There’s absolutely no hesitation or lag whatsoever and the car is extremely confidence-inspiring.
This is a car that would truly come alive in a track setting; one we weren’t able to experience during our drive. It’s safe to assume though that with all of the great technology on board, the Cadillac is able to give even the most amateur drivers a ridiculous amount of assurance, and handle all types of situations with ease. The rear-wheel-drive setup means turning off the neutering nannies allows you to kick the back end out and perform fluidly if the desire arises.
When driving the Cadillac ATS-V, we took careful note of the fuel mileage, because this is a car that, just like the regular ATS, should be drivable on a daily basis. We observed numbers as low as 10.4L/100km on the highway, trying to keep the engine out of boost. However, our average consumption using 91-octane premium fuel was nearing dangerously close to the 14L/100km mark. Of course, a huge contributor to this would be the fact that the quad exhaust pipes emit a loud “blat” every time the throttle is engaged.
On the inside though, the ATS-V isn’t all that different from the regular ATS Coupé. The interior gets some unique bits like a “V” logo on the steering wheel, Recaro seats, and unique gauges that are very obviously performance-oriented. However, the main switchgear is the same, and the CUE infotainment system is also identical to that in every other Cadillac available right now. Things are exactly where you would expect them to be, and the hidden compartment behind the CUE touch panel I have come to like is still present in this car.
There may be some neat tricks, but the ATS-V is not without its flaws. CUE is still a work in progress, but it seems to be getting slightly better every time I drive it. I just wish that Cadillac would do away with the system entirely and implement one with a few buttons for ease of use, especially for older folks who may not want literally every part of their car to have touch sensitivity. Personally, I love the car so much that I would easily take it over either the BMW M4 or the new Mercedes-Benz C63, only because I like the sound of the engine (synthesized as it may be) far more than the piped-in noises in both M4s we’ve sampled over the past year.
With its as-tested sticker just under $80,000, the 2015 Cadillac ATS-V is a true challenger against the immensely popular European models. This is no small feat for Cadillac to have accomplished, especially considering the Germans have been at this for significantly longer. The car itself is dynamically perfect and a dream to drive, and it’s a modernized beauty to look at. The interior is still only at the “satisfactory” level, but I can only imagine it will be improved in forthcoming freshenings and facelifts. Regardless, this is a car I wouldn’t have to think twice before adding to my personal stable, and I look forward to spending time with its sedan counterpart later this year.