If you’re a regular reader here you’ll already know that the Cadillac ATS is probably my personal favorite car on the market today.
I won’t bore you again with all of the reasons why, but I will tell you that Cadillac has made some meaningful updates for 2016. So I got behind the wheel of a 2016 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Luxury to check out just what the newest updates meant for my current favorite sports sedan.
To get right to the heart of the matter, the biggest update for 2016 is that the existing 3.6L V6 has been swapped for an all-new version, which now has a stop/start function as well as GM’s signature cylinder deactivation, known as Active Fuel Management. Both of these updates are aimed at saving fuel, and the V6 continues to boast the same 321 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque as the previous version. As usual with GM cylinder deactivation, the system works absolutely seamlessly and if it were not for the little icon in the gauge cluster, it’s nearly impossible to tell which mode you’re running on, very slick.
The stop/start function isn’t something I am fond of, in any application really. The few cents it might save on fuel is offset by the delayed starts, annoying sound, and shudder of the starter flipping over. In the ATS the system can be turned off using a button just below the shifter and I kept it off for most of my time with the car. Still, I maintained an average of 9.8L/100kms through my typical week of rush hour commuting. That’s only slightly worse than the 9.1L/100kms I recently averaged in the 2.0T version I tested the week prior, but the V6 is happy on regular 87-octane (Premium is recommended) while the four-cylinder turbo prefers Premium, so I like to think that fuel economy is a wash between the engines. Of note, the four-cylinder also gains the start/stop function for 2016.
In addition to some engine updates, 2016 also brings the new eight-speed automatic across the ATS lineup; again, in the name of fuel savings. Fortunately, the 8-speed is an exceptionally well-sorted transmission. When mated to the powerful V6 the combination is simply sublime. With the engine’s wide powerband and the transmission’s extra two cogs, the car is always in its peak. This means when you step on it, you immediately unleash everything the V6 has to offer in a smooth well-mannered fashion.
Around town and on the highway the new transmission hardly makes its presence known with quick and buttery-smooth shifts. I found the eight-speed to be slightly less at home when mated to the less powerful 2.0L, mostly because it has to shift much more often to keep the 2.0L working at its most efficient. Still, that’s an expected compromise to make anytime you choose a boosted four-cylinder over a naturally aspirated V6, and it’s the six’s linear power and smoothness that make it my personal favorite of the two.
Regardless of the powertrain, the Cadillac ATS’ chassis remains as great as it has always been – taunt and agile, yet gentle and relaxing when required. This chassis simply blew me away when I first tried it over two years ago, and it still puts a smile on my face every time I get behind the wheel. This is a car I can comfortably cruise for hours in and then, as soon as I hit the off-ramp, it’s awake and ready to dial in the apex.
The exterior of the ATS hides most of its recent upgrades, and the only way you’re going to spot a 2016 on the road is by looking for the badging on the trunk which has been moved further up than in previous years. 2016 also brings three new colors; Cocoa Bronze Metallic, Moonstone Metallic, and Stellar Black Metallic, at the expense of some less popular movers. Regardless, the ATS still maintains its bold Cadillac styling, while touches like the historic vertical tail lamps throw back to Cadillac as the pinnacle of North American luxury. I am also a big fan of the elegant looking LED lit door handles – it’s a small touch but it’s enough to set the car apart from everything else in the lot.
If I am going to gripe about one thing with the ATS it has to be the halogen headlamps equipped on my tester. At $57,000 this nearly fully loaded 3.6 Luxury model is far from the base trim. Curiously, it still doesn’t come with the signature Cadillac sinister looking vertical LED running lamps or even xenon headlamps. The halogens actually do cheapen the overall look significantly, and when compared to LED and HID options in competitors, lighting performance is lacking. If Toyota can have LED headlamps on every Corolla they sell, I am sure Cadillac can handle it.
Much like the exterior, the interior keeps most of its updates subtle. The biggest news for the cabin of the ATS is long list of updates that the tech engineers have made to Cadillac’s infotainment system, CUE. The impressive list includes increased speed and response, faster map loading and an all-new navigation interface. The upgrades also allow for Bluetooth media streaming, and now incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can really make good use of the gorgeous 8” touchscreen. I can honestly tell you that these upgrades have improved the function and usability of CUE dramatically. In my opinion it is no longer the weak point for Cadillac; and kudos to the team at GM who stuck with the system and got all the kinks worked out.
Tech updates aside, the Cadillac ATS remains a very, very nice place to be with great seats, controls and a very sharp looking instrument gauge cluster. Even the steering wheel feels great, is well finished and all major controls throughout the cabin are well executed. If Cadillac would make the effort to upgrade the headliner material in these upper trim level ATS’, it would undoubtedly be one of the best interiors in this segment.
The 2016 Cadillac ATS 3.6 is still at the top of its game, and all of the updates for this model year mean it’s ready to stand its ground against some seriously tough competition. I recently took a short drive in a new BMW 340i and I can tell you that it is a phenomenal driver’s car. I still maintain though, that the ATS is more than that. Sure it’s a very good driver’s car, but it’s the signature Cadillac style, elegance and comfort that has kept it at the top of my favorite’s list, and it surely won’t be easy to knock it off that pedestal.