The bottom line is that the ATS-V is absolutely a formidable contender against the best.
In the world of luxury performance vehicles, most people look toward the Europeans and the Japanese, with iconic product lines such as the BMW M, Mercedes AMG, Nissan GT-R (reviewed here), and the Toyota Supra. Cadillac doesn’t exactly have the same long lineage that the others do, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting in fantastic efforts over the last decade. With the original Corvette V8-powered Cadillac CTS-V in 2004, General Motors’ luxury division has been injecting copious amounts of fun into their cars while maintaining a certain touch of class that your uncle’s old Chevrolet could never match.
Successive iterations of V products have always been powerful bruisers that also happen to be able to carve a corner, and the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe is no exception. The baby Caddy receives similar treatment as its bigger CTS-V (reviewed here) brother, with race-ready hardware and a metric ton of horsepower. GM Canada recently sent over a Crystal White Tricoat example for the DoubleClutch.ca Magazine editorial team to test, and no time was wasted in getting the ATS-V out onto the backroads of Ontario cottage country.
Starting at a base price of $68,055, the test car was equipped with a multitude of options and packages. A $5,755 Carbon Fibre Package gives the ATS-V a carbon fibre front splitter, hood vent, and rear diffuser, as well as composite (non-carbon) rocker extensions and rear spoiler. $2,595 adds the luxury package, which includes high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, CUE multimedia with navigation, Bose audio, head-up display, as well as blind spot and forward collision warnings in addition to lane keeping assist. $2,595 gets you Recaro performance front seats, and $1,430 adds a performance data and video recorder. Among other options, total as-tested price comes to $87,915. With such a spread between base and optioned-out pricing, this puts the ATS-V smack dab in the middle of its arch-rivals, the BMW M2 (reviewed here) and M4. This leads to the $64,000 question (okay, $68,055) – can the Caddy keep up?
On the outside, the ATS-V Coupe manages to pull off a very striking design, with plenty of straight lines and gentle curves by way of the latest iteration of Cadillac’s design language. The carbon fibre add-ons create an aesthetically pleasing contrast between the dark weave of the carbon and the Crystal White Tricoat paint. The proportions between the front and rear are done well, and the ATS translates well when comparing between both coupe and sedan. Polished 18-inch aluminum wheels are smaller in diameter than the 19 and 20-inch offerings seen in other cars, but this is very much function over form – the lighter 18-inch setup will perform and handle better.
Unlike the fire-breathing CTS-V, the ATS-V doesn’t get boosted big V8 power, but instead receives a heavily worked, twin-turbocharged version of GM’s High Feature 3.6-litre V6. Peak output is a face-rearranging 464 horsepower at 5,850 rpm, and there’s 445 lb-ft of torque at only 3,500 rpm. With a 6,500 rpm redline, the ATS-V slingshots from zero to breakneck speeds in no time at all. Compared to, say, a naturally aspirated V8 making the same power (like the ATS-V’s Alpha platform-mate Chevrolet Camaro SS), throttle response isn’t quite as good, but turbo lag is still very manageable.
Thankfully, when moving at a brisk pace and at higher revs, the turbo stays in its sweet spot. The soundtrack also isn’t as good as a V8 or straight six (as used in the BMW M2/M4), but the Cadillac still sounds good, for a V6. Sadly, the ATS-V does pump fake sound through the speakers to enhance the driving experience, despite the exhaust system itself being reasonably loud. Those left behind in the Caddy’s dust will at least have something nice to listen to!
For those looking to keep operational costs a bit lower, the ATS-V is able to return more than respectable fuel economy. Rated at 14.7 L/100km in the city and 9.8 L/100km on the highway, observed test economy was an impressive 10.0 L/100km. This was achieved with mostly highway driving, but also with a heavy right foot. When cruising on the open road, it shouldn’t be difficult at all to beat the nominal numbers. As expected, the ATS-V takes premium fuel only, and a fuel tank capacity of only 60.5 litres means that you might be stopping for fuel a little more often than expected.
Two transmission options exist for the ATS-V – a six-speed manual, and as in the case of the test vehicle, GM’s 8-speed “8L90” automatic. For daily driving in full automatic mode, this transmission is always in the right gear, never hunting or shifting too often, even though it has so many ratios to choose from. When giving it the beans in manual mode (via shifter or steering-wheel mounted paddles), upshifts are lightning fast and may almost rival decent dual-clutch gearbox setups from the likes of BMW or Audi, but not quite like that of Porsche’s gold-standard PDK (reviewed here). Unfortunately, downshifts aren’t nearly as good, owing to the fact that the rev matching operation and gear engagement was slower and not as smooth. While the 8-speed is good, for an automatic, most driving enthusiasts will prefer the slick-shifting six-speed manual.
After driving through the twisty secondary highways in the Muskoka, Ontario area, the Cadillac ATS-V proves that it’s more than just a pretty face. The 255/35R18 front and 275/35R18 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires let the Cadillac stick to the road like glue, and the steering feel is among the best in today’s new era of electric power steering. General Motors’ Alpha platform is an absolute revelation, and the ATS-V shows an amazing amount of confidence in corners. The limits of grip are very high and neutral, and the car responds very well to mid-corner steering and throttle inputs, thanks largely in part to Magnetic Ride Control suspension. As well, a series of different driving modes (Touring, Sport, Track) help cater the ATS-V’s suspension firmness and stability control assists to the task at hand. Keeping the setting in Touring mode is soft enough for most daily driving, and means that the ATS-V won’t punish your spine on rougher roads.
Brembo provides great braking power to go with the Cadillac’s 464 horsepower, with 14.5-inch diameter front rotors and six piston calipers up front, and 13.3-inch diameter rotors and four piston calipers out back. Pedal feel, as with the regular ATS, is among the best compared to all cars that the DoubleClutch.ca Magazine team has tested, let alone vehicles in its own class.
Moving inside, the ATS-V features a fairly monochromatic interior – there’s plenty of black and gray to go around, accented by typical GM chrome accents and bezels. It’s well put together and serves its purpose well, but the shiny piano black trim will attract plenty of fingerprints. The optional Recaro seats have large bolsters and are very supportive, but finding a comfortable seating position took a couple days – it may be more cost effective to stick to the regular seats.
Finally, the Cadillac CUE multimedia system is long overdue for improvement. While it’s been updated and is better than the disastrous early years of counterintuitive CUE seen in the CTS (reviewed here) and base ATS models, the full touch operation of the “buttons” on the centre stack still takes some getting used to, and still requires the driver to take their eyes off the road. Thankfully, a preview to a new version of CUE has been tested in the new XT5 crossover (first drive review here), and will serve to quell many of the complaints of the old system. As with many other 2016 model year vehicles, Apple Carplay and Android Auto support are also included.
When it comes to the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe, the bottom line is that it is absolutely a formidable contender against the likes of the heavy-hitting BMW M2, M3, and M4. The pricing is competitive against all three, and the driving dynamics and performance levels are comparable, if not better. All feature forced-induction six cylinder power, but the ATS-V can boast more horsepower (464 versus 425 in the M4). The Achilles heel of the Cadillac lies with the interior – while very nice, the CUE system can’t quite hold a candle to BMW’s iDrive and takes some extra time to get used to. Considering that the multimedia system is just about the only disadvantage that the that the ATS-V has against its competitors, Cadillac and General Motors can pat themselves on the back for a job well done, as they’ve created a wonderful machine that will likely become a future classic.