A beautiful chassis mated to a great engine
The conversation piece around the ATS is the chassis; it’s just incredible. It’s a party animal in a business suit.
Cadillac has come a long way from their previous reputation of producing solely large land-yachts such as the Deville and Eldorado. Seeing their lineup in the 1950s and 1960s, it seemed as though they had a very long road ahead before they could compete in the sport-oriented line other General Motors brands were in. Later, they did achieve this with the likes of the XLR, CTS-V, and even the XLR-V. When the CTS-V hit the streets, I was instantly won over by the torque and horsepower numbers. The 2014 Cadillac ATS 3.6 I spent a week with is supposed to be the next best thing – let’s see if it met my expectations.
My tester is the ATS 3.6 AWD, fitted with the 3.6L direct-injected V6 shared with vehicles like the Impala and even the new CTS. In this application, it puts out 321 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque, available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The car was also painted in a White Diamond Tri-Coat finished with a Caramel leather interior. Equipped with Cadillac’s new “CUE” infotainment system, it came pretty well-equipped.
The engineering that went into developing the ATS is actually quite astonishing. GM engineers wanted a lightweight chassis, a real departure from the original techniques used on Cadillac models. Being hundreds of pounds lighter than the CTS and about 9” shorter in length, the fine gents over at Cadillac are doing all the right things here. The styling alone gives the ATS a European stance; it looks absolutely brilliant. Everything to do with this design is very, very good – the front grille isn’t too busy-looking, the shoulder-lines and rear end look beautifully Cadillac but have European lines. It is definitely the best-looking Cadillac to date in my eyes.
In North America, the ATS has three engine offerings – the base 2.5L I-4, a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder (270 horsepower), and this 3.6L V6 my car came with. The exhaust setup on this 3.6 sounds incredible when you put your foot down. The sound this car produces at high RPMs is something I can’t get over; I found myself muting the stereo and enjoying the raw soundtrack of the car. A 6-speed manual would be an enthusiast’s dream, but let’s face it, it’s now the year 2014 and a manual in a V6-powered luxury car is all but extinct. Surprisingly though, this particular ATS’ 6-speed automatic transmission sounds and feels a bit like a double-clutch system when shifting manually. My gripe with my car though is the lack of paddle shifters – this should be standard equipment in this engine configuration. That aside, I found the different available drive modes (Tour, Sport, Snow/Ice) very satisfying.
Unsurprisingly for a Canadian winter, we encountered a heavy snowfall during my week with the ATS. For the most part, this meant staying off the roads. However, I felt that it would be a shame to have the all-wheel-drive ATS4 sitting on the driveway. I pressed the drive mode selector into “Snow/Ice” and turned off the stability control systems. This made for a truly enjoyable and well-composed beast like no other. The lack of winter tires didn’t even slow this Cadillac down; this thing gripped as though I had suction cups for tires and was truly unstoppable. Even during the devastating ice storm over Christmas, the ATS never left me stranded.
The 2014 ATS came with the Cadillac “CUE” infotainment system based around a touchscreen similar to those on our smart-devices. Hidden away in the dashboard is a neat storage spot with a USB port to store media devices. CUE works quite well when it isn’t being sluggish, but can become cumbersome when trying to perform simple tasks. I found that using voice commands makes the system much more responsive. The Bluetooth audio streaming and voice quality over handsfree calls were also top-notch, and I had no complaints over the course of my week. Much like in the XTS Vsport we just tested, the instrument cluster is (partially) configurable and makes browsing high-volume media devices much simpler.
With an as-tested price of just over $50,000, the 2014 Cadillac ATS4 3.6 is a direct competitor to the likes of the BMW 335i and Audi S4. If you choose not to opt for the 3.6L motor, the 2.0T is just as competitive and is also available with a 6-speed manual! The conversation piece around the ATS is the chassis; it’s just incredible. It’s a party animal in a business suit – the 9.8L/100km it returned after some spirited driving is just proof in the pudding that it’s worth every cent they want for it. Colour me sold!