The Cadillac ATS is an all-American car, in coupe or sedan form, as good as the best of the German sports sedan or coupes.
The 2017 Cadillac ATS, the fourth year of this generation, is powered by two excellent engines, a turbocharged four-cylinder or silky powerful V6. The 2.0-turbo makes 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, with an 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. The 3.6-liter V6 makes 335 hp and 285 lb-ft, mated to an 8-speed automatic.
All-wheel drive is available.
The 2.0 turbo with the 6-speed manual is a sleeper, a real live Cadillac sports sedan, with real live changing of gears, more torque than the V6, riding on a superb chassis and stiff suspension. It’s like the little brother of the ATS-V.
The vigorous and enthusiastic ATS-V is Cadillac’s worthy challenger to the BMW M3 and the Mercedes C63 AMG. It uses a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 making 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated either a 6-speed manual with rev-matching or an ultra-fast 8-speed automatic.
The ATS earns five stars from the crash-testing feds, and not yet tested by the insurance people. Features such as blind-spot monitors and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking come standard on the upscale models. The ATS four-cylinder gets about 25 miles per gallon combined, on premium fuel. The ATS-V with the eight-speed gets about 19.
The 2017 Cadillac ATS offers coupe and sedan in three trim levels, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Premium Performance. Standard equipment includes fabric upholstery, rearview camera, 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and Bluetooth. Options include leather upholstery and head-up display. Premium Performance models have adjustable dampers (shock absorbers) and a limited-slip rear differential.
Cadillac ATS Premium models come with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, and a seat that vibrates to warn the driver of something.
ATS-V includes CUE infotainment system, which includes OnStar, WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, voice recognition, text-to-voice reading, and Apple CarPlay. Options include a Performance Data Recorder, enabling a track-day driver to record video, while gathering data such as acceleration, grip, steering angle, braking pressure, throttle input, and overlay graphs of laps, on the 5.7-inch touchscreen.
The ATS is distinctive in its styling, distinctively Cadillac, with many more edges than its German competitors, all of them well done. The beak and butt of the American ATS are more chiseled than the German cars. The ATS Coupe boasts a character line that runs the length of the car, and lines that are crisp and handsome. The ATS has good proportions, a long hood and athletic stance.
Coupe or sedan, ATS-V has a presence. Aero kit. Bigger front fascia, wider fenders, larger alloy wheels, fatter tires, twin pipes, domed hood.
The ATS cabin is warm, plush and crafted. It’s relaxed and ergonomic, draped in wood, leather and metal. The centerstack is cool and high-tech, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen. The CUE infotainment system is improved, and shines. The CUE system uses haptic feedback systems that can be frustrating, but it cleans up clutter in the cabin when traveling with a phone or iPod. A wireless charging mat lives in a secret compartment behind the screen.
In front there’s plenty of room and the deep sport buckets are comfortable.
In back it’s a tight fit, with 33 inches of legroom well short of the BMW and Benz.
There isn’t much trunk space either, well below the Audi and Infiniti.
In the coupe, entry and exit can be tricky.
A noise cancellation system keeps the cabin quiet.
The ATS-V is available with Recaro seats with suede accents, but standard cabin materials are about right for the price. Some trim details don’t meet the level of the Mercedes C63 AMG. However when compared to the BMW M3 and M4, the ATS-V feels a step ahead in its leather seats and its metal and plastic trim.
It’s a good thing that different wheels and tires are available, because the ride is just stiff and feeds enough back that you might want to take a test drive to find the ride that suits you. Adjustable dampers are available, but the ride might not be better than standard with them.
The 272 horsepower from the 2.0 turbo in the ATS is more than the four-cylinder turbos in the Mercedes C300 or BMW 328i. It accelerates to sixty mph in less than six seconds, punching above its weight class. It’s agile, eager, and quick to comply.
The direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 is super-smooth and powerful. It makes the ATS a long-legged cruiser. The 8-speed automatic is seamless.
With either engine, the chassis offers composure, confidence, and precision. The ZF electric power steering contributes much to that, a nice light touch in Normal mode. Sport made makes it firmer but not quicker; we like that the steering ratio isn’t variable, it makes the car more predictable. In the dynamic department, the ATS smokes the field, except for the BMW, which it matches.
The available FE3 sport suspension uses dampers with magnetically charged fluid that vary their stiffness depending on road surface. GM’s Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) came from the Corvette, and continues to flatten the road. However the standard ATS suspension balances cornering and ride well, even with the wider 18-inch wheels and tires, (Brembo brakes come with them).
The ATS-V is a monster V6, with 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque, thanks to twin-turbocharging the 3.6 liters. It’s rear-wheel drive. The electronic limited-slip differential keeps the power at optimum balance between the rear wheels. The paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic is poised on the track, thanks to its sophistication. The Performance Traction Management stability and traction control system is adjustable.
The ATS-V is remarkably easy to drive, with an alive feel that some rivals lack. It was developed at the challenging Nurburgring, a benchmark circuit that’s a surefire signal that a manufacturer is serious about handling. It’s also in the backyard of BMW and Mercedes, a place where Cadillac does not fear to tread.
The body is very stiff, braced at the shock towers, rockers, subframe and engine bay. Huge Brembo brakes, to bring you down from an easy 120. It gets a bit squirmy, thanks to 3700 pounds of curb weight pushing on relatively narrow 255 front tires.
We think the Cadillac ATS has it all. It’s a stylish coupe or sedan with styling that holds up, a smooth fast engine, sharp transmission, tight responsive handling, and a quality cabin with great leather. The ATS-V is one of a kind. Buy one. We would.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports from The Car Connection.