- Helping you drive happy

2016 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0L Turbo Performance AWD Review

My father was a sales executive at a global transportation company for many years until about 15 years ago, when he retired. He had new company cars offered to him every other year, and without fail they were always large sedans capable of carrying four or even five adults in comfort.

These were the days before Skype, Google Hangout and other such reliable web-based means of group communication. It was therefore important to have a large car to pick up colleagues when meetings were held.

If it made sense back then to drive a large car, today’s execs need not really bother with four doors or even a large trunk. This is where business coupes like the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series and Cadillac ATS coupe come in. These personal means of transportation are as sleek as they are functional, and good to drive.

I don’t much care for coupes, but these cars pretty much suffer no compromise other than reaching the rear bench, which can be a pain in the ass. Otherwise, they are all part of a very interesting and appealing crop of cars. The Cadillac -- for far more reasons than the name alone -- is possibly the most attractive.

And when I say attractive, I mean damn good looking! The ATS sedan is quite new on the car scene, having been introduced in 2013, but its influence on the Caddy showroom is noticeable. The latest CTS arrived but a year later, and suddenly Cadillac was hot. Throw in the ATS coupe and you might begin to think that the Germans don’t have all the answers.

The latest crop of Caddys all share one of the most novel uses of LEDs and they are unmistakable. The long sectioned vertical lines are powerful and decisive, and very boss. Beyond that, I love the sculpted angles and the ATS’ proportions. My only negative comment is about the “painted crest” (contemporary, as GM calls it), it looks cartoonish to me.

Upscale cabin
The 2016 ATS’ cabin is smart and very upscale. I did find a few portions of the dashboard that failed to line up, and a few other fit-and-finish bugs. The materials, however, are top-notch and I can’t stress enough how great the revised for ’16 Cadillac Cue infotainment system is. Never has entering a destination in a nav system been so easy and straightforward. As well, finding one’s way through the menus is a breeze, and the graphics are tops.

From there, the front seats are cozy and supportive, and their occupants are treated to loads of room. Stupid thing, but if you and the passenger purchase medium coffees and want to set them up in the cup-holders to cool off, best drive easy ‘cause they don’t fit well at the same time…

Active annoyances
This would be a good time to bring up the ATS’ endless list of active safety features. No, I won’t name too many of them but be warned that the car is covered in hyperactive sensors. Lane keeping, collision warning and parking assists are intrusive and downright annoying. For example, backing up and creeping forward into tight parking spots stresses the car so much that it abruptly stops mid-manoeuvre; the first few times, I thought I’d crashed into something. Perhaps a recalibration is in order.

When driving the car is mostly left up to the driver, the ATS coupe proves to be a solid, well rounded and pleasant machine. The first indication of this comes from the vehicle’s AWD system. When the driver throws down on the throttle, the front wheels hook up immediately and all the torque is put to good use. Making sure that this happens is the transmission’s job.

Too many gears?!
The 2016 model year brought with it a number of improvements, according to GM, including an 8-speed autobox. Now normally, I’m OK with 8 gears -- most of them have performed admirably well (compared to any 9-speed) in FCA cars, Porsches, and many others. Unfortunately, this one fell short of my expectations.

From a dead stop, throttle response is good so the Caddy does not suffer from annoying lag as does the Chevrolet Colorado. The problem is an old story: The more cogs a transmission has to deal with, the longer it takes for it and its brain to find the right gear, select it and get on with its job. While it’s not as prevalent as it is with the Acura TLX, but I think I was happier with the 6-speed autobox. Fuel consumption may have improved; on paper you’ll still average about 11.5L/100km.

2.0L turbo!
If the transmission was less than stellar, the opposite applies to the Caddy’s sweet turbocharged 2.0L 4-pot. Punching out 272 horsepower and a whopping 295 lb-ft of torque, this mill is all about good times. Max torque is on tap at 3,000 rpm and holds steady up to 4,600. By 5,500 rpm, all horses are lined up. In fact, this engine generates 10 more torques than the optional 3.6L V6, and at lower rpm. There are no holes in its powerband -- I can only imagine how much fun it must be with the available 6-speed manual.

Where the ride is concerned, the Caddy is on par with the Germans. True story. The “sport tuned” suspension features a rear five-link independent setup, which not only provides effortless control but an appreciable level of comfort. Roll, pitch and dive are minimal and grip levels are much higher than the average driver will ever reach.

Handling king
The ATS is endowed with a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, which further aids in the car’s stability, but I must say that the ZF variable assist electric power steering plays a large role in making this car drive as well as it does. As per the norm, feedback is limited but the weight behind the wheel is always perfect and precision is very good. I also really enjoyed the powerful brakes and their responsive pedal.

The Cadillac ATS coupe provides its occupants with a sense of strength, power, and confidence that is not only palpable, but also real. I really truly adored this car. If I was to complain about one other thing, I’d ask -- no, tell -- GM to trash the stupid digitized funnelling of the engine sound into the cabin or, at least, give the owner the option to shut it off. I hate that sh*t.

Good money
At $58,725 as tested, this 2-door is not cheap, but an equally trimmed A5 2.0T or 428i are within a grand or two of each other. A trip to your Cadillac dealer is good idea, in my opinion.

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