I must admit the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe looks like $90k.
With black-mesh upper and lower front grilles and a ducktail spoiler at the rear, plus carbon fibre hood louvers, more exposed CFRP for the front air splitter, rocker extensions, and race-ready rear diffuser that integrates four massive tailpipes, this near fully optioned American coupe is a teenager’s dream car wrapped up in a middle-aged CEO’s paycheck.
But is it worthy of comparison with the M4s and C 63 AMGs of this world?
I first experienced the Cadillac ATS-V’s 3.6L twin-turbo V6 in the CTS VSport, although to be clear this LF4 engine has been given a deep tissue massage since starting off as an LF3. The list of upgrades includes titanium connecting rods, new crankshaft counterweights, shorter intake runners, new turbos and wastegates for a bump from 12-18 psi, as well as higher-flow fuel injectors. All these changes result in 44 more horsepower and 25 additional lb-ft of torque over the VSport mill, or more specifically 464 horsepower and 455 lb-ft.
While the VSport comparo is useful to show progress with the powertrain, the ATS-V Coupe begs for comparison to the BMW M4, Lexus RC F, and the upcoming 2017 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe and Infiniti Q60 Red Sport (Audi’s RS 5 is temporarily unavailable).
First, along with that powerhouse engine, the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe benefits from either a rev-matching 6-speed manual transmission with unique No-Lift Shift capability (just bury the throttle and go for it) or optionally GM’s homemade 8-speed automatic transmission boasting magnesium paddle shifters that flick through slightly refined Corvette gearing and an electronic limited-slip differential.
You get a 1,678kg RWD coupe that sprints from 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds, aided by launch control. That’s just as quick as the slightly lighter, less powerful M4, and the slightly heavier, more powerful C 63 Coupe, not to mention almost a half-second quicker than the RC F and more than a half-second faster than the 400-horsepower Q60 Red Sport.
In summary, the ATS-V is more potent, lighter, and a bit quicker than the average competitor from the list above. It’s also available with a manual gearbox, something purists will love. I had no such luck with my automatic-equipped tester, but then again it’s probably best to test a car the way most owners will spec it.
The Cadillac ATS-V Coupe’s standing start is so explosive that my right hand wasn’t pulling paddle prompts fast enough to keep the tach from slamming into redline. However, once I took my eyes off that left-side needle and started listening to engine revs, the process became flawless. Driven that way, the ATS-V is a dynamo, but even more impressive was its stability at speed.
Agile like a world-class athlete
This machine feels tight and actually is thanks to 25% increased torsional rigidity compared with the regular ATS Coupe. The extra bracing even includes an aluminum skid plate sealing off the base of the front subframe. That stability I just mentioned comes via a 5mm wider front track, while the rear track decreases by almost 8 mm, although the V’s beefier 255/35R18 front and 275/35R18 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires make for a broader footprint overall. Meanwhile, the ZF-sourced, variable-ratio electric power steering is said to be 14% sharper, and it certainly felt more precise during turn-in.
As for the suspension, spring rates are up by 50% all around, while third-generation Magnetic Ride Control dampers combine with upgraded bushings and ball joints for impressive command of the road no matter the lateral load or condition of tarmac. At the same time, the ride is surprisingly composed. What’s more, the Cadillac ATS-V Coupe comes standard with competition-spec traction and stability control systems offering five uniquely tuned modes ― Wet, Dry, Sport 1, Sport 2, Race ― on top of the regular drive modes that include Tour, Sport, Track, and Snow/Ice.
Brembo supplies the cease-and-desist orders, the ATS-V getting 14.6” front rotors clamped by 6-piston calipers, while 13.3” rear discs receive the squeeze from 4-piston units, all resulting in near-immediate stopping power. Making things easier is a lightweight body shell and chassis incorporating ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum, and other advanced materials.
All of this go-fast excitement is wonderful for those rare occasions where a twisty ribbon of pavement happens to show up at the exact moment your significant other falls asleep in the reclined passenger seat, but in reality we need to live with our performance choice day in and day out. So, while there’s still ample opportunity for double posted fun on highway entry ramps and cloverleaves during regular commutes, there must also be a modicum of comfort and accommodation. To this end, the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe is ideal for tooling around town at more relaxed speeds, hardly a chore to park, and not even too bad at the pump with a 5-cycle rating of 14.7L/100km city and 9.8L/100km highway with the autobox (14.2 and 10.2, respectively, with the manual). Premium gas is required, mind you.
The Recaros up front are two of the best seats I’ve tested all year, both for comfort and performance. Heck, a 6’9” friend had no problem climbing into the driver’s seat. The two seats in the back are best left to smaller folks, though. Likewise, the trunk is just 294 litres, but 60/40-split seatbacks allow for longer items when needed.
Fantastic interior appointments
The Cadillac ATS-V Coupe’s interior is a feast for all senses. I’ll get the cheap, hard plastic lower door panels out of the way first, because the rest of the cabin is over the top with standard carbon fibre inlays, aluminum accents, sueded microfibre trim, and “hand-selected” Mulan leather detailing. It’s beautifully done, with additional surfaces finished in piano black lacquer, bins and pockets lined in velvet, and electronic displays boasting high resolution.
The reconfigurable primary gauge cluster might be more basic than the RC F’s full TFT panel, but it works in conjunction with an optional head-up display as well as the CUE infotainment system atop the centre stack. The latter features a flick and swipe-capable 8” touchscreen with feedback vibrations, plus the usual standard and optional amenities including a backup camera, accurate navigation, enhanced voice recognition, superb Bose audio, easy phone setup with Apple CarPlay, etc. A row of digital buttons pops up across the bottom of the display when actuating the touch-sensitive controls on the audio and dual-zone automatic HVAC interfaces just below.
Of note, you can upgrade the infotainment system with a class-exclusive Performance Data Recorder (PDR) that analyzes and shares your track data, including front camera video, in-cabin audio, and performance metrics such as 0-60mph sprints, lap times, and g-force (no Pokémon Go captures, sorry). Behind the interface, which actually powers up to expose a hidden compartment, is wireless charging, while 4G LTE Wi-Fi is available.
Complaints? I have only one: The drive mode selector’s 3-button system requires multiple prompts to engage a given function. It should be improved with a simpler rocker switch or dial. The fact that it returns to default Tour mode when restarting the car exacerbates the problem. Considering the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe’s $68,305 base price, which is thousands less than any competitor, I could look past this annoying issue in four seconds flat.
A value leader?
Still, before you get too excited about the V’s value proposition, remember that many of the features mentioned are optional, with all the carbon bits adding $5,755, the red brake calipers another $625, the automatic gearbox $2,345, the Recaros $2,645, adaptive HID headlamps, alloy pedals, navigation, Bose audio and more coming with the $2,595 Luxury package, and the head-up display part of a $2,225 Safety & Security package that also includes auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. PDR is standalone at $1,430 or part of a $6,835 Track Performance package that also includes the CFRP aero bits.
My tester, which didn’t include the $330 suede-trimmed steering wheel or the $1,395 sunroof, added $18,765 in options for an as-tested price of $87,070 before freight and dealer fees. Build an M4 with similar features, and it’ll only set you back a few thousand more, so choosing one over the other isn’t about price.
Everything said, the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe is a worthy entrant into this upper echelon of super-sport coupes and sedans. Cadillac realizes its slice of the performance pie will be slim at best, but that’s fine because it’s building brand credibility and worker morale as much as it’s trying to lure in new buyers, even if these prospective owners will more likely purchase a $50,000 ATS or XT5. That’s too bad, of course, as it would be wonderful to see more carbon-trimmed ATS-V Coupes filling my rear-view mirror.