The holy grail of sports coupedom is the BMW M4 – 425-horsepower and 60-mph from a standstill in 4.1 seconds, and the dance moves of a prima ballerina combined with a cheetah. And until now, maybe only Mercedes-Benz’s varied AMG products could take on the Bimmer for the golden ring of sports coupes. That was until now. Say hello to my new best friend – the ‘16 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe. It’s a compact two-door with twin-turbo 464-horse V-6 aimed right at BMW’s M4 coupe!
The base ATS has a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter Four, with a 2-liter turbocharged Four with 272-horsepower and a 335-horsepower V-6 available. But the compact Caddy king is our test coupe’s 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque through the rear wheels, below. You get a six-speed manual with rev match, no-lift shifting (keep the pedal down for full turbo boost as you change gears) and launch control. Or you can have our coupe’s eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift. The only issue – some second-to-first downshifts clunked.
The engine, suspension and eight-speed have four drive modes – Touring, Sport, Track or Snow/Ice. Dip deep in the throttle in Sport mode and our 5,000-mile-old V-6 growls mightily to about 6,200-rpm, spinning its rears briefly before hooking and hitting 60-mph in 4.5 seconds and 100-mph in 9.6. The on-board performance data recorder showed a quarter mile of 14.6 seconds, and 0-100-0 mph took 16 seconds.
Inside, active noise cancellation quiets down the interior, but Cadillac also funnels augmented exhaust noise inside to make the V-6 sound snarlier. Full throttle sounded like a meaty little V-8 with some V-6 snarl, and a nice overrun exhaust crackle. Sport and Track modes also blip the throttle on fast downshifts, and power is there almost anywhere across the band with no turbo peakiness. As for fuel mileage, we calculated about 15 mpg on premium.
The ATS-V’s Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires ride on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as other ATS models. But it gets a revised multi-link double-pivot MacPherson-strut front suspension with 50-percent greater roll stiffness. The five-link rear suspension gets stronger lateral control and anti-squat geometry with stiffer bushings, higher-rate springs and a stiffer stabilizer bar. And with more bracing, there’s 25-percent greater structural stiffness.
Magnetic Ride Control’s Sport or Track settings firm up suspension and steering feel, speed up throttle and engine response and lessen traction and stability control parameters. Touring gave us the most compliant ride feel, firm but with a softer edge over bumps during quickly managed rebound. In Sport, there was a firmer edge, but it still had a nice buffer on quick rebound over bumps.
The ATS-V was a willing corner carver, with just a touch of understeer when pushed into a turn, but easy to neutralize with throttle going out. It easily stitches successive corner together, never unsettled as we jinked left, then right. The coupe stayed fairly flat and neutral on our skidpad, a subtle bit of stability control to keep the nose or tail from straying the course when we pushed. In Track mode, we could power the tail out a bit more as the transmission stayed in the gear we wanted, but Stabilitrak was still there.
Or tap the steering wheel button to disable stability and traction control and smoke them if you want to. But even then, the balanced chassis and responsive throttle plus quick steering could catch the tail. The data recorder showed 1.25 Gs in lateral grip in the skidpad in second gear.
Turn-in was immediate, the steering feel precise, direct and full of feel. Sport and Track both offered almost a manual feel that communicated very well. With 14.5-inch front brake discs with six-piston calipers and 13.3-inch-diameter rears with four-piston calipers, the ATS-V stopped flat and straight from 100-mph. Repeated simulated panic stops from 60 mph showed no fade. The ATS-V’s wedge shape is augmented with an optional carbon fiber track package that added some serious-looking downforce-generating bits that make a hell of a statement in an arresting Red Obsession Clearcoat.
Cadillac says almost every exterior panel is unique on the ATS-V, and each element has a purpose – lift reduction, enhanced cooling or reduced mass. The V-shaped nose gets a big steel mesh upper grille with thin air intake at the hood’s leading edge. There’s a wide-mouth lower intake with dark accent above. Below, a deep glossy carbon fiber splitter wraps around the edges to reduce lift at speed – and catch a driveway or curb, so be careful. Functional side vents frame the lower intake. The lightweight carbon fiber hood gets a glossy weave vent that pulls hot air out and reduces lift by channeling air through the radiator and over the car.
Halogen headlights flow along the fenders’ outer curve, while bladed LED taillights bring an upper design line to a halt. A lower door sill flares with black aero pieces. The semi-fastback raked rear window flows into a short deck with NASCAR-style near-vertical spoiler. A carbon fiber lower aero piece houses four steel exhaust tips.
The ATS-V is an inch longer and wider and about 1.5 inches lower than the regular ATS Coupe. It lives on grippy, wide 18 x 9-inch front/18 x 9.5-inch rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber on 10-spoke polished alloy and gray alloy wheels with red Brembo disc brake calipers visible inside.
Step inside and you’re greeted by deep, supportive and comfortable high-back leather and suede Recaro bucket seats, 16-way-adjustable and trimmed in leather with suede inserts. The driver faces a central 200-mph speedometer, 8,000-rpm tach and gas and temperature gauges, with a center color trip computer that shows navigation, audio and fuel mileage, engine information and turbo boost. The power tilt/telescoping steering wheel gets a thick leather rim with long magnesium paddle shifters that are easy to access behind it.
Buff carbon fiber weave sweeps around the cabin. Dashboard center lives an eight-inch touchscreen for navigation, audio, climate control and telephone, part of CUE (Cadillac User Experience). When on, the navigation screen stays blissfully clear of buttons. But move your hand close and proximity sensors activate four main system “buttons” on top, and secondary ones on the bottom. Touch controls for volume, dual-zone temperature, fan speed, defrost and seat heaters live under the screen and work fairly well. Each touch is rewarded by a “thump” of haptic feedback. Voice command also worked well. What still doesn’t is the touch control to close the center dash panel that motors up to reveal a USB port and a smartphone inductive charging plate. I would tap and tap, and the door wouldn’t close.
The 10-speaker AM/FM/SiriusXM Bose surround sound system was powerful and free of distortion. It can pair entertainment and information data from up to 10 Bluetooth-enabled devices, with two USB slots, an MP3 input and SD card slot under the center armrest. The back seat is tough to get to past front seatbacks that don’t flip all the way and leave a shoulder belt to step over, the form-fitting seats offering minimal adult head and leg room. The seat backs split and fold to expand the narrow trunk, where the battery lives for weight balance.
What about that Performance Data Recorder? Slip an SD memory card into a slot in the small glove box, and a camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror captures on-board video with data overlays of speed, gear position, rpm, lateral G-loads, throttle and turbo boost, even 0 to 60 mph, 0 to 100 mph, quarter-mile and 0-100-0 times. It can record racetrack lap times. Pop out the card and watch your “hot laps” anywhere, or on the screen when parked. A 32 GB card promised 787 minutes recording time.
A base ‘16 Cadillac ATS Coupe with the 3-liter turbo four starts at $37,995, while our ATS-V with 464-horsepower twin turbo V-6 starts at $62,665 with lots listed above standard. Our test coupe’s $6,195 track performance package added a carbon fiber Aero package with front splitter, rear diffuser, tall tail spoiler and black rocker extensions as well as lightweight battery with floor mats, tire pump and sealant deleted. The Recaros were $2,300; eight-speed automatic was $2,000; navigation with Bose surround sound and a 110-volt plug another $1,085; $995 red metallic paint; $900 alloy wheels; $595 for red brake calipers; and $305 to replace the deleted tire sealant, pump and floor mats. Final price – $78,035 with destination.
For more information about Cadillac’s world challenging V-Series models, please visit http://www.cadillac.com/v-series.html