I'm going to skip the normal introductory hyperbole and get right down to it, the Cadillac ATS Coupe is the kind of car that anyone will enjoy but nobody will lust after. It is a solidly crafted vehicle, one that you can tell the designers took their damn time with and didn't compromise save for a handful of instances. It is those seemingly minor compromises that not only cost it the top spot in the ultra competitive sport coupe segment but actually end up pushing it off the podium all together. If you wanna go toe to toe with the best, you've got to nail every detail and while the ATS is very, very good, it's not truly great, not yet anyway.
(Full Disclosure: Cadillac wanted me to drive the ATS Coupe so bad that they collected my personal data from Google, found out that I've got a penchant for Soul, R&B and Funk, then set about building a coupe that is the perfect place to enjoy any of those aforementioned styles of music. They included enough gas to drive around for days on end bumping Teddy Pendergrass with the windows down, which is exactly what one is inspired to do when driving a pearl white Cadillac coupe.)
In my opinion the hallmark of a great car is that it makes you contemplate all the ways that you could get one when it is decidedly outside of realm of possibility. The ATS Coupe didn't jumpstart scheme machine in my noggin but it did make me contemplate how a RWD sport coupe would fit into my life. Growing up in Vermont I needed a vehicle that could accommodate multiple people and all their gear for whatever the day had in store. I enjoyed being "the driver" in my group of friends and it remained that way for many years.
However times have changed and I rarely find myself with more than one passenger in my vehicle. This got me thinking, do I really need a car with more than two doors? I mean as long as its got decent trunk space and the rear seats fold down, most coupes would be functional enough to avoid any headaches in daily life.
So if a sport coupe can meet a person's practical needs, then it need only be equally as desirable on an emotional level in order to be the perfect car. The ATS Coupe certainly appeals to the heart, after all two door Cadillacs are an American institution, woven into our cultural DNA throughout the 20th century. The problem Caddy has to address is that most people think of them as big cruisers, well suited for Sunday drives to the tabernacle or transporting the morbidly obese. The ATS 2.0T is most certainly not that car. True, it is able to cruise around town, calm, composed, comfortable but you can just tell it's itching to cut loose.
My tester was equipped with the 6spd automatic not the 6spd manual which I got just a brief taste of last summer during a press day. The manual was very good and I would love to spend a week with it (*hint hint* Cadillac) to further explore how it differs from the automatic in terms of personality. When approaching a canyon road, in an automatic Cadillac coupe, with the intention of driving in a spirited manor, something just feels a bit off.
That feeling disappears after the first 3 turns.
The ATS 2.0T will surprise you in a couple of ways. First it will instill a real sense of confidence when entering and exiting a corner. The kind of confidence usually reserved for drivers of German machines with storied pasts. Between the MRC, limited slip diff, Brembos and the sticky Bridgestone rubber, I was overjoyed when approaching some of my favorite bank turns and even some of the off camber ones too.
Only on a handful of occasions did the sissy controls kick in and prevent me from fully enjoying a turn, which was really annoying. I thought I had turned them off as I had pushed the traction control button but it kept kicking in and killing power right when I wanted it. Maybe I missed something and you have to combo a series of buttons in order to unlock the higher level or maybe Cadillac doesn't allow for full Harris mode. Either way, it is of little consequence as most folks shopping for this vehicle won't be wondering if they'll be able to drift corners but rather what time those reservations are at Benihana or Chantal's divorceaversary party.
Chrome has been synonymous with Cadillac since the inception of the brand and I think that if they're willing to bail on Detroit for NYC, they should be comfortable with letting the bling image go as well. There is way too much chrome on this and every other Cadillac, it has to be done away with and then we can all move forward together.
Aside from that, I quite like the exterior of the ATS Coupe. Many on this site have called it dull but I think that's ridiculous. A Toyota Solara is dull, a Nissan Altima coupe is dull, the ATS is an exercise in restraint which is refreshing and commendable.
They could have easily continued down the path of the last gen CTS Coupe, all harsh angles and oddly reminiscent of the Caped Crusader's "Tumbler". Instead they chose to take some elements of that design and sprinkle it in across an A5/4 series style body. The result is a car that will most certainly turn heads but doesn't scream for attention the way a Lexus RC does or the way the next gen Infiniti Q60 will.
The ATS Coupe blends in just enough to make its intentions of having global appeal clear but retains a good amount of individuality through undeniably American traits. The extra defined rear deck, big brash grille, vertical LED headlight accents and illuminated door handles are hallmarks of Detroit design, making sure that this modern Caddy stays true to its roots.
In my opinion it's a more interesting and tidy design than the 4 Series and I don't think its fair to compare it to the C-Class coupe that's currently on the market as it'll soon be replaced. That leaves the A5 and while it may be quite long in the tooth, it's still the best looking of the bunch.
American luxury cars often get harped on for their interiors and most of them deservedly so. The past decade has been one of vast improvement for Cadillac and I think it's more than fair to say that they no longer come with an asterisk due to what's going on inside. The 12 way adjustable power front seats are comfortable for cruising and spirited driving, though I would like more available tilt angle for the bottom of the drivers seat. The rear seats are also comfortable and not as cramped as one might think. I put my 6'2 friend back there for a half hour trip on the highway, all 210 lbs of him and he had no complaints. Getting in and out of a coupe is a pain in the ass no matter what, though Cadillac does have a handy button at the top of the seat back that allows those relegated to the rear to control their own destiny when exiting the car.
The quality of the materials used are market appropriate and the ergonomics are quite good. For the first time ever, I think Cadillac has an interior that is as compelling as space to occupy as that of a BMW. Whether that means Cadillac interiors have gotten better as BMW interiors have gotten worse, I'm not sure but I can tell you that I prefer the A5 to them both. Audi just seems to have never regressed since stepping their game up in the late Aughts. All surfaces in their vehicles feel premium, appear bespoke and the ergonomics are far and away the best. I can't put my finger on it but something about new BMW interiors just makes them feel like they're not special anymore. Maybe it's because they sell 25 different models globally, just a thought.
Anyway, my issues with the ATS Coupe cabin aren't great in number but they had a big impact on my overall impression of the space. Cheap gloss black plastic should be banished from every automaker's parts bin. Upscale spaces are devoid of fingerprints and dust, that's luxury 101. Whatever compounds they're mixing into the center stack, shifter surround and steering wheel trim, it is really good at attracting fine amounts of debris and showing off smudges. Use matte plastic or wood, it's just that simple.
The other major disappointment in the interior is the gauge cluster, you know, the area in which your eyes land more than anywhere else. I don't understand how this layout made it into the production vehicle. It's completely out of place and appears to be a carryover from days that Cadillac is fighting so hard to erase from our memories. It's not just that the cluster isn't modern enough to be in line with the rest of the interior, it'd be out of place in a car a decade old save for the semi customizable digital rectangle below the speedometer. The cluster is so bad that it can be distracting and make you feel like you're in a rental, which I imagine is every luxury automaker's nightmare. I hope Cadillac gets the memo and fixes this glaring design flaw right away because it's a big one.
The ATS Coupe's 2.0L turbocharged 4cyl produces 272hp and 292 lb/ft of torque which will get you from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, should you feel the need to prove yourself in a completely archaic and ridiculous manner.
The ATS doesn't suffer from much turbo lag, boost kicks in rather promptly no matter what gear you're in and any delay can be addressed with the flick of a magnesium paddle shifter. There was never an instance where I wasn't getting the power I was asking for and ultimately, that's all you can hope for in an engine.
The Hydra-Matic 6spd auto does a good job of managing the power and your expectations. If you've never driven a PDK equipped Porsche or even a DSG equipped VW then you will be perfectly happy with this and almost every other automanual on the market. However if you've experienced the sublime PDK and/or its developmentally challenged younger brother, you'll probably want this unit to be faster and more precise. I almost went there but was quick to remind myself that just as one cannot compare Beyonce to Beck, one cannot compare luxury coupes to sports cars.
As we learned from Mr. Torchinsky yesterday, brakes aren't necessary on a car but if they're gonna be slapped on there anyway, might as well make em good ones. Front Brembo brakes are standard on all ATS Coupes and as one would expect, they stop ya nice n' quick. After a couple hours of canyon carving I still had an above average amount of pedal feel, though it had noticeably diminished from the beginning of my rigorous testing. Bottom line, you won't be disappointed in the stopping ability or pedal feel unless you are comparing these brakes to those found in another class of vehicle.
The first thing I did after the ATS was dropped off was cruise down to Long Beach with my girlfriend, about a 45 minute drive. I reclined the drivers seat, selected SiriusXM 49 aka. Soul Town and away we went, cruising along like a couple of OG's in a white two door Caddy.
The following day I raised the seat back, selected XM 26 aka. Classic Vinyl and proceeded to zip through the canyons above Malibu, windows down, power chords echoing off the rocks.
Both of these scenarios are equally enjoyable because of GM's much ballyhooed Magnetic Ride Control and neither feels more appropriate for the vehicle than the other because like any good modern luxury car, its got multiple personality disorder. It can be the laid back around town cruiser when you want it to be but it can also put a big 'ol smile on your face when attempting your best Stig impression. For this reason I find the asking price to be reasonable, I mean you're essentially getting two cars for the price of one and a half. This is the world we live in now.
Living in Los Angeles you have to drive a vehicle that can handle all kinds of things. Its gotta handle lane jumping morons, potholes that could be on the national register of historic places, people driving exotic cars that I assume are blind, unmarked construction zones and the most soul crushing stop & go traffic outside of Houston. Those are the things a person living in the greater Los Angeles area needs their car to handle on a daily basis.
On the weekends, you want a different kind of handling because if you need to drive on your days off, hopefully it's for pleasure. Your car should be able to handle taking corners at double the suggested rate of speed as well as handling transport of a you, a friend and your golf clubs. The ATS Coupe can handle all these tasks and will do so with flying colors.
Magnetic Ride Control really is that good and if you haven't experienced it, I sure hope you get to sometime in the very near future. The electric ZF rack mounted steering is appropriately light in Tour mode and considerably heavier in Sport mode. Sport mode is enjoyable if you're actually driving in such a manner that selecting this mode is warranted but outside of that, I wouldn't recommend it because the ride is stiff as hell and the steering will make your arms tired. Makes what BMW has done with their fully customizable driving modes all that much more attractive. What a crazy spoiled generation of drivers we are given that we can mix and match steering and chassis settings on the fly. Price of a new car starting to seem much more reasonable now huh?
It's good, not groundbreaking, nothing to brag about but it's good. When you're not in sport mode you throw it in drive and forget about it. When you're in sport mode you use the paddle shifters to have just that little extra bit of fun. If you let the computer make the decisions when you're having a go you'll lose just a bit of the edge sport mode provides as I felt it hung onto gears just a little longer than I wanted.
The illuminated door handles are the coolest "toy" on the ATS Coupe. I classify them as a toy because they are wholly unnecessary but they're super cool. That's the definition of a toy right?
There are other toys in the vehicle but they don't have much of a wow factor. You might be expect this to be the part where I complain about CUE and how crappy it is. Well I'm sorry to disappoint but I think they've worked out most of the bugs because this particular system was functioning quickly and smoothly. Sure the interface itself still leaves much to be desired and I'll never be a fan of haptic touch setups but at least it seems to be working as Cadillac intended. The problem for me and I suspect many others is that what Cadillac intended wasn't a good idea in the first place. There a much better infotainment systems in far less expensive vehicles and the direct competitors are way ahead. When I get in a new BMW I want to fiddle with iDrive, run through all the functions and menus. With CUE I just want to connect my phone for Bluetooth calling and audio, then proceed to use it as little as possible.
My tester was already at the Premium trim level and therfore very well equipped. It only had one option box ticked, the $995 Crystal White Tricoat paint, worth every penny I'd Say. There is an optional Driver Assist Package which is full of goodies like Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Front and Rear Braking, and lots of other stuff that will make people overly confident drivers. The Driver Awareness Package which includes Lane Keep Assist and "Intellibeam" headlights is standard on the Performance and Premium trims. The car was also equipped with a wireless charging pad but I couldn't figure out how to get it to work and frankly this technology scares me, I guess I'm getting old. It also has a 4G LTE WI/FI hotspot that worked well enough to clearly stream music and video on my phone. The text message alerts, not so much. I don't know if it's an iPhone 6 issue but I haven't been able to get the text integration to work with any of GM's vehicles since getting the phone.
The cabin is quiet and devoid of road noise even with the staggered wheels running on low profile tires. Perhaps it's because those are only 18" wheels, which comes as a bit of a surprise given that this is Cadillac we're taking about here. They'll sell you 22's on an Escalade but nothing bigger than 18's on the ATS Coupe? I find this a bit curious even though I'm an advocate for more rubber, less shine when it comes to sports cars. But this isn't a sports car, it's a luxury coupe and as such it should have at least an option for 19" wheels, if not 20's.
The BOSE stereo will drown out your tiny rim tears and it also drowns out the generic 4cyl turbo whine. There's nothing unique about the way the exhaust sounds, it's par for the course which is kinda depressing. I kinda see how BMW can rationalize pumping in fake exhaust noise after a week with a car that doesn't have a memorable engine note. It also makes me miss the amazing rumble of a boxer four even more than I did before. Nobody does a 4cyl like Subaru.
It's tough to say what the value of this vehicle is given that I have no idea how well it's going to hold up over the course of ownership. If you're leasing the vehicle then I'd say it's an excellent value because you're covered for 4 years/50,000 miles with Cadillac's Premium Care Maintenance program. If you're thinking about purchasing a new ATS Coupe I'd strongly urge you to reconsider. It's highly unlikely the vehicle will have a favorable resale value by the time you're done paying it off and if you can afford to pay cash for one of these, why not stretch your money and lease something even nicer?
Is that advice that would make Tavarish cringe? Probably but it's just the way I see things. These vehicles aren't destined to be modern classics the way some late 90's and early Aughts BMW/Mercedes models are. Those vehicles have a whole cult following and I just don't see that happening with these, even with a turbocharged motor offering lots of tuning potential and the availability of a manual transmission. There's just no way of knowing how reliable the new Cadillacs will be in the long term because they're coming from a company that is essentially starting from a clean slate or so they would like you to think. I honestly don't know how much of the "old GM" has carried over into the "new GM" but I hope it's a very, very minimal amount. A bunch of shiny new cars that look good, have fancy high tech gadgets and have a reasonable cost of entry are all well and good but only time will tell if they're the real deal.
I certainly think there is a whole lot of potential value in the ATS Coupe, I'd love to see it become a much beloved car by the American public and the global community. It's a very comfortable daily driver, offers a great deal of luxury in a tidy package for a nice price. My tester came in at $49,085 including the $995 destination fee. If you could walk out of a dealership with one of these for around $46,000 I'd call that a bargain well struck. Personally I'd just have a hard time ever spending $50 grand on a car that wasn't a specialty model. Speaking of which, the biggest competitor for this vehicle is the batshit crazy V model coming this spring. Sure it's going to cost an extra 13k or so but it'll be worth every penny, so long as they've fixed that damn gauge cluster. Christ that thing is awful!
Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged 4CYL
Power: 272 @5800 RPM/ 295 lb-ft @3000 RPM
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6L45 6-speed automatic
Curb Weight: 3411 lbs.
Seating: 4 humans
MPG: 21/31, 20 mpg average observed
MSRP: $37,995 base, $49,085 as tested
Andrew Maness writes about cars because he has one and also has a computer. He's been known to drunkenly Tweet as @thisnicelife and upload photos to @theroadlessdriven. He also has a YouTube Channel and thinks talking about himself in the 3rd person is really weird but knows it's necessary if he wants to be taken seriously as an automotive journalist.