2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe vs. 2015 Lexus RC F

A brawl for luxury performance-coupe supremacy

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Cadillac and Lexus have taken two different approaches to building high-performance luxury coupes, though both of their offerings can take you to automotive nirvana and beyond. But as enjoyable as each of these cars can be, one has the upper hand when it comes to smiles an hour.

ATS-V vs. RC F

The Cadillac ATS-V and Lexus RC F may have the same mission statement, but the way they deliver the goods is unique. The most important difference between these two cars is found under-hood, where the Cadillac is powered by a smaller-displacement V6 engine that’s augmented with a pair of turbochargers. In comparison, the Lexus features a tried-and-true V8, one with a significant piston-capacity advantage.

Is There a Replacement for Displacement?

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Engine 01Behind the Cadillac’s fine mesh grille is a 3.6-liter engine. With all-aluminum construction, four-valves per cylinder and direct fuel injection, it puts out some truly jaw-dropping numbers. Horsepower measures 464 while torque clocks in at 445 lb-ft. Giving the ATS-V some extra bragging rights, both of these figures are SAE certified.

Curiously, this powerplant features a 10.2-to-1 compression ratio, which is quite high for a forced-induction engine, especially one that’s pumped up with 18 pounds of peak boost. Not surprisingly, premium-grade gasoline is recommended, though you’d be wise to use it at all times.

2015 Lexus RC F Engine 02Firing back, and on two extra cylinders, might I add, the RC F features a 5.0-liter V8. It puts out a gallant 467 hp along with a plenty-respectable amount of torque: 389 lb-ft. Arguably, this engine’s signature feature is Toyota’s D-4S fuel delivery system, which features both port and direct injection. This provides the best of both worlds, quieter idling and better cold-starting with port fuel-delivery as well as increased power and efficiency afforded by direct injection.

Thanks to its atmospheric aspiration, the RC F’s compression ratio is even higher than the ATS-V’s, measuring a stratospheric 12.3-to-1, which means 91-octane gasoline is the minimum you can get away with, so don’t be a cheapskate! Put the good stuff in.

Also See: Do I Really Need to Use Premium Gas?

Gearing Up

Another area where these two cars differ is in transmission offerings. For this comparison, both models were equipped with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Each of these units shift quickly during spirited driving and can slur like a drunken frat boy when you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic.

2015 Lxus RC F Badge 032016 Cadillac ATS-V Badge 02

But broadening its appeal, Cadillac gives drivers a choice, two significant options, in fact. The ATS-V can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox for proper three-pedal driving. And for enthusiasts in the know, it’s not just any stick-shiftable transmission, but a Tremec TR-6060. This rugged cogcrate is used in a wide array of ultra-high performance machinery like the Dodge Viper and Shelby GT500 Mustang. Beyond this, the Caddy is also offered as a sedan for those that prefer four doors. Even though it looks a little smaller, the ATS-V rides on a longer wheelbase, which spans 109.3 inches, 1.8 more than the Lexus’. Still, the RC F is slightly longer and fractions of an inch taller. When it comes to width, these cars fall within one-tenth of an inch of each other. Size-wise, it doesn’t get much closer than this.

But one area where they diverge once again is mass. With a curb weight of around 3,700 pounds, the Caddy is about 258 pounds lighter than the Lexus.

Gnarly Bits

Aside from a specially tuned engine and transmission, the ATS-V also features a host of other go-fast goodies. Brembo brakes provide maximum stopping power, time after time. The car is also equipped with the GM’s Gen 3 Magnetic Ride Control system that responds 40 percent faster than its predecessor. This gives the car sharp handling and a compliant ride.

2016-Cadillac-ATS-V-Interior-022015 Lexus RC F Interior 01

Countering these points, the RC F’s chassis was tuned on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife from early in its development. The suspension is 70 percent unique compared to run-of-the mill RC coupes, with new springs, dampers and stabilizer bars to name a handful of engineering changes that were made. Additionally, a Torsen limited-slip differential is standard but Lexus also offers a torque-vectoring differential, TVD for short. In simple terms this unit has driver-selectable settings and is designed to help the car rotate while negotiating corners.

Compare Specs

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe
vs
2015 Lexus RC F
Vehicle 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Advantage 2015 Lexus RC F
Engine 3.6-Liter twin-turbo V6 - 5.0-Liter V8
Horsepower 464 HP RC F 467 HP
Torque 445 lb-ft ATS-V 389 lb-ft
Weight 3,700 lbs ATS-V 3,958 lbs
Cargo Space 10.4 cubic feet ATS-V 10.1 cubic feet
Fuel Economy 16 MPG city, 24 MPG Hwy RC F 16 MPG city, 25 MPG Hwy
Starting Price $63,660 RC F $63,325
As-Tested Price $76,965 RC F $73,760

The Drive

In motion, Cadillac’s ATS-V is an Olympic athlete, pure and simple. This car accelerates like hurricane-force winds whipping in from the Atlantic. It’s incredibly fleet, and with so much torque, especially in lower gears, the accelerator almost feels like a rheostat; just gently squeeze it for buckets of juicy thrust. It’s incredibly linear the way power gets delivered.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Rear 01

Part of the reason it moves so well is that the twin-turbo V6’s blowers feature titanium-aluminide turbines, which reduces rotating inertial loads by 51 percent for near-instantaneous response. Cadillac claims it can hit 60 miles in just 3.8 seconds and has a terminal velocity of 189 miles an hour.

But the RC F’s 5.0-liter V8 is a powerplant that cannot be ignored. This fire-breathing dragon packs serious punch as well. It feels a tick or two slower than the ATS-V but not as far behind as its claimed 4.4-second romp to 60 would suggest. Top speed is electronically limited to 170 miles an hour. This big V8 is not as torque-rich as Cadillac’s force-fed six but it pulls strongly in the upper rev range and feels smoother.

More leisurely it may be, there’s one area where Lexus trounces Caddy and it’s the noise department. For what it is, the ATS-V’s engine sounds good, but it’s a far cry from the RC F’s wailing V8, which provides phenomenal internal-combustion music. It’s no contest; the Lexus wins here.

2015 Lexus RC F Rear 02

Dancing around a closed course, the Cadillac’s super-thick steering wheel rim provides ideal control and its overall feel is a masterpiece of automotive engineering. The way this car drives is, well, just about perfect. It’s even willing to get a little tail-happy while cornering to keep things lively.

The Lexus is a lot of fun as well, but it’s not quite as engaging as the Caddy. It feels significantly bigger, a lot heavier and consequently less eager to change directions. Of course, you don’t really notice these attributes until you compare the cars back to back because the RC F really is a supremely enjoyable machine, it’s just the ATS-V is better.

Other Considerations

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Wheel 01Aside from each having two doors and classic, rear-wheel-drive proportions, their styling couldn’t be more different. The Cadillac is clean and elegant, though mesh grille inserts, hood venting and quad-exhaust tips liven things up. Still, its overall restraint means the styling borders on sleepy.

In comparison, Lexus designers went hog wild on the RC F, seemingly attacking the clay model with a samurai katana. This car is covered in swooping shapes and busy details; overall, it’s a bit much.

This trend continues inside where the ATS-V is pretty innocuous, with sensible shapes and suitably premium materials. Its cockpit is straightforward and attractive, though the gauges look atrocious, like somebody in product development forgot they needed instruments two days before serial production began.

2015 Lexus RC F Wheel 01The RC F’s cabin is a carnival of shapes and materials. Its dashboard is split into several tiers, which, visually, doesn’t make much sense. There’s a lot going on here and, unfortunately, it seems to be busy for the sake of busyness. Isn’t there some middle ground between these two cars?

Base price for an RC F is $63,000 and change, including $925 in delivery fees. The model we tested stickered for around $73,760. An entry-level ATS-V can be had for a few hundred bucks shy of $64,000, including $995 for shipping. However, if you opt for the automatic transmission it’s going to cost you an extra two grand. Out the door, our test model cost $76,965.

The Verdict: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe vs. 2015 Lexus RC F

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Grille 02Both the Cadillac ATS-V coupe and Lexus RC F provide thrilling dynamics, organ-bruising acceleration and luxury interiors. But one of these cars is a cut above, a better choice.

With torrents of torque, telepathic steering and a chassis that loves to dance, it’s the Caddy that drives away with a win in this comparison.

Discuss this story on our Cadillac ATS Forum.

Discuss this story on our Lexus Forum.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

2015 Lexus RC F

  • thatguy88

    The ATS-V is FAR from a boring looking vehicle. If THAT’S what you consider a “sleeper”, then sign me up because I’d rather innocuous and destroy somebody at the light than call a shit ton of attention to myself and then get humilated at the light.

  • Calvin L Miller Jr

    I loved the ATS-V in person as much as I love the RC-F in person. Generally i appreciate the RC-F more because its the most unique car in its segment. While everyone else is building a better m3, the RC-F has its pros and its cons but ultimately way more performance than you’re average driver will use on the street. The question is what do you want more and why?

    Thats what the first c63 amg made you ask yourself and the RC continues that. No losers in this segment.

  • Jeff T

    In their defense it was beside that Lexus. The lexus has a ton of styling….ugly but a ton of it.

  • Jim Mc Cool

    Which one will depreciate fastest. I bet the name starts with a C.

  • Yoo Jastle

    I’ll take a c63 or an M4, thanks…..

  • Eco Bust

    I have yet to read a review where they didn’t trash the ats’s gauge cluster. Can’t believe after 3 years of complaints they haven’t spent a few bucks and upgraded the instruments yet.

  • Kallan

    No other car can beat a Lexus quality

  • Stylinred

    id take the rcf over them, those cars are boring in the looks department (for me) these days, especially with the bmw, every model looks the same! and the RCF performs almost identical to the m4 even though it weighs about 1000lbs more lol

  • Stylinred

    i love the RCFs styling but it seems to be a ‘love it or hate it’ no middle ground lol
    the ctsV looks like its straight out of the 90s but those HP/TQ numbers, wow

  • expert

    really? the RC F weights 2 tons????? that’s what kills it and it’s a damn shame a newly designed car weighs this much. FAIL.

  • expert

    nah. m4 crushes the RC F performance wise.

  • expert

    so lease it.

  • Stylinred

    Depends how you define ‘crushes’ I guess, but being a hundredth of a second quicker on a track, when driven by a pro racer, that doesn’t seem significant to me as a regular joe

  • expert

    it’s not that close (0-60, 1/4) also BMW underates power numbers and has way better TQ….oh and doesn’t weigh 4000 lbs.

  • thatguy88

    I can agree with that. I find the Lexus to be attractive but at an extreme. I like the Caddy because it’s reserved yet very signature to Cadillac. I have a feeling when Lexus’s styling team learns how to refine their styling, ti will be better received in the future.

  • Stylinred

    Ah yeah, I was thinking more along the lines of laps around a circuit, it certainly has much better numbers almost everywhere else

  • Jim Mc Cool

    Thanks, but I am passing on both vehicles.

  • 2011CTSV

    Cadillac has been right behind Lexus in JD Power quality rankings, so you’re not losing anything in quality by goingwith the Cadillac.

  • 2011CTSV

    The ATS-V was designed to beat the M4, so both that and the C63 would be a bad decision compared to the ATS-V. The RC-F isn’t even in contention.

  • 2011CTSV

    Not likely. Look up resale values for the CTS-V. Prepare for the biggest shock of your life. V series Cadillacs do not depreciate quickly.

  • Kallan

    No chance to go for any American brand. Way too poor in performance. Had two bad experiences in my like a 1981 Caprice Classic and 2004 Explorer. Worthless pieces of trash.

  • 2011CTSV

    oO what you’re saying is that you didn’t read any part of this review, in which the ATS-V very clearly destroyed the RC-F in performance. And apparently because the obvious isn’t obvious enough for you, let me spell it out:

    This is not a Caprice or an Explorer, or a Chevy, or a Ford, and it’s not 1981 or 2004. It’s actually 2015 now, and this is a Cadillac V series car.

  • Kallan

    who cares it is an American trash

  • 2011CTSV

    And you’re a moron. Glad we got that sorted out.

  • Kallan

    tisch tisch, signs of a hypocrite – resort to using bad language or calling names.

  • 2011CTSV

    HAHAHA. I’m so glad you decided to reveal the depth of your ignorance by proving that you don’t understand what a hypocrite is.

    Here are the ACTUAL signs of a hypocrite:

    HYPOCRITE
    noun

    a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs,principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially aperson whose actions belie stated beliefs.

    Note that nowhere in the actual dictionary definition of hypocrite does it say anything about bad language or name calling. Here’s a tip for you junior: Don’t use words if you don’t know what they mean.

  • Bob Adams

    So your take on the Caddy vs Lexus is your ’81 Chevy Caprice? LMFAO.

  • Kallan

    Lexus is the crown jewel in luxury cars. Cadillac is at the bottom of the pit does not matter what one test challenge proves.

  • Troy Power

    I took the ATS V, thanks….

  • G

    AUTOGUIDE is full of sh/t…they’re bias against Lexus and always place the brand last in comparison tests (ex: Lexus IS 350) Yet, more reputable sites like motortrend and car & driver praise Lexus as better than its rivals…

    Autoguide= FAIL

  • Bri

    Yeah, fu@k Autoguide and their BS reviews. Why do they bother to compare the RCF to the ATS and RS5 if they clearly don’t like it. It’s irresponsible reviews.

    I do recall they reviewed the IS 350 as worse than the BMW 335 even though every other review concluded otherwise.

  • Mandy c

    Yeah, Autoguide had similar negativity toward the Lexus GSF.

    Watch Top Gear’s Chris Harris praise the Lexus GSF over the Bmw M5. That’s a more accurate review of the Lexus.

    It seems like Autoguide’s full of passive aggressive nerds afraid of upsetting the German status quo.