Like Rocky Balboa in the sixth installment of the iconic boxing movie series (coincidentally also titled Rocky Balboa), the once great Cadillac brand is a wiry veteran underdog that you want to pull for even if most people already gave up cheering.
|Engines: The 2.0L turbo four-cylinder makes 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 3.6-liter V6 makes 321HP and 275 lb-ft.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual for RWD 2.0T only, six-speed automatic available across the board.
Fuel economy: Four-cylinder RWD, 21 MPG city, 31 MPG highway. V6 RWD, 18 MPG city and 28 MPG highway.
Price: Base 2.0T starts at $38,990 after destination charges, base V6 starts at $46,145.
The company is slowly making progress toward being America’s world-class luxury brand once again. To continue that trend, Cadillac is bringing a compact luxury two-door to market: the ATS Coupe. Aimed at attracting a younger buyer – a familiar message from the company – the ATS Coupe promises to be more than just a two-door version of the ATS sedan. Cadillac says this is a full-fledged sports coupe bordering on sports car territory.
Wider, Lower, Meaner
This isn’t just the manufacturer waxing poetic either; it made serious strides to differentiate the coupe from the sedan even if they seem similar at first glance. For starters, the coupe rides on a wider track than the sedan by nearly one inch in the front and one and a half inches in the rear. Coupled with a roofline one inch below the sedan, the ATS coupe only shares one body panel with its more conservative sibling: the hood.
The wider stance leads to an expanded front and rear fascia that is most noticeable in the grille and twin tailpipe surround treatment. All coupes come standard with 18-inch wheels that are unique to the two-door model to further set it apart from its sedan siblings. The difference can be seen when coupe and sedan are parked side-by-side where it does indeed look wider and more athletic. On its own, I still find it generally looks long and narrow like the sedan.
Two Powerful Choices
Under the hood things are fairly familiar. The 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine found in the sedan is gone, underscoring that the coupe is a sportier choice. That makes the base engine a revised version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit that now makes 272 HP and 295 lb-ft of torque in all versions of the ATS. That’s more torque than the optional 3.6-liter V6, which produces 275 lb-ft. The six-banger does make quite a few more ponies though, with 321 hp on tap. Both engines are available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive configurations and a six-speed automatic transmission.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Cadillac ATS Review – Video
With two engines so close in output, it should come as no surprise that performance is similar. Official 0-60 MPH times for the two engines are separated by a tenth of a second. With power always on the ready, the 2.0-liter has no trouble motivating the ATS coupe and features specifications that embarrass the Audi A5 2.0T, BMW 428i and outgoing Mercedes-Benz C 250. In fact, torque and power from the revised turbocharged four makes the V6 now feel a little less impressive.
That’s not to say the six is obsolete because it still offers smoother, more linear power delivery than the inline four. Despite turbo lag being minimal in the smaller engine, power is still peaky and it can’t match the V6’s throaty and aggressive melody at full throttle either.
Manual to Prove it’s Sporty
Unique to the rear-wheel drive four cylinder ATS is an optional six-speed manual transmission that comes equipped with a limited slip differential. When the manual was first offered with the ATS sedan, I wasn’t a fan of its clunky operation. The transmission has since been revised and is now better, but there’s still space for improvement. Gear engagement is rough and unrefined leaving the gearbox feeling cheaper than it should in something like an ATS.
That still doesn’t stop the 2.0T with the manual transmission from being an entertaining combination. With plenty of torque on tap, it exploits the turbo four-cylinder’s power band and is a blast to drive on twisting roads.
Fuel economy for the four-cylinder automatic is pegged at 21 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway. The heavier V6 automatic is officially rated at 18 MPG city and 28 MPG highway, but it’s important to note that the turbocharged engine needs premium gas while the V6 runs on regular fuel.
Handles Even Better Than Before
A strong point for the ATS sedan has always been its chassis dynamics and with the coupe, things have improved. With a wider track and revised offset for the wheels, the ATS coupe is more planted than the sedan. Without a back-to-back comparison drive, it’s hard to say how much, but the 2.0T coupe I drove with the FE3 magnetic ride suspension is one of the most engaging small luxury coupes I’ve driven in a while. Yes, more responsive than even the BMW 428i.
Standard with staggered 225/40R18 tires up front and 255/35R18 tires in the rear, the ATS hugged the back roads of upstate New York during our test drive. V6 cars are noticeably heavier on the road, especially ones with all-wheel drive, as the turbo four cars really exploit their near perfect 51/49 weight distribution and light 3,418 lbs. curb weight.
All cars feature standard Brembo brakes and a sport mode that alters steering feel, throttle response and shift mapping with the transmission. Even the base FE2 suspension handles well but is tuned to offer a balance between comfort and sport whereas the FE3 magnetic ride suspension can be set in either mode. As a bonus, FE3 cars also receive a limited slip rear differential and a quicker steering ratio.
Inside the ATS coupe is similar in layout and design to the sedan, aside from a thicker steering and a smaller, two-person rear seat. For a small coupe though, rear seat space is livable. At 33.5-inches, legroom is not an issue, but headroom can be. Shorter adults or teenagers will fit back there, but anyone over 5’10” will probably feel cramped. The rear seat itself is comfortable, but there is no center armrest and that seems like a strange omission.
Up front, the seats proved comfortable over long distance driving, but I find the adjustable side bolsters are too shallow and don’t provide enough support. Sightlines inside the car are very good for a coupe as the C-pillar is set in such a way that it does not impede rearward visibility or the three quarter blind spot. Of course the car is equipped with the latest technology like a wireless charging mat, Siri eyes free text to speech and 4G Internet connectivity.
With a starting price of $38,990 after destination charges for 2.0T models and $46,145 for V6 models, the ATS is well-positioned power and value wise against the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5. Now it’s Cadillac’s job to convince younger drivers to cross-shop the ATS with German sport coupes.