It’s often difficult to come up with insightful things to say about the vehicles I test.
Engine: 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V6
Power: 464 horsepower, 445 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy (MPG): 17 city, 23 highway, 19 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 14.2 city, 10.2 highway
US Price: Starts at $61,460, $75,900 as tested
CAN Price: Starts at $66,100
How is an Audi Q7 all that different from, say, a Lexus RX? What’s outstanding about the Toyota Camry Hybrid? Fortunately, inspiration is not in short supply with Cadillac’s ATS-V, in fact it’s oozing from every pores like grease from a teenager’s face.
Whether you opt for a sedan or the rakish coupe, this pocket-sized performer is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud with giddy excitement, provided you’re warmer than room temperature, of course. But who knows, this car’s howling exhaust note might even be enough to rouse the dead.
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Dare Greatly, Love Deeply
Before getting too far into the ATS-V’s speeds and feeds I’ve just got to say, I LOVE THIS CAR! I love the styling, especially when slathered in shimmering Vector Blue Metallic paint. I love the steering’s scientific precision, I love the shifter and transmission, I love the perfectly weighted clutch, I love lamp – I mean, the headlamps – I love the overall size, I love the decent back seat and trunk, I even appreciate the relatively uncluttered sightlines. But most of all, I LOVE the performance.
In a weird way the ATS-V feels bespoke, like it was tailored specifically to fit my gaunt body and nobody else’s. Larger drivers may not appreciate our test model’s optional Recaro buckets, but I think they’re just about perfect, and kind of necessary because this car is soooooo fast! Acceleration is effortless at all speeds, in nearly any gear. And why shouldn’t it be?
Two Times the Fun
Nestled beneath this car’s prominently vented hood is a 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V6. That duet of blowers helps this engine provide more fury than a hurricane, specifically an SAE-certified 464 horsepower. That’s a large enough stable to reach 60 miles an hour in as little as 3.8 seconds and top out at 189 miles an hour, faster than a BMW M3 in both measures, which is probably this Cadillac’s arch nemesis.
As for torque, all of its 445 lb-ft is routed to the rear wheels through one of two transmissions. There’s an eight-speed automatic – the one most buyers will probably wuss out and get – or a superb six-speed manual, the proper choice and the unit our test car was equipped with.
In comparison, its Bavarian rival features a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six that puts out “just” 425 horses and 406 lb-ft of twist. In this case at least, Detroit trumps Munich.
Ensuring the ATS-V has as much grip as possible is a standard limited-slip differential that works in tandem with the car’s forged, staggered-width 18-inch rims that are wrapped in gummy Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires. If you are going to drive one of these in the three other seasons, you’ll definitely want some winter rubber.
Home is Where the Heart Is
Inside, the ATS-V benefits from Cadillac’s recent push to improve its interiors. Upping the luxury factor are cut-and-sewn materials, metal accents and high-quality switchgear. Providing a clever space to stash your wallet or charge a cellphone, there’s a hidden cubby tucked behind the touch-sensitive climate controls. You access it by tapping on a small piece of bright-work at the bottom of the center stack, which causes it to magically motor open.
Outward visibility is pleasantly unobstructed in the ATS-V; there’s plenty of glass in all directions, even if the A-pillars are a little bit chunky.
Gripes about this car’s cockpit are refreshingly scarce. The CUE infotainment system feels dated and is not as fluid or responsive and what Cadillac is putting in its newer products. Also, the instruments in this car are dreary enough to have been designed in Soviet Russia. They’re cripplingly bland, looking like a complete afterthought.
When it comes to pricing, a bare-bones ATS-V can be had for less than $62,000, which gives it a three-grand value-advantage over the M3. But our tester cost a bankrupting $75,900.
Looking at the Monroney, those optional Recaro seats added $2,300 to the sticker. The Luxury package cost an extra $2,500, the sueded microfiber steering wheel and shifter ran an additional $300. The gorgeous blue paint is $495 (and totally worth it!), and then there’s the Carbon Fiber package.
This goodie gives the car a new front splitter, hood extractor and rear diffuser, all made out of this lightweight material, but it’s an extra FIVE GRAND. Cool, but at that price you can totally live without it.
As I already mentioned, the ATS-V is incredibly fast, catapulting you out of corners like the laws of physics are merely suggestions. In spite of the felonious speed it can provide, never does this Caddy feel like a handful. Unless you specifically want them to, the tires always grip the pavement with tenacity, the back-end never gets out of control, even at wide-open throttle.
Allowing its lucky pilot to dance the three-pedal shuffle, a Tremec TR-6060 manual gearbox provides a half-dozen forward rations. This cog-crate is used in a wide array of high-performance vehicles from the preposterously quick Dodge Challenger Hellcat to the Chevy Camaro SS. In this application it’s unexpectedly refined. Gear-changes are smooth and missed shifts are as rare as a BMW driver signaling before changing lanes.
When it comes to ride and handling, the ATS-V is a gold-medalist as well. Its variable-ratio steering is quick, sharp and electrically boosted, which is hard to believe because it’s so telepathically good; think about nailing an apex and the car practically does it for you.
GM’s third-generation Magnetic Ride Control provides the best of all worlds. It offers an array of driver-selectable suspension settings from commuting-home-after-14-hours-at-the-office smooth, to track-day harsh.
Bringing everything to a reliable, fade-free stop are standard Brembo binders. The front rotors measure a pizza-sized 14.5 inches and they’re clamped by beefy, six-piston calipers. The ones on our test ATS-V were painted “Dark Gold,” one of two available optional color choices that up the ante by $595.
When you’re not in the mood to slice and dice corners, this Cadillac is suitably luxurious. Put the Magnetic Ride Control in Tour mode and crank up the stereo and it becomes a reasonably comfortable cruiser, though it’s not as serene as you might expect. Those racing-grade Micehlins produce a fair bit of noise, particularly on heavily eroded asphalt.
In the consumption department the ATS-V is reasonably economical. A stick-shift variant should do 17 miles to a gallon in urban conditions and 23 on the highway. Combined, it should average 19 MPG.
The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V may not be a perfect sedan, but its flaws are so minor and the overall package so compelling that it’s practically a must-buy if you’re in the market for a top-tier sports sedan. On paper at least, it bests the vaunted M3 in several key areas, but is it a better car than the BMW? That’s tough to say, but it’s one comparison test we’d love to conduct.
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