2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan Review

Cadillac’s Vengeance Weapon

It’s often difficult to come up with insightful things to say about the vehicles I test.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Drive

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.

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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.

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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 Verdict

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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.

Discuss this story on our Cadillac ATS Forum

  • Eric Cameron

    It’s a shame nobody buys these. What does Cadillac have to do to get people away from Merc/BMW/Audi and into their own dealerships?

    There’s been 3 sitting at the nearby GM dealership in Toronto and I haven’t seen them move for a couple months at least.

    Also, do the 2016 models have the improved CUE infotainment system, aka speed increase?

  • Mike Stoddart

    I’m surprised you like the back seat. My 10 year old sat in the back of a regular ATS and her first comment was “I have no legroom!”.

  • Mark S

    Great video and agree with many of the pro’s and con’s. Good news that the gauges and CUE in the CT6 seem to be better, hopefully that will trickle down the rest of the range.

    Would be interested to know what The reviewer thought of the engine sound, some other reviewers say that it is a bit quiet and well not a V8. Also wonder how good the 8 speed auto is, PDK fast and intuitive?

    Sad but good, used ATS’s are not too pricey thanks to poor sales of the new models, though of course used ATS-V’s are still going to look expensive but with time who knows. Sounds like this car handles really well, great steering and plenty of power. The other handler in this segment seems to be the new Jag XE which hopefully Autoguide will get to test soon (unless I missed that article already).

    If Chevy did a new SS on the Alpha platform with the LT1 V8, I think the some folks who wanted a ATS-V with a V8 maybe tempted to go with the Bowtie, but sadly does not sound like Chevy is planning a new SS.

  • Mark S

    Johan de Nysschen has placed his bets on matching the German MSRPs and getting a good margin and looking equal to the German brands in terms of quality. Do not think the transactions are high, so why not try lowering the MSRP and see if that tempts in more clients away from the Germans. Two other ideas increase thw warranty length like Jag and also bring back a wagon (the latter idea may not increase sales, but woukd be cool!).

  • craigcole

    Perhaps I should have said “adequate” legroom. I could sit behind the driver’s seat with it adjusted to accommodate me but my knees nearly hit the backrest. The space was better than I expected but more would always be appreciated. 🙂

  • taquitosforall

    Agreed. When I tried on an ATS at Enterprise while waiting for an airbag recall to be completed, the laughable back seat is the only reason I didn’t select it. It’s the size of the last gen Lexus IS, meaning it’s for either very young kids or apparently very skinny folk.

  • taquitosforall

    Yeah, an updated SS with either the supercharged Holden HSV engine or at least offer up the V8 with cylinder deactivation to squeeze out a few mpg’s. I believe the SS will be offered in 2017 so there’s still a chance. One can hope, but I’m not optimistic.

  • Yoo Jastle

    For that amount, I’ll go for the Bimmer

  • Circa79

    the 2017 ATS, CTS and XTS get updated gauges but there really aren’t any good pics of what the enhanced version looks like. The CTS and XTS have an optional 12.3″ screen which the ATS lacks. CUE software has been upgraded across the board, its just that CT6 has the touchpad

  • Eco Bust

    Drove a couple of these at Cadillac’s truth+dare event this month; got to do repeated 0-60-0 runs. Full throttle take off, and hard braking are best described as gut-wrenching.

    If they want to be taken seriously in this segment though, next time around they need a better guage cluster and they need a more appealing engine/exhaust sound; the thing reminds me of one of those old course-sounding pontiac grand prixes.

    Other than that, they have a hit.

  • Mark S

    Many thanks! I looked on the website, I could see the new gauges on CTS pictures, looks good, but the ATS still seemed old school (maybe their pics are out of date!). Understand that CUE benefits from more processing power and so more speed, maybe this along with the tweaks will help. I would tolerate CUE for such great handling (I drive an FR-S, the head unit “works” and the HVAC controls are from Fisher Price, means nada when in a corner 🙂 ).

  • Mark S

    The Dodge SRT and SP have that cylinder activation, seems to work well on the highway, but they have that 8 speed box as well….think GM need to get one of their newer boxes (8 or even the 10 speed) in the SS. SS with all the bells and whistles will be difficult to keep under 50k though :S…but they could save some $ by skipping their exterior and interior chrome addiction 🙂 They have an option to get the exterior chrome blackened, and yep they charge a couple hundred dollars for that.

  • Circa79

    you probably saw the CTS V gauges- they are different from the regular CTS. Cadillac still doesn’t have 2017 ATS, XTS or CTS info posted and thus there really aren’t any pics of the modified cluster.

  • Circa79

    well its not like the M3/M4 sound great…..

  • Circa79

    yes, 2016 was the year for better processor and some interface changes to CUE

  • Circa79

    JDN has decided to go for prices over volume and thats what is happening. In the US Cadillac’s average transaction price is at the top of the heap for full line brands. They are OK with that apparently. Cutting fleet sales has hurt their volume but they are trying to improve resale and image.

  • Mark S

    :S seems a GM trait, it is understandable, but hopefully they are not suffering the same inventory numbers on the Camaro, that is getting too high.

  • Mark S

    Ah, will keep a look out. I agree with Coles that the cluster looks nasty, but not a deal break for some such handling and performance. Feels like Caddie is so close to a near perfect car, but not sure that will help with the sales (having the perfect car). Some how marketing needs to tempt more folks to test drive and have some kind of carrot that makes the Caddie more tempting that the Germans, Lexus etc. Jag is using extended warranty, maybe that is the way to go.

  • Circa79

    luxury car sales are stagnant or declining. This applies to cadillac’s competitors as well. Cadillac’s sales look worse because their sedans weren’t necessarily top sellers to begin with and cadillac has only one crossover. Without at least 3 crossover they can’t really compete in the sales race.

  • Circa79

    SS is done after this year.