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