2016 Cadillac ATS-V Review

Making BMW drivers mVious

More powerful, quicker and outright faster than a comparable BMW, Cadillac’s newest model is the best reason to skip the letter M and head all the way down the alphabet to V.

The smallest and lightest V model ever, Cadillac has applied years of development from its CTS-V models, not to mention a racing program that has been winning championships on race tracks across America for over a decade.

So where better to put Caddy’s claims to the test than on the long straights and complex corners of the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 circuit in Austin, Texas?

Turbocharged Power

The lessons learned for this car may come from the past, but Cadillac certainly didn’t borrow from the archives when it came to the ATS-V’s engine. While past V models have been V8s and often supercharged ones at that, that’s certainly not the case here. Instead there’s a new twin-turbo V6.

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As one might expect of a modern high-performance turbo, power is immediate. But what’s more impressive is how it just keeps on pulling as you apply throttle. Rocketing out of turn 20 and down the front straight I catch myself screaming out to the son of God himself. The power is so dramatic it straddles the line between thrilling and terrifying.

The torque curve isn’t as impressive as that of a BMW M3 or M4. Where those cars make peak torque of 406 lb-ft at just 1850 rpm, at that same engine speed the ATS-V is closer to 330 lb-ft, before climbing to its peak of 445 lb-ft at 3500 rpm.

The surge isn’t as immediate as with its M rivals, though as a result the V feels more manageable and pulls more like a naturally aspirated engine.

2016-Cadillac-ATS-V-engineThe steady and controlled power delivery is also due to the car’s electronic limited slip differential, as well as the new Performance Traction Management system. Developed from the Corvette Racing Le Mans program it ensures you’re putting down the perfect amount of power to accelerate out of every corner as fast as possible.

As for straight line speed, the sprint to 60 MPH comes in just 3.8 seconds using launch-control on the 8-speed automatic. And while the M4 tops out at an electronically limited 155 mph, this car will go all the way up to 189.

Two Performance Transmissions

The eight-speed unit can be a touch jerky on the street and feels more tuned for high-performance driving where it wowed me by seemingly always being in the right gear.

The real gem, however, is the six-speed manual.

Any stick-shift on a domestic car, no matter how luxurious, is often criticized for having long, clunky throws with a clutch pedal seemingly designed for the dual purpose of doubling your calf muscles and operating a bellows. Not here.

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The throws are reasonably short and are impressively slick. The clutch is entirely forgettable in the sense that it’s so natural you’ll never even think about it.

A rev match feature lets you do some of the work, without having to worry about the heel-toe. And while the no-lift shifting is strange to experience, having zero interruption in power between shifts lets you make the most of the engine’s boost.

As for the brakes, they’re six piston front and four piston rear Brembo units. Cadillac doesn’t offer carbon ceramic units, which may surprise some, but I was dared to make them fade and I failed. Nearly identical to those found on the 500 lb heavier CTS-V, they’re the next best thing to a Neti Pot for clearing out your sinuses.

Built-in Data Recorder

performance-data-recorderOne gotta-have-it feature is the available performance data recorder that lets you record hi-def videos with an optional data overlay. The info can then be analyzed to help improve you driving, or simply used to brag on Facebook.

But of all the new V’s features what impresses most is the responsiveness. Yes, that includes the engine, but it’s really the steering and chassis that make this car so impressive.

The standard ATS structure, already the most nimble in its class, has been tweaked significantly to deal with all this power, adding 25 percent greater chassis stiffness. Combine that with thicker sway bars, tighter springs and some sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and when you flick it, this car turns. But more importantly, even the tiniest of changes you feel, as the car tells you you’re in control.

The Cadillac ATS -V is a scalpel. It just looks like a broadsword.

Styling as Sharp as its Handling

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Speaking of its looks, it’s hard not to be impressed. While the standard ATS is undoubtedly an impressive car to drive, it stands out like khakis and a navy blazer at a Midwest business meeting. That is to say, not at all.

But here almost every panel has been replaced. There’s a new splitter, wider fenders, new side skirts, a rear diffuser and even a carbon fiber hood. A dramatic improvement in styling, every change also delivers advantages when it comes to aerodynamics, weight and cooling.

SEE ALSO: 2015 BMW M4 Review

And if that’s not dramatic enough for you, the optional carbon fiber package adds a longer polished carbon fiber splitter and bigger rear diffuser as well as carbon fiber rocker panel accent and a taller rear spoiler.

About the only disappointing thing, other than the $5,000 cost of the carbon fiber package, is the rather simple color palette – especially compared to the gold or baby blue offered by BMW.

Performance Without Compromise

2016-Cadillac-ATS-V-group-02While amazing on the track, the third-generation magnetic ride shocks continue to offer incredible street dynamics, ensuring this hard edged sports sedan isn’t punishing to drive.

Those shocks are now 40 percent faster at reacting meaning that at 60 MPH the car is calculating the ideal shock setting for every inch of the road. Literally!

And with a sexier body, let’s not forget that it’s what’s inside that counts. After all, this is where you spend your time.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Cadillac ATS First Drive

Unfortunately some of the critiques of the ATS are still preset like the odd half-digital half-analog gauges, the CUE touchscreen that’s still not as responsive as your smartphone, plus the back seats is cramped. Then again you might not care about that in a 446-HP performance car.

On the plus side there’s a massively thick rimmed steering wheel, beautiful matte carbon fiber detailing and some incredible 16-way adjustable Recaro seats that let you adjust the seat and side bolsters.

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The Verdict: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Review

The ATS-V’s capability is undeniable, though perhaps more important is its engaging feel.

It’s also priced at about $2,000 less than a comparable BMW M3 or M4, with sedans starting at $61,460 and coupes from $63,660 (prices include destination).

True, it doesn’t have the recognition of a German brand on its side but at he same time, if you love cars and performance, chances are you also love being unique, and the ATS-V certainly stands out.

Recently Cadillac’s new boss detailed an aggressive plan to roll out a next generation of models, but said he doesn’t intend to seriously take the fight to Germany until after 2020. Having just tested the new ATS-V we’d say Cadillac has already come out swinging.

Discuss this story at our Cadillac ATS Forum