We took the smallest Cadillac for a test drive - which debuted back in 2012 as a sedan, and was followed up by a coupe, which is our test car here. The ATS was one of the first outcomes following Cadillac's major shake-up in recent years. With the new model, the company is all set to lock horns with the Germans, BMW 4-series and Mercedes Benz C-class coupe, and well, I could add the Japanese Lexus RC F. Luxury sport two-door is the segment and we certainly do realize the attraction in the market.
The coupe is wider, longer and stays lower than its sedan sibling, while they both share the same wheelbase. All these changes translate to a unique roof, doors, rear fenders and trunk lid shape. However, the key highlight in the 2016 edition is the all-new engine. The new 3.6-liter V6 engine is more powerful and refined. The paddle shift eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the old six-speed unit. Cadillac estimates a nine percent enhancement in fuel economy, thanks to the new engine and features like Active Fuel Management and Stop/Start technology.
In all fairness, let me say this: you wouldn't fail to notice the ATS coupe in a crowd. It is flashy, and the long front design just exudes the essence of sportiness. Let's start from the front, which has a bold, but elegant two-bar grille featuring Cadillac's new logo. The headlights look as if they seem to be melting and dripping backward. The rear lights have a sharp look to them, and the big Cadillac logo under the rear lip spoiler is just spot on. Down low, the twin exhaust pipes are closer to the center of the car and they look aggressive. An overall sharp design, along with flashy chrome elements, put on a basic coupe outline - that's how it looks.
There's loads of space in the front and really no complaints about the seating position. It's a driver's car. Performance seats are quite supportive for good nasty actions on a rear-wheel drive; well, yes it's a RWD coupe folks!
Rear seat access is something that still needs to be sorted out. A bit of a squabbling thing, but you are fine once settled (except for some tall heads - inevitable when you chop a sedan). And then you've got the bliss factors. Let's start with carbon fiber trim, real wood, and metal plating. There are bits of handcrafted stitching around the center console, doors and instrument panel. Our test car had a leather combo of black and red. Then there is the 5.7-inch, three-window instrument panel cluster display and the usual set of infotainment gizmos and a few buttons for climate control. Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB and AUX input ports and heads-up display also get on the list. For music, we've got Bose's premium audio with a 10-speaker surround system. The ambient lighting accents across the console and doors gets you that last bit of futuristic feel inside.
CUE (Infotainment system)
As much as we are tech savvy nowadays, you wonder - people can't spare a glitch. CUE was good, but it wasn't too handy. Fast-forward to the new version, and we've got something better. The 8-inch LCD multi-touch sensitive screen sits on top of the central panel. There's a good storage area right at the bottom. The icons on the screen are large enough, and damn, they feel and respond way better. Navigation options have improved and the map layout looks engaging. Phone connectivity is better synced and some new features like voice-controlled connectivity have been introduced. (Apologies, I didn't try that out.)
Engine and drive
The new 3.6-liter V6 engine has an output of 335 horsepower and 386 Nm of torque. That's not a great step up from the outgoing 321 horsepower engine, but we felt the difference. It is smoother and a bit quicker. The nearly 50/50 weight distribution is great for stability. Some of the standard driver awareness options are Safety Alert Seat, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Change Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Rainsense wipers and Intellibeam headlamps. Higher trims come with Adaptive Cruise Control, automatic safety belt tightening, front and rear automatic braking, electronic parking brake and a full-color heads-up display.
There are three driving modes to select: Tour, Sport and Snow/Ice. Tour mode is for highway and city driving. The Sport mode, as you'd expect, was meant for tighter steering (which is re-tuned), a little more immediate response on the throttle and less forgiving suspension. There's much more connection to the road on turns. The rear portion stood stable and smooth, even on tight corners. The suspension is GM's Magnetic Ride Control, and stability and traction control help stick the car to the road. I can vouch for its grip and control any day.
The setup is rear-wheel drive, and why shy off to burn the rubbers? Sure, we had done that drill and it was fun. There's an element of bumpiness in Sport mode, which you would not want for a long ride. There's hardly any lag and the gears were decisive up and down. Throttle response is encouraging and the steering played its part in keeping things direct and quick.
New technologies, an upgraded powertrain and the new eight-speed automatic make the 2016 ATS coupe even better than last year. While it can keep up with BMW performance-wise, the style and interiors keep it a step ahead of others in the league. The point is this: the ATS coupe is no pretender. It has standout style, a richly luxurious interior, and is a blast to drive.
Pros: Sport handling, Cadillac exterior styling, luxurious and cutting-edge interior design, fun to drive, improved CUE
Cons: Small trunk and backseat
one word: blast
Rivals: BMW 4-series, Mercedes Benz C-class coupe, Lexus RC F, Audi A5
Engine: 3.6L V6, 335hp @ 6800 rpm, 386Nm @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 8L45 paddle shift 8-speed automatic transmission, RWD
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 6 sec, 10 L /100 km, top speed: 250 km/h
Weight: 1570 kg