To compete in the segment dominated by the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, you need a comfortable, fast, good looking car that's fun to drive, attainably priced, and, ideally, available with either two doors or four. When Cadillac's ATS launched last year it hit all the right marks -- except for that last one.
That changes now, with the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe. Starting at $38,990 in the US (international pricing not yet available, but it converts to about £23,000/AU$42,000), this two-door maintains all the things we loved about the original ATS, fixes some of the things we didn't like, and does it all in a package that's subtly, but noticeably, more attractive than its predecessor.
From a platform standpoint, not a lot has changed. The coupe shares the same wheelbase as the sedan, but rides 10mm wider at the front and 20mm wider at the rear -- mostly thanks to wider wheels with a greater offset. Still, there's a new independent rear suspension design out back, standard Brembo brakes up front, and slightly revised suspension dynamics to boot.
Visually, almost everything is revised. At least subtly. The aluminum hood is the only body panel shared across the two models, with everything else from the wreath-free badge up front to the wider and lower tails in the rear receiving some sort of aesthetic massaging.
The grille is now wider and, with a dark mesh backing, rather more sporty. Doors of course are longer, as are the rear fenders, but neither look comically mis-proportioned. That's helped by a dropped beltline, which sweeps from the front wheel up to the rear tail. Slightly wider fenders cover the slightly wider rubber.
The roof is lower, making the rear look wider. Trunk and tail lights are reprofiled, all looking slightly more fresh, slightly more purposeful, than the sedan that came before.
Inside, little has changed, but legroom in the rear is challenge. Move the front seats up and you can fit two mid-sized humans in the back, but they won't be particularly comfortable. If rear-passengers are a concern, the sedan is more for you.
The CUE system in the dash is still here, love it or hate it. Functionally it's mostly the same as before, and sadly just as sluggish to respond. However, the ATS Coupe does offer a cool new feature: an in-car hotspot powered by LTE. Up to seven devices can connect to the car, which itself uses the roof antenna to connect to AT&T's network. This means that in places where your phone is struggling to connect, the car will likely have an easier time of it.
Note that while this feature is standard on all but the base model ATS, use of it is not free. AT&T subscribers will need to pay $10 a month to add the car to an existing data plan, while those on another network will need to create a new one. Tragically, the integrated Pandora app cannot use the car's Wi-Fi connection, requiring that its data go through the phone.
Another cool new feature is wireless charging, thanks to a Powermat integrated in the little hidden cubby behind the infotainment system. Tap on the chrome bar below the touchscreen and the whole unit pivots up, exposing the charging surface. If your phone isn't suitably equipped, there's a USB port in there, too.
To test the updated ATS we hit some of the best roads on offer in New England, on a pleasant cruise on a sunny day through the hills of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. As such we got to experience the best and, occasionally, worst that those three respective Departments of Transportation had to offer. A good challenge for the Coupe's new suspension.
As ever, the cars equipped with Magnetic Ride Control were the most pleasurable to drive. With the touch of a button you go from comfortable cruising to handling that, while not punishing, is certainly on the sporty side. In sport the car stayed poised and predictable through tight turns on rough pavement, while in comfort it was pleasant and cosseting on highways with painful expansion joints.
Stock suspension sadly makes compromises at either end, leaning more toward the sporty side of the equation.
Two motors will be available, including the 321 horsepower, 275 lb-ft of torque 3.6-liter V-6, which delivers 19 MPG city and 28 highway in the coupe. The 2.0-liter turbo four returns as well, but it's been given a significant boost. Horsepower is still 272, but torque is way up to 295 lb-ft, 35 more than this same motor in the sedan. It manages 21 MPG in the city, 31 on the highway.
There's not a lot of difference between them in terms of efficiency, nor is there much difference in terms of performance. The V-6 has better throttle response than the turbo, though neither is exactly urgent when you dip your right foot, and while the turbo doesn't quite have the same aural lustre as the six, it's the only motor of the two available with a six-speed manual transmission. It's a good one too, notchy and progressive and rewarding to shift. The 2.0 with the six-speed would be our pick.
The car is RWD by default, though AWD is available. Opt for that and you'll still have a rearward-biased system, one that sends power to the front wheels only when needed.
We also tested the extensive driver assists available in the ATS, including Lane Keep Assist, which gives the steering wheel a little nudge as you start to wander across one side of the lane or the other. The car also has adaptive cruise control, gives front and rear collision alerts, has blind-spot detection, warns you of cross traffic when you're backing out of a spot, and has a standard rear-view camera -- a good idea given the reduced visibility out the back.
The ATS coupe isn't wildly different than the sedan, but then it didn't need to be. The visual refreshes are subtle and on-point, the handling is clean, and the improved output from the 2.0-liter turbo four makes it an even better option. Sadly the CUE system hasn't seen a similar performance boost, but you can't have everything.