Los Angeles sees more than its fair share of exotic and ostentatious cars, so I was surprised when a bystander called out the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe for its looks. In truth, the ATS Coupe cuts a unique figure, with strong lines, a broad rear cabin pillar and a cool front lighting treatment using vertical LED running lights. As I drove a downtown LA street, I realized how this car stood out among the more common Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Ferraris plying the roads of tinseltown.
The new ATS Coupe is the two-door version of the ATS model Cadillac launched a couple of years ago as a new entry point to the brand. The company built the ATS from the ground up to compete with the likes of BMW's and Audi's smaller sedans and coupes. Against those stalwarts, the ATS Coupe has a lot to offer, although it suffers from a lack of refinement and Cadillac's own somewhat stodgy reputation.
At $38,990, the ATS Coupe runs about $5,000 more than the ATS sedan in base configurations. The example I drove came with Cadillac's Performance trim and all-wheel drive, bumping the price considerably to $47,930 before options. In the UK, the ATS Coupe goes for a base price of £42,297 at the single Cadillac dealer in the country. The ATS model range has not yet found its way to Australia.
Cue up the tech
Front and center in the dashboard sits the CUE, a touchscreen showing the Cadillac User Experience. The graphic treatment on the screen looks good, and I like the icon-based layout, familiar from smartphone and tablet interface design. When I first used CUE in the, it was frustratingly slow, a problem that has largely been fixed in the ATS Coupe. Touching the icons for different tech features yields quick results.
Except the navigation system shows considerable slowness on startup. When I jumped into the car and tried to enter a destination, I had to wait far too long for the menu to come up. I would touch the different destination input options then watch the seconds tick away before something actually happened on screen.
The navigation system's maps show good detail. Live traffic data, received over satellite radio, only covers major freeway and highways, lacking the more comprehensive traffic coverage from other automakers' systems. I like that the car proactively alerts you to traffic problems on the road ahead, useful if you haven't programmed in a destination.
While CUE comes standard in the ATS Coupe, the navigation system is optional software. I found that the car's Siri Eyes-free feature, which let me activate Siri on my iPhone from a long press of the voice-command button, could substitute for navigation. Of course, I merely got voice prompts from my phone, amplified through the car's stereo, with no visual element.
For Bluetooth music streaming from my phone, the ATS Coupe only shows track information, and didn't let me choose music on CUE. But here I could also use the Siri Eyes-free to specify what music I wanted to hear.
The ATS Coupe is well set up for digital music, offering three USB ports and an SD card slot. One USB port, hidden behind the climate-control panel, is perfectly situated for plugging in a phone or USB drive. A big Pandora icon on CUE's main screen indicates the presence of that music service, although the Pandora app also has to be running on your phone for this integration to work.
As with many other new GM cars, the ATS Coupe features a built-in 4G data connection as part of OnStar. That service can be used for emergency services, stolen vehicle recovery and remote control of some car features through the associated OnStar app. Unfortunately, Cadillac hasn't truly integrated this data connection with CUE, so the car lacks an online destination search feature and other app integration. The main benefit of the 4G connection for passengers is the car's Wi-Fi hotspot.
In Performance trim, Cadillac includes a collision-alert feature that uses a forward-facing sensor to warn about stopped traffic or other obstacles ahead. When I first began driving the car, the alert, a red light projected on the windshield proved hyperactive, flashing whenever any cars were stopped ahead. At the push of a button I was able to reduce its range so it gave me fewer false alerts.
A lane-keeping assist system twisted the wheel when I drifted across lane lines, putting me back on course. That feature would have paired well with adaptive cruise control, but that feature comes in a different package, one not present on my tester.