It's been a long time since a certain, blue-ovaled, American car company retired the tagline "Have you driven a Ford lately?" It was simple and catchy and effective, and it might just be time to roll that out again -- but for another American marque: Cadillac. If you haven't been inside a Cadillac in some time, you might be surprised what the brand is up to.
Thewas a nice statement of intent, a world-class performance sedan at a (reasonably) attainable price. Apply that same formula to the company's compact sedan, the ATS, and the result is this: the 2016 ATS-V. It too, has its eyes on the Teutonic European establishment with Cadillac again punching above its weight -- and again succeeding.
The ATS-V is a four-door, $60,465 performance sedan or $62,665 coupe that disappoints in a few respects -- but you might be surprised to learn how well it impresses in others.
People have been putting unnecessarily big motors in comfortable, practical cars since the dawn of the automobile, but with the ATS-V, Cadillac really looked at the full picture, from wheels to brakes to suspension to aerodynamics (yes, despite that angular shape). Still, it still all starts with the motor, and there's a good one here.
Beneath the hood of the ATS-V is a 3.6-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6. Power is delivered exclusively to the rear wheels through your choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic. That auto box is the quicker of the two options, getting the car to 60 in 3.9 seconds. And it's not bad, offering paddles on the wheel for when you feel like taking control and reasonably quick, decently responsive shifts.
Go with the manual and the sprint to 60 takes 4.2 seconds, but in exchange you get yourself a very nice feeling box. A stubby, Alcantara-wrapped lever offers short, positive throws that require a bit of muscle to engage. On top of that, the manual box offers flat-shift, so if you keep your right foot hard on the gas while accelerating you need only kick the clutch and grab the next gear. The computer automatically cuts the throttle for just enough time to keep you from bending the valves or destroying the transmission.
The car automatically rev-matches on downshifts, too, but thankfully that's easily disabled if you want to show off those toe-heel maneuvers you've spent so many years perfecting.
Yes, the twin-turbos do dull the throttle response to some degree, there's no denying that; but with such a solid rush of power it's awfully hard to complain. Get on the gas in any gear and the car seems to hunker down for just a moment before springing forward, a purposeful, guttural roar coming out of the exhaust.
Though far from quiet, among its peers -- BMW's M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C63 -- the ATS-V is definitely the most restrained aurally. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the state of your hearing and how many counties you wish to disturb on spirited Sunday drives.
But this car is about much more than just power. Hustle the ATS-V around a track -- I'm very happy to say that I've spent a lot of time doing just that -- and the thing feels remarkably at home. The steering offers light feel but turn-in is very precise and brake feel solid, a good compromise between street comfort and track ability.
The car is quite balanced on the limit, and thanks to five hidden traction control modes (accessed by double-tapping the TC button), you can actually have a lot of fun while still knowing that the computer has your back. And, even if you opt to turn things all the way off, everything is so progressive and predictable that you'd have to be pretty rough on the throttle to get yourself in trouble.
On the inside
Even should you select the ($2,300) optional sport seats on your ATS-V, you'll still find yourself sliding into a very plush, very comfortable throne. They're decently supportive, but honestly a little too soft for properly sporty antics. Step out of the C63 or M3 and into here feels like plopping into a Lay-Z-Boy.