2015 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Performance Coupe

2015 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Performance Coupe

Grandad would not approve, but that’s a good thing

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My grandfather was a self-proclaimed “Cadillac Man.” He drove them for most of his life and you could always reliably find one tucked carefully away in his garage. Years of loyal ownership made him a self-proclaimed expert on the brand, and every time a new model came out he’d shake his head, get that wistful look in his eye while he uttered the old cliché- “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” I’ll never forget the first time he laid eyes on the sordid Catera; he was speechless, and not in a good way.

Along with the other masses of Cadillac Men and Women, my grandfather didn’t think that Caddy’s needed to go around corners quickly, nor did he believe that timeless, unhurried luxury should ever be sacrificed at the altar of driving dynamics. That said, I’m quite sure he wouldn’t like the ATS Coupe we flogged recently. I think that’s because the ATS is as far away from the old Fleetwood Coupe land yachts he became accustomed to as you can imagine.

PROS: Sharp styling, tremendously good chassis, excellent V6 engine.

CONS: Can get pricey with options, backseat is less useful for people than for cargo.

THE VERDICT: Cadillac’s ATS has become the car those who built it wanted it to be: the most engaging to drive entry-level luxury sports car on sale today.

I’m inclined to use his distaste as a barometer of positive change. Since the early Oughties, Cadillac has been working tirelessly to shed its stodgy image and show luxury car buyers that these “aren’t your Grandfather’s Cadillacs” anymore (remember the old Art & Science campaign?) Based on Cadillac loyalists who refuse to accept change and the positive direction the brand is headed in these days, I must apologize to Grandad, but this isn’t a sign of a brand lost- it’s the sign of progress.

When the ATS was in development, GM engineers had the BMW 3 series as their bogey. Not only were they able to match their benchmark in terms of driving satisfaction, they exceeded it. Actually, Cadillac did such a good job honing the Alpha platform the ATS is based upon that they have moved it decisively to the top of the list that includes the best handling sports sedans and coupes money can buy. To the Cadillac faithful, you read that right: your brand is cranking out some seriously compelling automobiles.

My grandfather would be consoled by the fact that the trappings of luxury he and his contemporaries valued so much have not been skimped on. Our ATS Coupe had all the bells and whistles you would expect, plus more- stuff like seats that have haptic warning built into them, hand stitching on most surfaces and steering wheel and a suite of technology designed to help drivers who have tragically short attention spans. Only the CUE infotainment system would have him lash out in annoyance, but that would be the case no matter what age you are or where you stand on Cadillacs in general.

Whether you’re a Cadillac loyalist or not, it would be hard to find anything negative to say about the styling. When I first laid eyes on the ATS Coupe, I felt a pang of disappointment; it wasn’t as big a risk taker as the old CTS Coupe, and looked too much like an ATS sedan with less doors. As my time went by with our tester, I began to appreciate the shape a whole lot more. It is squat and purposeful with neatly clipped overhangs, and parked next to an ATS sedan, it looks positively sexy. In fact, it may be the most arresting shape in the Cadillac inventory at the moment.

We said earlier that the ATS vaults Cadillac into the same stratosphere as BMW and other makers of luxo-sports cars and to us, which is the defining trait of this car- you can now mention it amongst the best without any qualifiers. The chassis and suspension are unflappable; it doesn’t matter if you’re attacking corners or guiding it around a gentle curve, it simply excels in all situations and inspires a huge amount of driver confidence. If there’s any fault to be found here, it’s that the ATS can feel a bit too firm at times. The steering responds to changes in direction with the speed and enthusiast of a Parliament Hill page, and the engineers have blesses it with a brightly talkative feedback. Rounding out the feat of dynamic delights are the brakes, whose tenacious bite and easily modulated pedal are a joy to use as well.

The list of ATS Coupe demerits is short. It’s a bit pricey, doesn’t have much room for people in the back seats and CUE will make you question every input you want to make to the climate, navigation or stereo systems. It may not have the slow, unhurried luxury of yesterday, but it’ll easily give the best of Germany and Japan a few sleepless nights when it comes to driving fulfillment. If this keeps up, Cadillac will once again be worthy of “The Standard of the World” designation not because they have all they toys, but because they are the best to drive. I think even ol’ Grandad would have approved of that.

 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance Coupe— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $58,045
  • Body Type: 2-door, 4 passenger Coupe
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.6-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  321 @ 6,800 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 275 @ 4,800 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,615 kg (3,560 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 12.8L/100km (18 mpg)