Review: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V shows just how serious the American brand is about going toe-to-toe with its European luxury performance rivals. With the larger four-door CTS-V now resolutely chasing the BMW M5 and the Mercedes-AMG E63 through the realm of supercharged V8 super-sedans, entry-level performance has been pushed down in both price and size by way of the outstanding ATS platform. The addition of turbocharged V6, magnetically-adaptive suspension technology, and a host of available hi-po tweaks and styling flourishes have placed the Cadillac ATS-V on par with rivals like the BMW M3 and the Audi RS4.

Pros

  • The 3.6-litre V6 under the hood of the Cadillac ATS produces 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque thanks to the ministrations of the pair of turbos that sit beside it in the engine bay. These numbers allow for a sprint to 100 km/h in a mere 3.8 seconds with the 8-speed automatic transmission installed (and only slightly slower for the standard 6-speed manual). Power is delivered smoothly and with zero lag off of the line, giving the car a civilized character despite its aggressive aero package.
  • The CTS-V is no slouch, but the ATS-V's lower curb weight and smaller dimensions make it the best-handling Cadillac ever produced. Chassis tuning isn't entirely buttoned-down, either - it's easily the most 'fun' sedan in its category to hoon on a race track, without ever making you feel like you're flirting with disaster. Kudos goes to GM's segment-leading Magnetic Ride Control suspension technology, which offers both soft and stiff settings at the touch of a button.
  • You won't draw too much attention from the local constabulary in the Cadillac ATS-V, as its styling is more gentleman that 'boy' racer. Carbon fibre accents are available, and the hood cut-out and rear wing definitely clue gearheads as to the nature of your ride, but the vehicle is not as extroverted as its bigger CTS-V brother. There's also a coupe available, should you not require the practicality of a sedan.
  • When it's not going fast, the ATS-V is supremely comfortable, in a 'let's drive instead of fly' kind of way. A mile-eater that's willing to boogie when the Trans-Canada highway ends and the road to cottage country begins, the Cadillac is a truly versatile daily drive / track toy combo.

Cons

  • Want to add the CF accents mentioned above to Hulk-up the ATS-V just a little bit? You'll pay dearly: while the sedan's $66,000 MSRP is reasonable compared to its peers, the Carbon Fibre package will set you back a whopping $5,755. That's a lot to pay for a diffuser, front splitter, and rocker extensions (plus the glammed-up hood cut-out). In fact the only pricier choice on the Cadillac's options sheet is the 'Track Performance Package' ($6,835), which includes the contents of the Carbon Fibre package plus the Performance Data Recorder, and, strangely, the deletion of all floor mats, tow hooks, and the tire inflator kit.
  • While we're enamoured of the 3.6-litre biturbo's staggering performance, it's way, way too quiet. Hit the throttle hard and you'll get some growl, but at lower speeds the engine lacks the aural character that even the BMW M3's somewhat choked straight-6 can provide. This is a car that definitely needs a sport exhaust option, or at the very least a re-tuned set of mufflers so we can enjoy it even when we're not flat-out.
  • In the same vein, the 8-speed automatic is a snoozer in this car. Don't get us wrong: leave it in auto mode and you'll get very quick shifts, plus impressive predictive ability that will hold the right gear through a given corner or while braking. The paddles, however, aren't engaging to use whatsoever, and the auto-box significantly dilutes the high performance character of the car. Save yourself the $2,300 and stick with the manual.
  • Some buyers will have an issue with the Cadillac User Interface (CUE) that handles infotainment for the car. It can be frustrating at times to play with, but an update is coming for the 2017 model year. The ATS-V's rear seat is also smaller than what you would find in, say, the BMW M3, warranting a pre-purchase reality check should you plan to fill all seating positions.
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