The all-American Cadillac gives its beastly ATS-V mild tweaks to help it keep with the times
For a good part of the last few decades, BMW has ruled the performance car roost with its M3 coupe. Rivals from the world over, especially from Germany, have tried to take it down, but with little luck. Recently, we picked up the 2017 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe and something told us we may be in for a surprise - a new world order, perhaps? Let's take a closer look!
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
This built-in-Michigan linchpin is part of Cadillac's expanding V-Series. It is the baby brother to the original bad boy, the CTS-V, and is the smallest and lightest V-Series coupe ever. From the first drive of the ATS sedan in 2012, we've always thought of this to be a compact sedan with "cutting edge" design, and aesthetic balance. The coupe, which arrived a while later, shared similar impressions. And in all honesty, there is nothing quite like a Cadillac on the roads. It has that presence that separates you from the crowd, without an oversized rear spoiler or fluorescent paintjob.
They have done a near-perfect job of turning this civil coupe into something that shamelessly flaunts its performance credentials while somehow comfortably flying under the radar of law enforcements. It's got it all, from revised fascias and front fenders, to the hood, rear spoiler and rocker moldings - and every part has been designed to either contribute to lift reduction, enhance cooling or improve aero management. It certainly is a mean machine from all angles. And you got to love the duckbill spoiler and the conspicuous quad exhausts that go with it. More brownie points to Cadillac for dressing most of it up in carbon fibre.
It's got sporty 18-inch wheels that are wrapped with sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. These low-mass wheels not only help reduce un-sprung weight for greater agility and a more direct feel to steering inputs, but fill those wheel wells perfectly.
From an aesthetic point of view, the ATS-V Coupe does come across as edgier and probably more appealing than the BMW M3, but I must say that it has lost some of its newness over the years.
Climb aboard the cockpit and you find that signature ATS interior with elegant architecture finished mostly in dark-toned piano-finish plastics. And it's the lavish incorporation of genuine materials like real leather, metal and carbon fibre that gives it that premium look and feel. But there isn't much to separate it from its lesser sibling, so that's a bit of a bummer! The steering wheel is still a perfect tool to steer around town or track, thanks to its 3-spoke design and chunkiness. Behind that is a 5.7-inch, three-window instrument panel cluster display, with V-Series graphics and distinctive gauge readouts. The seating position is rather good, thanks to the unique 16-way-adjustable RECARO front seats.
The rear quarters, can be reached through a "crevice" found between the slanted front seat and door cavity and it requires some contortion to get in. As for space back, while the work 'adequate' may be used, it isn't the most comfortable.
The Cadillac User Experience or CUE system has evolved over time with improved touch sensitivity, but let's be honest - some rivals make better units.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
This first-generation ATS-V gets a mighty twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6 that makes 464 horses at 5,850rpm and 601Nm of torque at the crank at 3,500rpm. Just to get things in perspective, those figures would put this coupe in supercar territory a decade ago.
It is matched to a 6-speed manual transmission - with Active Rev Match and a no-lift shifting feature that lets you shift while you keep your right foot planted. Our test car, however, came with a paddle-shift 8-speed automatic transmission. It's not a dual-clutch variety, just a regular torque convertor. But you do get Launch Control and it's quick to shift for the most part.
Once inside, we got right to it! For the next few kilometres, we had our eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and the throttle buried, while we watched the speedo needle climb the counter at ridiculous rates. And although this is a force-fed engine, acceleration is quite the full-bodied experience in the ATS-V Coupe: it is quick on the gun, accelerates through the mid-range like it can blow through a wall and even revs it out to redline smoothly. in almost every gear. And surprisingly, it puts down power better than a Corvette and that's why it does the 0 to 100 km/h dash in a claimed 3.8 seconds. It is essentially a muscle car in a sports car guise. Also, its exhaust tone may lack V8 symphony but its loud and obnoxious tone will stamp its authority around neighbourhoods.
We know that the regular ATS has a well-sorted chassis and a communicative steering and we assumed that when Cadillac would slap a V-badge on it, it would shine even more. and that certainly is the case.
The 2017 ATS-V rides on the 3rd-generation Magnetic Ride Control delivering 40 per cent faster damping response than before. This set-up ensures a reasonably comfortable ride when driving around town; when you drive aggressively, it becomes taut and limits body roll as you would require on a track. You can alter its stiffness, throttle mapping and steering assistance using various modes like Tour, Sport, Track and Snow/Ice at the touch of a button. This gives it duality of purpose: it's got the hardware to be a track car and a daily driver.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
We aren't big fans of the CUE infotainment system, but must admit that it has come a long way and has become far more user friendly than before. Part of that upgrade was the incorporation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which let you access smartphone functions - like Google Maps. There is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot-spot which seems rather unnecessary for a 2+2 seater, but there is nothing such as excess these days. Also, whether using Bluetooth or USB, you can play music through Bose speakers with Active Noise Cancellation technology.
It's got a segment-exclusive Performance Data Recorder enabling drivers to record, view and analyse driving experiences by capturing real-time video using HD camera, cabin audio and performance data. In terms of boot capacity, the ATS-V isn't a segment leader, but it will fit in a large suitcase. There's a usable central cubby, a hidden compartment with a retractable cover behind the centre console and an inductive charger in it.
The Cadillac has done it right with the 2017 ATS-V Coupe. It is the compact coupe that we have been looking for, one that bears beauty on the outside and, inside, is prepped with a 464-horse twin-turbo engine that helps it blitz past most sports cars. both in a straight line and on a curve while generating a sonorous exhaust note. The design is showing some age, the rear quarters are cramped and the quality is not quite German, but only by a bit. Whether this is a BMW M4 crusher is something we can only say after a head-to-head comparison.
The 464bhp ATS-V Coupe is capable of out-accelerating the 1st-generation 556bhp CTS-V Coupe to a 100 km/h from a standstill. Technology changes everything!
Body type: 5-seater; 5-door compact crossover SUV
Engine: Front-engine; twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6; rear-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Peak output: 464bhp @ 5,850rpm; 601Nm @ 3,500rpm
0 to 100km/h: 3.8 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 304 km/h (electronically limited; claimed)
Price: Starting Dh265,000
Pros: Striking looks; prodigious power; capable chassis that loves corners; overall refinement
Cons: Design is starting to show age; tight rear quarters; residual value; not quite German quality
Author's rating: 7.5/10