Cadillac's entry-level ATS offers buyers a modern American twist on the sports sedan recipe. Sharp handling, an available turbocharged engine, and even a manual transmission aim to attract buyers who might otherwise be drawn to the 3 Series and C-Class. But to get on the radar of enthusiasts, Cadillac is pushing the compact ATS into the realm of high-performance territory with the first-ever ATS-V. Its goal: to dethrone the legendary BMW M3.
While previous V-model Cadillacs have relied on heavy-hitting horsepower from high-end Corvettes, the ATS-V goes down a different route. Instead of eight cylinders of supercharged pushrod power, the ATS-V gets a 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged and direct-injected V6 engine. It's very similar to the engine used by the CTS Vsport, but here it makes 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. That's more power than the BMW, but not quite as much as the Benz C63's 505 horsepower or the Alfa Romeo Giulia's 503 hp. As with its rivals, the ATS-V is rear-wheel drive, and can be had with a choice of a six-speed manual or an eight-speed paddleshift automatic. The manual transmission offers no-lift shifting, allowing drivers to upshift at full throttle without taking their right foot off the gas pedal.
Building on the standard car's excellent road manners and balanced ride, the ATS-V goes one step further with standard magnetic dampers, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and six-piston front brake calipers by Brembo. Supporting Recaro seats are also standard, upholstered in leather and ultrasuede. Track rats, take note: the ATS-V is also available with a built-in video camera to record your best lap times. It even overlays speed and engine revs, just like in video games.
As with many cars, the ATS-V also has selectable drive modes that alter the throttle response and shift points (for automatic cars); sporty modes also change the suspension calibration for a firmer ride, a louder exhaust note, and weightier steering.
All of this is wrapped up in aggressive new styling. Though the ATS-V does not have a carbon fibre roof like the M3/M4, it does feature a carbon fibre hood. Flared fenders are matched to a giant hood-mounted extractor vent, and plus a deep front splitter with side sills. These components are also available in exposed carbon fibre, too.
For all its emphasis on performance, the ATS-V is still a sophisticated and technologically advanced car. All models feature the CUE touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, and full Bluetooth connectivity. On-board 4G LTE internet is standard too, courtesy of OnStar. Also, the ATS-V has wireless device charging, a premium Bose sound system with active noise cancellation, and available head-up display. ATS-V cabins differ from their standard counterparts with carbon fibre interior trim, metal-finish pedals, and a sport steering wheel with a thicker rim.
Available in Sedan and Coupe body styles, the ATS-V starts at $66,000 for the sedan and $68,305 for the sleeker two-door. That’s a sizable price advantage in favour of the Cadillac over its German and Japanese rivals.