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Review of: 2016 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2dr Cpe 3.6L Premium Collection AWD


2016 Cadillac ATS Coupe: Not your grandfather's Cadillac

By Chris Chase

Jun. 21, 2016

Having proved it can build a small sport sedan more than good enough to be considered alongside upscale stalwarts like the BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS, Cadillac moved into the compact coupe realm in 2015 with a two-door version of its ATS.

BMW, Audi and Lexus have all sought to separate their small coupes lines from formerly-equivalent sedans with new names (4 Series, A5 and RC); Cadillac has begun rolling out a new naming convention (the XT5 crossover and CT6 sedan are the first models to use it), but for now, an ATS is an ATS whether you want four doors or two.

Pros & Cons

  • + Usable technology
  • + Comfortable front seats
  • + Throttle response
  • - Interior space
  • - Brand's reputation belies vehicle
  • - Transmission shift quality
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  • Walkaround

    While the lack of rear doors is the main thing distinguishing an ATS coupe from a sedan, the two-door gets a bigger butt that makes it easy to tell the two body styles apart from the rear. The coupe is about 20 mm wider and longer, but it looks longer than that, thanks to a more rakish roofline and a cleaner look in profile.

    Cadillac’s angular look may not be to everyone’s taste, but we like it: it’s at least as distinctive as the BMW 4 Series, and far less controversial than the Lexus RC with its gaping-maw grille.

    8.2Very good
  • Interior

    Two doors or four, the ATS is unmistakably a compact based on its interior space. This is not a roomy car: the front seats are supportive but snug, and headroom is one of the main things you’ll miss.

    The two-place rear seat is usable, but this car should come with one of those signs you see next to carnival rides: “You must be shorter than five-foot-eight to ride.” Getting in and out of the back seat is a bit of a contortionist’s trick as well, but the front seats do flip and motor forward to ease access.

    Trunk space is more impressive: it’s narrow, owing to intrusions for the rear wheels, but there’s room for a couple of medium-sized suitcases, and more than enough for groceries and the like.

    As touch-sensitive centre stack control layouts go, this is one of the less objectionable ones: the climate controls are lined up along brushed metal rails that give you a tactile point of reference and help you keep your eyes on the road when making adjustments on the fly. The touchscreen infotainment system’s (Cadillac calls it CUE) touchscreen is less successful in that regard.

    One of the ATS’ best interior features is the storage compartment tucked in behind the climate controls: touch the bottom edge of the panel and it motors up to reveal a space large enough for some smartphones and music players; larger smartphones will only fit without a USB cord plugged into them.

  • Tech

    Standard tech includes remote engine start and intelligent keyless entry. The optional CUE (it stands for Cadillac User Experience) interface looks good and is reasonably easy to navigate, but its touchscreen interface isn’t sensitive enough, often requiring a second touch to make it do what you want. Our tester was also fitted with a safety and security package that adds forward collision alert, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert and a head-up display.

    The head-up display is handy, but like most, it disappears if you wear polarized sunglasses. GM’s blind zone/lane change alert is more unique in its use of a vibrating seat to warn of a car in your blind spot, rather than shrill beeping.

  • Driving

    The ATS Coupe starts out as a rear-wheel drive car powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s good for 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, making it notably more potent than four-cylinders of the same displacement offered by BMW, Lexus and Audi.

    You’d need to do back-to-back drives to detect any tangible performance that comes as a result of that extra juice, but taken on its own, the ATS is a fine performer. Good torque is available from 2,000 rpm (indeed, Cadillac says this engine makes 90 percent of its 295 lb-ft from that point, with the full amount on line between 3,000 and 4,600 rpm) and there’s little turbo lag, so this compact coupe scoots from a stop.

    Our tester was fitted with optional AWD; the car’s standard rear-drive layout would provide a purer driving experience, but an early spring snowfall made us grateful for the extra traction, considering our car’s winter tires had already been switched out for performance-biased all-seasons. That said, four-wheel traction also comes in handy on dry pavement in powerful cars like this, making it easier to power through corners without invoking stability control intervention if you push beyond the rear tires’ traction envelope.

    New for 2016 is an eight-speed automatic transmission with both the turbo four-cylinder and V6 engines. It’s a busy machine in normal acceleration with all those ratios to move through, but it does well at keeping the engine in the meaty bit of its powerband when more enthusiastic forward motion is in order. It’s not as transparent in its work as the six- and eight-speeds used by Lexus and BMW, though. A six-speed manual is available, but can’t be had along with AWD.

    Steering feel is pretty good, and the ATS feels competent being flung around corners; ride comfort is tolerable, but few performance-oriented vehicles manage better than that on Ottawa’s dodgy post-winter pavement.

    Posted fuel consumption figures are 10.8/7.8 L/100 km (city/highway) with the 2.0L and AWD; our tester averaged 11.0 in a week of driving in weather both wintry and spring-like. The ATS Coupe uses an engine auto-stop system to save a bit of fuel at stoplights; it’s less obtrusive here than in a couple of BMW 3 Series we’ve tested.

  • Value

    Our ATS Coupe started out in Luxury Collection trim and carried a $48,735 starting price. Options — CUE with navigation, the safety package and a power sunroof — added a little more than $4,600 to that price, for an as-tested total of $53,375.

    A Lexus RC 300 AWD starts at $48,350 with its 255-hp V6, and for $53,700 (with the optional F-Sport package) matches most of the ATS’ features, but trades a head-up display for ventilated front seats and a power-adjustable steering wheel. It also lacks our ATS tester’s forward collision warning system.

    Audi’s A5 goes for $53,000 in top Technik trim with the Technik Plus package to bring its safety and tech kit up to a point competitive with its Cadillac and Lexus competitors.

    Meanwhile, a BMW 428i kitted out very similarly to our ATS Coupe prices out to nearly $58,500.

    The ATS boasts the most potent powertrain in this class, its turbo motor out-powering both BMW’s 2.0L four-cylinder and Lexus’ entry-level V6. For the record, Lexus will add its own 2.0L turbo to the RC line later this year, which will just about match the 4 Series’ four-cylinder’s output.

  • Conclusion

    It might be a good thing the ATS is among the better values in this class: a friend and BMW fanatic said he’d never buy a Cadillac because “it’s an old man’s car.” It’s clear this brand has yet to overcome its reputation as a builder of cars that appeal to elderly gentlemen, and that’s a shame. In spite of its shortcomings — the snug interior and occasionally rough-shifting transmission key among them — the ATS both looks and drives like a legitimate sport coupe that deserves to be considered along with its more established competitors.

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