Expert Reviews

Quick Spin: 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

The ATS Coupe is Cadillac’s foray into the sexy little luxury coupe niche, and while the ATS-V is weaponized and armoured to take on M3s and AMGs, the example we tested is fit for casual civilian duty at your local mall.

Day or night, this is a captivating design.

To that effect, it is a gorgeous piece of metal, the chrome wheels, pearl paint, satin metallic grille sparkling in sunlight and lighting elements glowing brightly in the dark. Day or night, this is a captivating design. Sure I love the naked aggression and exposed aero of the ATS-V, but this is all class and modern design at its finest, elegant without being conservative, and avant garde without being angry.

The interior is equally appealing to my eyes. And hands and tush for that matter. The deep “Morello” (rhymes with bordello!) red leather seats and door panels are as dramatic as they come without being garish (okay, some of you may differ on this point). They are power adjustable in 12 directions for driver and 10 for passenger, with two memory settings for different drivers.

Beyond being comfortable, the leather feels superb on the seats and door panels, though I find the dash top and steering wheels a less convincing grade of leather. It's especially skimpy where the stitching shows what a thin layer it actually is. The alcantara and carbon-fibre trim (real open-pore wood is an alternative interior trim option, as are other colours for the leather) are a redeeming touch, and the glossy black plastic is a look I quite like, mixed in with some well-placed metallic accents.

The design, while appealing, may stray to form over function. Icons for vehicle functions are small and well integrated into the flowing waterfall console, but the climate controls are hard to decipher at a glance out of the corner of one’s eye. Perhaps familiarity over time would mean a visual reference is not necessary, but Cadillac has yet to set us up for a long-term test, so the jury is out on CUE’s touch panel controls.

Personally, I find the main touchscreen, gauge display and steering wheel controls effective, not quite as effective as the knob controllers in Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz products, but still easy to use, with rich, clear information, and large on-screen favourite and function ‘buttons’ that appear at the bottom as your hand approaches the screen. Plus, the central panel with the HVAC controls hides a secret storage compartment. Trés cool. Plus, in the tech race, GM trumps everyone with onboard 4G LTE wifi, and although not equipped on this model, magnetic suspension is available, and advanced driver aids like a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and forward collision warnings, and an active lane-keeping system.

This car supposedly has rear seats, but all I discovered behind the front seats was a small torture chamber. Avoid at all costs. Seriously, they should just drop the pretense and convert that space for parcels and pets or something. Unless you’re Willy Wonka or Dorothy, you’re not squeezing in any more than one of your friends. 

But forget about your friends, this is a great plus-one car that looks great and is a blast to drive. The 3.6L V6 is a blue chip in GM’s engine portfolio, the racy 335 hp coming on at 6,800 rpm with a heady wail, and enough of the 285 lb-ft available early to power you off the line smartly, torque peaking at 5,300 rpm. It’s an engine that can be driven hard to great satisfaction, or allowed to laze about makes for a smooth, easy ride with only 1,601 kg in RWD as seen here or 1,646 kg in AWD. For reference, that is over 150 kg lighter than an equivalent Audi S5, 100 kg lighter than the Lexus RC 350 and 36 kg lighter than BMW’s 435i Coupe.

While keeping weight down and power up is one thing, the ATS is also a solid frame that can adequately accommodate a flexible suspension – one that maintains a good balance in cornering and yet soaks up rough roads adroitly, even when equipped with this model’s sport suspension.

Unfortunately, while the V6 is smooth and the suspension offers a great range of performance and comfort, the normally well-matched six-speed 6L45 transmission exhibited a bit of an identity crisis throughout our week. Whether it was confused by my occasional bouts with aggressive driving or the more frequent mild-mannered commuting, something was off. There were several large hiccups when we attempted to brake hard into a corner and come out guns blazing, and even a couple occasions when ordinary acceleration was marred by lurching shifts.

The steering also failed to impress as much as past experiences at the wheel of the ATS sedan, without the crisp, sharp feedback and taut feel of my memories of that car’s rack, seemingly a bit softer and easier. Was it softer? Am I imagining things? Hard to say.

More ATS Coupe on autoTRADER: 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe: 10 things you need to know

Still, the degree to which it may differ from the sedan pales in comparison to the advantage over competitors in balance and handling. The force-induction Audi S5 and BMW 435i out-torque the ATS, the Cadillac’s weight savings and handling make it the agile one, turning in crisply and feeling poised and balanced in every situation (as does the 435i).

The ATS Coupe is one of those best-of-both-worlds propositions. It’s a car you want to push harder, but are also happy just cruising in luxury and refinement, enjoying the tech and the amenities and great looks. The fly in the ointment for me was that transmission, which is left behind by seven-speed dual-clutch units and eight-speed autos, and let down the poise and eagerness demonstrated by the chassis and engine.

Pricing: 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6L Performance
Base Price: $43,140
Base Price (3.6L Performance): $50,595
Options: Morello Red/Jet Black semi-aniline leather seating surfaces, $1,425; power sunroof, $1,395; Crystal White tricoat $1,295; Cadillac User Experience with navigation and 110V AC power outlet, $1,105; premium carpeted floor mats, $170; all-weather floor mats, $160
Destination: $1,800
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $58,045

4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 6 years/110,000 km roadside assistance

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