Long has it been since Cadillac was known for tail fins, rocket shaped lights, and a ride that could challenge a battleship in terms of cornering. Over the last few years, the company has redirected its efforts, redefined the brand, and gathered as many free thinkers as it could to put the company on this renewed global luxury car trajectory.
Part of this resurgence is in part thanks to the first generation CTS-V. It was a supercharged V8, M3/M5 killer in the best possible way. It sent a massive amount of power to the rear wheels, and shed off the boat-like Cadillac persona in a blaze of glory. In essence, the first generation CTS-V was genesis for the new Cadillac. Now, though, the company is riding that resurgence continuing to refine the brand for the immediate future. With that, it has launched a new V Series model that we spent a few a days with: the brand new ATS-V.
Tony Roma, Cadillac’s chief engineer for the entire V lineup, said while the last generation CTS-V was loved, it ran the knife’s edge of fighting both the BMW M3 and M5 fighter. It never was strictly one or the other, which led to a confused car. The new ATS-V and CTS-V finally separate the two and head to battle their own respective benchmarks.
The ATS-V is a grown-up car— in the best way possible. It has all the accoutrements that any self-respecting businessperson could want. A rather straightforward infotainment system. Super cushy leather that envelops you in the seats, which are both heated and cooled. And enough room in the cabin for even the tallest of basketball players. I’m 6’4”, and I still had another 4 inches of headroom. I never felt like I needed more space, which is sometimes the case with cars in this segment.
However, my two biggest complaints did come from inside the car. The steering wheels thickness is entirely wrong. I never felt fully confident in my hand placement due to the overstuffed diameter. A smaller, thinner wheel could go a long way. Secondly, the gauges on the dash seem like an afterthought. If I was going to spend $64,000 or more on a luxury performance car, I’d rather not have gauges raided from the GM parts bin. Thankfully, that’s where the ATS-V’s faults end and the rest of the car begins to shine.
This ATS-V has one of the best rides for any sports car. The BMW M3/M4 after extended driving can be harsh. Their chassis and the suspension are too stiff for longer trips on normal pockmarked roads. The ATS-V has no such problems.
The Magnetic Ride suspension just soaked up all the bumps and potholes. Even in the Sport setting, the ride never communicates the harshness of the road to the driver. Of course, you can still hear what’s going on and feel the road through the steering wheel, but this ATS-V has more in common with a grand tourer than a normal sports car…until you put your foot down.
Goosing the 464 horsepower twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 is a hoot. Shifts come quickly and violently, especially in the manual transmission. The time between shifting from first, to second, to third is mind blowing fast. This car revs like a super bike and the time between the perfect shift at 5500 rpm and the redline at 6500rpm is almost instantaneous. Missed shifts and hanging the rev limiter are definite possibilities when first learning the nuances of the car.
While the car is impressive when putting your foot into the gas, its real trick is in the chassis and the handling the engineers have worked so hard on. For those that have never experienced Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, the track is intimidating. It’s a place where pro drivers crash and go off the track in bad places. Stepping onto the tarmac and hopping into the super fast Cadillac definitely made my palms sweaty. They shouldn’t have been.
The mechanical grip and intuitive steering in this ATS-V are beyond reproach. Turn into a corner hot, the tail just slightly comes around enough to catch a powerslide. Lift through the turn after braking hard though and you’ll be rewarded with a perfectly executed, and supremely planted car through the rest of the corner. Then you’ll be able to apply the ample 445 lb-ft of torque to the best of its abilities. It’s extremely hard to truly unsettle this car, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lifeless engineering project like many other new sports cars.
The ATS-V is confident. It plays to its strengths and weakness, of which there are few. The ATS-V is a ballsy, world-class sports car that can definitely hang with any of its German rivals. And possibly beat them.
Engine: 3.6L Twin-Turbo V6
Price: $61,460 (base)
Fast and nimble
Extremely comfortable on long trips
Amazing engineering, especially for Cadillac
Steering wheel needs to be thinner
Gauges look like they came from a Pontiac
Engine could be a bit louder under acceleration