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2015 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Performance Coupe Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Cadillac's ATS Coupe is a world class contender

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY

      • SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyers Guide


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2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

"Designed to be lighter, more agile, and more engaging than its competitors" is the claim in the media kit for the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe. In the past, that would have been laughable hyperbole. Now? Believe it! The ATS Coupe is a stylish cruise missile aimed at Southern Germany. It's right-sized, quick over the road with excellent suspension and drivetrain tunings, and more than holds its own against BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz.

Yes, the engine is a four-cylinder. So? Turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and variable cam phasing give it 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter displacement, driving the rear wheels. Those specs beat Cadillac's 3.2 and 3.6-liter vee-sixes of previous years and compare well with the 3.6 V6 that is optional now. The V6 makes 321 horsepower, but only 275 lb-ft, and adds weight to the front end. The V6 may be quicker on the dragstrip, but when the road gets interesting light weight and balance wins. While both engines are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the 2.0T can also be ordered with a six-speed manual. Rear-wheel drive is the standard configuration, with all-wheel drive available with both engines.

The ATS sedan made its debut for model year 2013, with the coupe new this year. Sitting on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as the sedan, the coupe is less than an inch longer, an inch lower, and an inch and a half wider, with a wider track, all the better for responsive handling. Inside it sacrifices about an inch in headroom and the center rear seating position. It's a 2+2 coupe, and normal-sized adults can and did fit back there.

In base 2.0T trim, the ATS Coupe is, as expected, well-equipped. Even there high-performance Brembo brakes are standard items, as well as a nine-speaker Bose audio system and a rear-view camera. Above that, in ascending order of equipment and price, as the Luxury, Performance, and Premium trim levels.

My test car for the past week was a 2.0T Performance model equipped with the Kona Brown interior trim package and with a navigation system added to the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) information and entertainment interface. Rear-wheel drive and automatic transmission. The stick would have been more fun, perhaps, but with the engine's lovely torque characteristics, no complaints. Shifting optional -- any one of three gears could be used in nearly every driving situation. Even enjoying that as much as I could, and with as little highway droning as possible, I saw a 22-mpg average for the week. Compliments, also, to Cadillac's suspension engineers. Even in Sport mode rude quality was first-class Euro sport-luxury, without the thumpiness that often biases such more toward the sport side at the expense of comfort. Chassis dynamics? Wonderful With four-piston Brembo calipers in front, braking was never a worry. Can America compete with the best in the world in the performance-luxury class? Absolutely.




APPEARANCE: Embodying the latest in Cadillac styling cues -- sharp, angular edges and character lines, gently-curved surfaces, and vertical head- and tail-lamps -- the ATS Coupe is fittingly graceful and elegant. Although recognizably similar to the sedan, the coupe's roof, doors, rear fenders, and trunk are unique. As are the front fenders, widened a bit for the wider track. The grille was reshaped compared to last year's ATS sedan, and is also found on this year's sedan. Chrome trim surrounds the grille and side windows, and is also used on the door handles. Interestingly, without a frame of reference, the ATS Coupe looks much larger than it actually is. Unusually in this day of front-wheel drive ubiquity, the longitudinal hood bulge is actually over a longitudinal engine. There is a bit of a splitter at the front, but a short overhang keeps is out of trouble in most circumstances.

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2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

COMFORT: Interior design is cohesive with the exterior, cohesive without being overly busy. Materials and fit and finish are all to world-class standards. Yes, the "Kona Brown" interior is a pricey option at $1,295, but the wood used for trim pieces is discernibly wood, and not encased in plastic coating. Here, seats are leather, fronts 12-way power-adjustable and heated. The steering wheel adjusts for both tilt and reach and features a heated leather rim and controls for audio, information, and cruise systems. Instruments are brightly-backlit and easy to see. The CUE touchscreen at the top of the center stack and well-marked touch-sensitive controls below it are the main controls for climate, audio, phone, and information systems. Yes, they can be a bit finicky, such is the nature of that type of control. You'll adapt. The glovebox locks and there are useful storage spaces throughout the cabin. Audio choices are AM, FM, and XM radio, external players via USB or jack, and streaming through a Bluetooth phone.

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2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Access to the rear seat is good for a coupe, if more contorted than in a sedan. Nature of the beast -- and once in, two adults fit well if they're under 5-8 or so. The rear seatback does fold, a rarity in this class. Trunk capacity should be plenty for two people and any reasonable trip. Runflat tires mean no spare.

SAFETY: All ATS Coupes have a rearview camera. All have Brembo brakes, vented rotors front and rear with four-piston front calipers and single-piston rear calipers. Antilock of course, and with GM's unintrusive Stabilitrak electronic stability control system. Airbags are front, front side, front knee, and full-length head curtain. Performance and Premium models have the Driver Awareness Package of a safety alert driver's seat, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, high-beam control, and rain-sensing wipers. The safety alert seat vibrates on the appropriate side if a potential hazard is detected. Judicious driving in my narrow driveway was a good way to get a free massage…

RIDE AND HANDLING: What's better than passive safety? Active safety. The accident you avoid is the best kind… and here the ATS is your friend. Rear-wheel and near-50/50 weight distribution and healthy 225/40 VR18 front and 255/35 VR18 rear tires mean excellent traction and responsive steering. Which is further helped by the ZF electrically-assisted steering, which is never overly-assisted, even in normal and winter modes. Suspension is double-pivot struts in front and five-link in the rear, calibrated for a near-perfect blend of responsiveness and comfort. But there is no harshness or discomfort, even in Sport mode on dubious pavement.

PERFORMANCE: Ah, the joys of forced induction… plus direct fuel injection and variable cam phasing. Result? Maximum power when needed, and with a minimal appetite for unleaded premium. As much power as from a larger and heavier V6, with less weight. Statistics: 272 horsepower at 5500 rpm, 295 lb-ft of torque from 3000 through 4600 rpm. Redline is 7000, but there's no need to go anywhere near there except maybe if you're on the salt flats. Turbo lag is a non-issue, and even on appropriately entertaining roads sport mode and "D" worked well enough maybe 98% of the time. Torque is your friend. When desired, manual shifting by means of paddles behind the steering wheel is available. 0-60 in 5.6 seconds or so, so short highway on-ramps will pose no problem. Brakes are just as good, stops as well as it goes. My 22 mpg for the week could have been improved by more highway miles, but that seemed like a waste of this car's abilities. If 272 hp and 295 lb-ft aren't enough, there's the ATS-V… with a twin-turbo version of the 3.6-liter V6 making 455 hp and 445 lb-ft and an appropriately-reinforced chassis.

CONCLUSIONS: In its ATS Coupe, Cadillac has a world-class contender.




SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Performance Coupe

Base Price $ 44,935

Price As Tested $ 48,255

Engine Type turbocharged 16-valve DOHC aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with continuously variable cam phasing and direct fuel injection

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 272 @ 5500 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 295 @ 3000-4600 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 109.3 in. / 183.6 in.

Curb Weight 3418 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 12.6

Fuel Capacity 16 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium recommended

Tires Continental ProContact 225/40R18 88V front,255/35R18 90V rear

Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, 4-piston front calipers, single-piston rear. ABS standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 30 / 22

0 to 60 mph 5.6 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Kona Brown interior with Jet Black accents $ 1,295

Cadillac User Experience (CUE) with Navigation $ 1,030

Destination Charge $ 995