For decades, the go to luxury sport coupe has come from Germany and worn a BMW badge. But when South African Johan de Nysschen took the reins at Cadillac and set about developing the ATS, he wanted that changed. He benchmarked an older car, the e46 BMW 3 Series, for its chassis balance, communication, and handling attributes. Now, the Germans are the one’s who’ll be struggling to find a retort – with either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, and engine choices of a turbo four or a V6, the Cadillac ATS Coupe is the luxury sports coupe of the moment.
It’s clear all the development went to the chassis, as seemingly little went into several areas of the cabin. The driver’s quarters are comfortable, with supportive seats that are easy to configure into a comfortable, low slung driving position. But ingress and egress to the rear of the cabin is tight, and once in there, things don’t get much better. The sedan’s rear is already cramped, but the coupe cramps this further, and taller passengers will wish to avoid riding anywhere but up front. Trunk space is similarly cramped, lagging behind segment leaders like the BMW 4 Series with just 10.4 cubic feet to the BMW’s 15.7 cubes.
Inside the cabin, materials are of a decent quality, but aren’t of the same standard of BMW and Audi in this segment. But the biggest fault is the CUE infotainment system with its 8-inch touch screen – it’s sluggish and feels dated and would benefit from a few genuine buttons.
Johan de Nysschen’s choice of benchmark couldn’t have been better, and it’s paid dividends. The suspension may be firm, though the magnetic ride control on higher models makes that flexible. However the firmness has its purpose and the damping is impressive at filtering out secondary jitters. But plough into a series of corners, a canyon, or your favorite racetrack, and the suspension is perfect. Body control is superb, with minimal body lean tapering off towards the limits of adhesion.
The steering is part and parcel of this, with immediate responses and excellent front end grip. It may not be as quick to turn in as an Alfa Romeo Giulia, but it has the 4 Series beaten hands down, and the balance the chassis offers is second to none in this class. All-wheel drive adds extra grip, but the rear-driven models are the sweetest handling of the bunch, with a chassis balance that leans on oversteer.
ATS-V aside – that’s a story for another day – there are two engines available in the ATS Coupe. A base 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 develops 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic, with all-wheel drive optional, though only with the auto ‘box. Opt higher up the range and you’ll get a 3.6-liter V6 with 335hp and 285 lb-ft, fitted with only the 8-speed automatic gearbox. All-wheel drive is an option on the V6 Premium Luxury, but the Premium Performance model is rear-wheel driven only.
Four trim lines are available – Base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Premium Performance – the former two featuring the 4 cylinder engine and the latter pair with the V6 only. Even in base trim, you’ll get a rear-view camera, power seat adjustment, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Trims in between range in features, with the Premium Luxury trim adds front and rear park sensors, heated seats and wheel, and added safety with the Safety and Security package that incorporates forward collision alert and blind spot monitoring. The ATS hasn’t been tested by the IIHS, but scored 5 out of 5 stars from the NHTSA in all crash tests.
The packaging may be poor, and the design not for everyone, but the Cadillac ATS Coupe has upset the proverbial apple cart as one of the sweetest handling sports coupes around. Our pick – the 3.6-liter Premium Performance model – it might have less torque than rivals, but the chassis upgrades are worth it.