by Adam Lynton
A good-looking, fast, and comfortable Cadillac. That's what your grandpa used to daydream about in the '60s right? Well, we're glad to say that America's favorite luxury car brand has managed to claw themselves out of the doldrums of the last 40-odd years and finally cracked the code to building cars that not only look good but drive as well as the best that Europe has to offer. The 2019 ATS-V delivers the goods with its twin-turbo V6 engine producing over 460 horsepower, sublime chassis, and entertaining handling. There might be material and build quality issues, and the standard safety features list is a bit on the short side, but this Caddy coupe delivers where it truly counts and has managed to convert some of those who swore that sporty executive coupes were only to be found in Europe. The ATS-V starts from $67,795 which includes a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.
The ATS-V has been around since 2016, and since then has become a much-loved American performance car, adored by tuners and admired by young petrol heads around the country. For 2019, Cadillac has decided to drop the sedan, and now only offers the coupe version. Other than that, they have added the Pedestal Edition trim package, which adds a load of carbon fiber trim pieces, Recaro bucket seats, painted exterior bits, and in-your-face Brembo calipers.
The standard ATS is a sharp-looking suit and tie car that shuns the more contemporary European design language, opting for a cut and thrust look that has stood the test of time and looks as good today as it did when it came out all those years ago. The ATS-V is bulked up and adds a serious dose of menace to Cadillac's range of sporty compact cars. Setting the coupe apart is a sports performance grille with active aero shutters and body-colored front and rear fascias. The turn signals are heated and power-adjustable, and the tinted windshield absorbs solar rays because the ATS-V cares about the environment. Not. It is disappointing to note that the 2019 ATS-V makes use of projector-beam headlights in standard form, although the tail lamps and center-mounted brake light are of the LED variety. The whole deal rides on a set of standard 18-inch alloy wheels, housed within arches flared compared to the standard ATS Coupe.
The 2019 Cadillac ATS-V measures up to the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe. Total length comes in at 184.7 inches, and the performance coupe stands 54.5 inches tall. Both Germans are wider, with the ATS-V measuring in at 72.5, compared to the BMW's 73.6 inches, and the C63's 73.9. The ATS-V's 109.3-inch wheelbase is also the shortest in this comparison. Despite being relatively small for its class, the ATS-V isn't the lightest of the bunch: weighing in at 3,803, the Caddy is 178 pounds heavier than the BMW, but over 200 pounds lighter than the heavy-set AMG.
A bold car deserves a range of bold colors: the 2019 ATS-V can be had in six different colors, each bringing its own attitude to the table. The bases are covered with a Crystal White Tricoat and Black Raven, while the rest of the palette is filled with Velocity Red, Satin Steel Metallic, Wave Metallic, and Bronze Sand Metallic. Black Raven is a popular choice and suits the car's undercover cop vibe, but we've seen a surge in popularity of the Wave Metallic, an intense deep blue that accentuates the more aggressive look of the ATS-V.
It might look good, but most who buy the ATS-V will care more about how it drives. We're happy to report that it drives well, and then some. Not only is the Caddy fun to throw around a track or twisty mountain road, but it will get out of the blocks at a rapid pace. Zero to sixty times in the low four-second range puts it right alongside the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63. Oodles of torque and good response means the ATS-V is able to do the suburban thing quite well, especially when you need to take a gap in traffic or overtake that mumbling cop car. Merging onto the highway will feel like warp speed for those not used to a lot of power. The Cadillac ATS-V is just as much a sports car than anything on offer from Germany; in fact, it is more entertaining to drive fast on a daily basis - likely to do with the fact that the standard ATS was benchmarked against the E46 M3 for chassis development.
For a car of its size and weight, the twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 lurking under the hood of the ATS-V is more than ample, and that's putting it lightly. This engine makes use of modern direct injection to produce an impressive 464 hp and a tire-shredding 445 lb-ft of torque at a high 3,500 rpm. The large-capacity V6 responds well to boost; its linear powerband makes everyday driving a pleasure, and makes throttle modulation more predictive, unlike some turbocharged performance cars that upset mid-corner balance with unwanted power surges. Power is fed to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. The six-speed manual isn't the best, but gearchanges always find their way home and keep the driver involved. An eight-speed automatic is optional and shifts gears quickly and smoothly, with only a slight hesitation in manual mode. The Mercedes-AMG C63, C63 S, and Lexus RC F are the only cars that produce more power in this class.
Many manufacturers have tried and failed to match the driving experience of BMW's M cars or the Teutonic beasts from the AMG stable, but Cadillac, a brand no one would ever suspect of building worthy sports cars, is getting close to offering a similar experience. What the Caddy gets right is to offer a refined driving experience when out and about, but being able to easily switching over to beast mode when the need arises. Turn-in is sharp and accurate, and the steering loads up nicely while providing good feedback, something that has gone amiss with its German rivals, who feel overly assisted in the steering department. Suspension lean through the corners is predictable, and you'll be amazed at how well the ATS-V will hang on in the corners, before breaking into a predictable slide. The BMW M4 might be a more precise weapon, and the AMG a better-balanced car, but the ATS-V gets close, and is arguably a more entertaining car to drive fast.
A luxury performance coupe with a twin-turbocharged V6 doesn't exactly sound like it's going to match a 1.5-liter Honda Civic on an eco run, especially when you drive with enthusiasm, and in the case of the ATS-V, driving with any sense of economy will be harder than resisting the urge to do a burnout at your son's preschool graduation. Cadillac gives EPA estimated figures of 16/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined, which is one mile less than the BMW and Mercedes. With a fuel tank capacity of 16 gallons, the ATS-V will travel approximately 304 miles on a full tank of gas.
Once again, comparisons will be drawn with German rivals, but Cadillac has taken this opportunity to step up its interior game in great fashion, but in the end, it still falls short. The general layout of the cabin seems pedestrian when compared to the crafted space of the M4, or the gorgeously designed C63, but signifies a step in the right direction for Cadillac. Standard features on the 2019 model include 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, dual-zone climate control, and a 5.7-inch driver information display. Cadillac has gone out of their way to include as many details as possible, which is surely appreciated, but the design and layout of many of the controls have been rendered impractical to reach and use. Getting in and out of the front is an easy process largely thanks to a set of wide-opening doors, but you'll have to squeeze and slither to get in the back. Once seated, visibility is good out of the front, but the rearview camera will be your best friend when backing up.
In classic sports coupe style, the Cadillac ATS-V prioritizes those in the front, while disregarding blood flow to the legs of back seat passengers. The heated front bucket seats are adjustable in 18 different ways, including adjustments for back bolstering and lumbar support, and offer great support when pushing on, but can be set to provide lazy-boy levels of comfort on the open road. In terms of overall interior space, the Caddy coupe doesn't disappoint and actually offers slightly more space than the Mercedes-AMG C63. Front-seat legroom is measured at 42.3 inches, compared to the BMW's 42.2 inches, and the AMG Merc's 42 inches. Taller drivers won't be pleased with the 37.6 inches of headroom on offer, but it gets worse in the rear, where legroom drops down to 33.5 inches, which is still more than what the Mercedes has to offer. The headroom is also tight at 35.1 inches. Overall the ATS-V offers class standard interior space, which isn't saying much.
Seat and accent colors are packaged together in four groups, with the optional V carbon-fiber trim being available across the interior color options list. The standard Jet Black leather seats feature suede microfiber inserts, which gives the interior of the ATS-V a decidedly sporty feel. The optional Recaro sport seats are available in three color combinations: you can have a black on black theme, or settle on a more mature Light Platinum and Jet Black, or Jet Black and Saffron combo. Either way, the optional Recaro seats look and feel great, and add a touch of European style. The quality of materials on the seats and significant touchpoints such as the steering wheel and shift knob is good, but you'll notice a few cheaper feeling plastics when you dig around the interior.
Compact sports coupes were never intended to be taken on serious family road trips, and the ATS-V will make sure you never even attempt to: the sporty Caddy offers a grand total of 10.4 cubic feet of space, less than its key German competitors, but all is not lost. The trunk lid of the ATS-V has a wide opening, and the front half of the trunk shares that wide space, but eventually shrinks down to a narrow passage once you hit the wheel-wells. The BMW might offer slightly more space overall, but that space is less accessible, and the same goes for the Merc. The war on cargo space continues inside the cabin: small door pockets and cupholders seem very un-American, although the Caddy does offer a secret phone compartment behind the climate control panel.
A short options list means you get more stuff as standard, which is good for the buyer. Unlike some auto manufacturers such as BMW, who present an appealing base price that is quickly obliterated by the optional extras, Cadillac offers most of its features at no extra cost. This helps to make up for the substandard build quality and refinement of the ATS-V. Exterior and mechanical features such as 18-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin Super Sport tires and connected to a sport-tuned suspension and a big Brembo brake kit will go unnoticed by some, but it is integral to making the ATS-V perform the way it does. LED taillights, heated and power-folding mirrors, and an active aero grille add style and attitude to the exterior. Inside, you'll find heated power seats, dual-zone climate control, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, an auto-dimming rearview as well as remote keyless entry, push-button start, and wireless phone charging.
We're pleased to report that the infotainment system on the 2019 Cadillac ATS-V is up there with the best in class, and apart from a few interface niggles provides an enjoyable user experience. The eight-inch full-color touchscreen display is mated to Cadillac's user experience five (CUE 5) software that delivers streamlined performance and seamless transitions between menus, but navigating said menus can get confusing for first-time users, and the soft-touch sliders are fickle. Cadillac thought it good to include 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, features that go a long way to future-proofing the ATS-V. A nifty feature worth mentioning is the teen driver mode, which limits certain parameters such as throttle input and in gear rev limits. It even reduces the amount of torque sent to the rear wheels. Sound is channeled through a 10-speaker Bose sound system that delivers outstanding clarity and full bass tones.
If you'd asked someone in the '70s, '80s, '90s, and early 2000s if they thought an American built sports coupe with a twin-turbocharged V6 would be a reliable car, you'd get a resounding "NO" as an answer. How things have changed since those dark ages. The 2019 Cadillac ATS-V has had no recalls, and you'd have to go back a good few years to find the last one, which affected the rear defogger coil. Some customers have complained about gearboxes that get stuck in a certain gear or power steering systems that would act out, but no major mechanical issues have been reported. Unfortunately, J.D. Power doesn't have an official score for the ATS-V, but Cadillac's four-year/50,000-mile warranty should put your mind at ease.
One of the ATS-V's most considerable drawbacks is its unimpressive safety record. The Caddy coupe has been tested by both the NHTSA and IIHS and has been left wanting. The IIHS only performed a partial test, which revealed that the standard headlight system was not up to modern-day standards, but the optional driver assistance package offered superior protection. The NHTSA gave a 2018 model a score of four out of five stars due to an average performance in their frontal crash tests. The Mercedes C-Class range was awarded a Top Safety Pick Plus award.
The unimpressive list of safety features could explain why the Cadillac ATS range failed to impress the NHTSA and IIHS: a basic airbag system, stability control, and cruise control is what you get, not mentioning ABS brakes and the like. This is almost inexcusable considering the fact that this is a 2019 model. If you're in any way serious about safety, you'll have to include the optional Driver Awareness Package, which adds adaptive headlights, lane change, and blind-spot alert; lane keep assist with lane departure warning as well as forward collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, and rain-sensing wipers. With these extra features added, there is no doubt that the ATS-V would perform much better on the American crash test circuit.
Cadillac has made giant leaps from where they were in the early 2000s to where they are now. The ATS-V proves that American car companies can build premium sedans that can stick with the best that Germany has to offer. The Cadillac ATS-V falls short in a few areas, however: the interior build quality needs improving, and the general design would benefit from a more distinctive look. Standard safety equipment can also be increased to match industry standards. Apart from those issues, the ATS-V is every bit as capable and fun as the BMW M4 or AMG C63. The 3.6-liter engine is an absolute gem, delivers mountains of torque in a seamless fashion, and is one of the car's highlights. Interior features are up to scratch with the rest of the class. At $67,795, the 2019 ATS-V is priced right next to its acclaimed German rivals, so it will be a tough decision to make, but as soon as you get behind the wheel, you'll know what to do.
The 2019 Cadillac ATS-V starts at an MSRP of $67,795, but due to its discontinuation, you should be able to pick one up at a bargain price. Be careful of adding too many options, however, as the price can climb quickly, and you'll end up with a Caddy that costs as much as more exotic and more accomplished machines. By comparison, the BMW M4 starts with an MRSP of $69,150, climbing to $103,100 for the hardcore CS model. The Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe starts at $68,750 and goes up to $76,450 for the 500 hp+ S version.
There is only one model on offer, which means you get standard features such as performance Brembo brakes, daytime running lights, and 18-inch alloys wrapped in summer performance tires. Inside, there's dual-zone climate control, heated and powered seats with 18-way adjustability, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Tech features such as wireless phone charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help keep the ATS-V relevant. The eight-inch infotainment screen offers quick response times and is easy to use once you get used to the somewhat confusing menu layout. A premium 10-speaker Bose sound system produces clear tones and full-sounding bass tones. The only letdown is the absence of any significant driver safety assistance features such as blind-spot assist or active forward collision avoidance, which are all optional extras on the 2019 ATS-V.
3.6-liter Turbo V6 Gas
Cadillac offers a number of optional packages mainly aimed at improving the safety, security, and appearance of the ATS-V. The Cadillac User Experience with navigation package adds navigation, a Bose surround sound system as well as a 110V power outlet. The Luxury Package includes three-zone climate control, heated rear seats, and power rear sunshades. The Recaro performance seats are a recommended option. For those who were less than impressed with the ATS-V's safety ratings, the Driver Awareness package is a must-have: it adds modern safety systems such as lane-keep assist, forward collision avoidance, and rear cross-traffic alert to the list of standard safety features. The eight-speed automatic transmission is also on the options list, for those who appreciate a more relaxed driving experience.
The 2019 Cadillac ATS-V is a standalone model that is only available in one trim, which makes the purchasing decision that much easier. The big decisions will have to be made when it comes to choosing features off of the options list. The exterior of the ATS-V can be optioned out with a sunroof or three different styles of alloy wheels. On the inside, the Recaro seats are a must-have, especially for those who are serious about driving their cars close to the limit. A non-negotiable is the Driver Awareness Package which adds driver assistance tech such as rain-sensitive windshield wipers, lane keep assist, lane departure warning as well as forward collision alert.
Who would've thought the day would come when a Cadillac would square up against Bavaria's finest? Well, the ATS-V is, on paper at least, a worthy rival. The M4 is powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six that produces 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque at 1,850 rpm. This number is significantly lower than that of the ATS-V, but trick electronics, a quick-shifting auto transmission, and a lower curb weight allow the BMW to accelerate to sixty in similar times. Fuel consumption is slightly better than that of the Caddy, coming in at 18/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined. On the road, the BMW is a more refined car, especially inside the cabin, where the build quality and design are second to none. Dynamically, the M4 will be quicker around a track but can't entertain as much as the ATS-V. The steering feels overly assisted and arcade-like, but turn-in and mid-corner grip are both excellent. The BMW, once the hooligan's choice, has grown up, and it's got a young upstart barking at its heels.
Mercedes' ultimate compact coupe performance car is an old school muscle car camouflaged with modern styling. As is the tradition, whereas BMW M cars offer a focused driving experience, the AMG C63 delivers a hammer blow of performance. The ATS-V is barking up the right tree, then. The AMG's power is supplied via a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that produces 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque further down in the rev range as compared to the Caddy. The Merc carries extra weight, but the sheer pulling force of that V8 cancels out any disadvantage, and the S version offers up more than 500 hp. Fuel consumption is still better than what the Caddy can muster: the C63 will manage 17/26/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The interior of the AMG C63 is a spectacle to behold: every detail oozes premium class, and the cabin feels more special overall. The same goes for the standard features and safety list. Driving the Mercedes-AMG C63 is a more refined and relaxed experience, but the ATS-V is more entertaining at the limit. The C63 is a safer car, with the closely related C-Class sedan scoring a Top Safety Pick Plus award from the IIHS. Plus, the C63 only costs a hair over a grand more. The sheer luxury and capability of the C63 are enough to win most over.