Five things we'd change, and three things that should stay the same.
A couple of days before reviewing the Cadillac ATS-V sedan, came news that the company would be killing off the ATS sedan after 2018. Fortunately, the ATS coupe is safe until 2019, so we took a spin in a six-speed manual model instead. In terms of driving feel, the ATS-V is hard to beat, but it does have several annoying quirks that potential owners should be aware of. Cadillac will likely replace the ATS with a new CT5, but before it does we thought we'd talk about five improvements we'd like to see on the next generation car and three items we'd keep.
The ATS-V is an incredibly quick car, thanks to a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 mph takes just 3.8 seconds with the eight-speed automatic, or 4.3 seconds with the six-speed manual. We enjoyed the smoothness of the twin-turbo V6, but it lacked the aural pleasure of competitors like the Mercedes C63 or Alfa Romeo Giulia QV. For the CT5-V, we suggest replacing the V6 with the new 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8 found in the new CT6 V-Sport. Not only would this engine sound better than the current V6, it would be more powerful with 550 hp, which could be detuned slightly for the smaller CT5.
Another annoying gripe we had with the ATS-V was Cadillac's CUE infotainment system. The touchscreen was finicky to use, and gave an odd haptic vibration upon each touch of the screen. It was also nearly impossible to read what was on the screen while wearing polarized sunglasses, which appeared to create a large burn mark on the screen when combined with sunlight. The new Cadillac XT4 SUV has already shown off a new version of CUE, which we hope will address these issues.
Even more annoying than CUE itself, is what surrounds the infotainment system. Instead of using buttons (like almost every other car in the world), Cadillac thought it would be a good idea to use touch sensitive controls. Even adjusting the volume becomes difficult, because your hand may bump into one of the other touch sensitive controls. What was wrong with a volume knob anyway? To make matters worse, the center console is made of a gloss black material, which constantly attracts dusts and finger prints. We'll take some good old fashioned buttons on the CT5 please.
The interior of the ATS isn't terrible, but it starts to feel a bit cheap when you attach a nearly $80,000 price tag on a well-equipped V model. Cadillac needed to cut costs somewhere on the ATS-V, so the car shares much of its interior with the standard ATS. We loved the optional Recaro seats, but we wish the rest of the interior was more differentiated from the base model. Even the gauge cluster, which looks like it was lifted straight from a '90s Chevy Impala, is shared with the base car. In order to be more competitive with other cars in the segment, the CT5-V needs a more bespoke interior.
We were fortunate enough to test an ATS-V with the optional six-speed manual, which was an absolute joy. We highly recommend this transmission, which even comes with auto rev matching and no-lift-shift. Many reviewers' gripes with the ATS-V stem from the eight-speed automatic, which can't match the quick downshifts of faster dual-clutch units. We'd like to the see GM replace the ATS-V's eight-speed with the 10-speed found in the Camaro ZL1, which would possibly make us think twice about getting the manual.
While we are on the subject of transmissions, while we'd like to see GM improve the automatic option on the ATS's replacement, it doesn't mean we want the company to kill off the manual. The six-speed unit in the ATS-V is a joy to use, and it's still the transmission we'd want if we were to buy one. Only the ATS-V and BMW M3/M4 still come with a manual option, and we'd like to keep in that way.
One of the ATS-V's best qualities is steering feel. Some automakers in this segment (we're looking at you BMW) think that "sporty" steering is the same as heavy steering. Hence why the rack in the M3 and M4 is extremely heavy in every drive mode. The steering in the ATS-V is light, yet extremely precise. The ZF electric steering rack is one of the best we've used at any price, and we hope the replacement can match the feel of the ATS-V.
Finally, we'd like Cadillac to continue offering 18-inch wheels on the ATS-V's replacement. While competitors go bigger and bigger with 19 and even 20-inch wheels, Cadillac decided to be smart by using 18-inch rims. Aesthetically, larger wheels look great, but compromise ride comfort. The ATS-V miraculously rides like a luxury car, while still performing to the standard of its competitors. We hope Cadillac doesn't cave in by giving the CT5-V larger wheels.