2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe First Drive
Savor the ATS Sedan’s More Selfish Sibling
Coupes are “me” cars, not “we” cars, their back seats more hypothetical than practical, so as far as I’m concerned, the smaller the sedan you coupe-ify, the better. Retiring the CTS coupe in favor of this new 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe, then, seems like a step in the right direction -- especially as that gets it onto the far lighter architecture of GM’s Alpha platform.
The ATS is aimed squarely at BMW’s iconic 3 and 4 Series, and while Cadillac doesn’t change the coupe’s name, it changes its bodywork at least as much as the Bavarians do. (The hood is the only shared exterior panel.) Some of the work is subtle enough that it needs attention. The front and rear track are widened by 0.8 inch, and the fenders are sensuously flared to cover this broader stance, adding 1.4 inches to the width. That track increase is achieved entirely with wheel offsets, giving the Coupe’s unique wheels more stylish, deeper-set hubs. The grille gets Cadillac’s new wreathless crest, and a design using horizontal bars notched to hint at Caddy’s signature egg-crate design.
Slimmer side mirrors cribbed from the CTS look sleeker, and frameless front door glass means the bright trim is mounted to the body, where the designers were free to vary its width more. And a slim C-pillar “sail panel” gives the greenhouse a lighter, airier appearance. Killjoy side-impact regs nixed a truly airy B-pillarless “hardtop” design with roll-down rear windows. The decklid is lower, and the shorter, squatter taillamps that go with it give the car a noticeably lower and wider look than the sedan
The roof drops 1.1 inches, slicing an inch off front headroom and 1.7 off the rear, making it comfortable only for very short-waisted people. Rear legroom is astonishingly unchanged from the sedan’s 33.5 inches, but hip room shrinks by a whopping 7.8 inches in back with the loss of the center seating position. The trunk is apparently widened and lengthened enough to compensate for the lower decklid, preserving the sedan’s 10.4 cubic feet of luggage space.
The new coupe’s unibody uses 380 feet of structural adhesive to boost torsional rigidity by 42 percent relative to the CTS coupe. Added chassis rigidity allows the suspension to be that much more precise, and toward that end the top-level “FE3” Magnetic Ride Control suspension is revised to provide more consistent performance at extremes of operating temperatures. Another chassis revision is a slight reduction in the amount of steering assist from the rack-mounted ZF electric assist, to increase road feel. And folks in the top half of the country will be happy to learn that the tire fitments closely match those of BMW, for which winter tires are widely available.
But enough preamble. Let’s strap in and drive. Having driven our long-term ATS sedan the morning before, I was freshly aware of sitting slightly back and lower, with no B-pillar looming in my peripheral vision. The first leg in an ATS4 2.0T offered some freeway cruising and a chance to try the new lane-keeping assist system, which nudges the car to stay within the lane, but won’t let you bounce from lane marker to lane marker with your hands off the wheel. This leg also indicated that coupes don’t get any more sound-deadening material than sedans, so there’s more road noise than in the competition.
Next up I grabbed a rear-drive 3.6 with the MRC suspension, which certainly buttons down the damping in Sport mode to a noticeable degree over the standard suspension. This leg provided opportunities for passing and enjoying the (slightly sound-enhanced via stereo) tenor wail of the V-6. It pulls hard to redline, reminding you of its 49-hp advantage over the now torquier turbo-four.
Having been tipped off that the third leg of our three-state (CT-MA-NY) drive was the twistiest, I commandeered a RWD 2.0T manual for this leg, taking full advantage of its abundant low-end torque to pull out of corners, then short-shifting just a bit past the 5500-rpm power peak. (It makes mostly noise at the 6500 rpm redline.) And frankly, the base suspension suited this kind of driving quite well. There were no extraneous body motions on the bumpy stuff, and the ride quality seemed close enough to the FE3’s Tour mode to suit me. A sport steering mode further reduces power assist, allowing the wheel to transmit very nice twitches and wiggles as the surface varies, while weighting up reasonably well in the corners. The shifter doesn’t feel or work quite as slickly as a BMW stick, and the sixth gear synchros sometimes complained when trying to skip fifth after winding out fourth. This engine makes more power and torque than its BMW counterpart, but it feels grainier and I wish I could turn up its mid-range and treble sound settings.
Should BMW be worried? This Caddy’s chassis dynamics are more than a match, and even if the ATS coupes don’t outrun their less powerful (but probably grossly underrated) BMW counterparts, they should perform strongly enough to satisfy the test-drive customer. I’d call styling a draw. I’d give the user-friendliness of the latest iDrive an edge over CUE, but of course Cadillac trumps on connectivity with 4G LTE, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and new standard wireless phone charging. So yeah, with 70 percent of ATS buyers to date being new to Cadillac, BMW should expect this tasty new two-door to woo a few would-be 4 Series buyers.
|2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door coupe|
|ENGINES||2.0L/272-hp/295-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.6L/321-hp/275-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3400-3700 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||183.6 x 72.5 x 55.9-56.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.5-6.1 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||18-21 / 26-30 / 21-24 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||160-187 / 112-130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.80-0.93 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|