2016 Cadillac ATS Driving Impressions

The ATS sedan comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. This naturally aspirated engine is not available for the Coupe because it’s about making the ATS affordable, not exciting; it rates an EPA-estimated 21/33/25 mpg City/Highway/Combined.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is arguably the bread-and-butter engine, available for coupe and sedan, with its healthy 272 horsepower and strong 295 pound-feet of torque, which is slightly more torque than the V6. It rates 19/30/23 mpg.

The 3.6-liter V6 has direct fuel-injection, stop-start technology, and active fuel management (cutting from six to four cylinders during cruising), which helps it achieve an EPA-rated at 20/30/24 mpg City/Highway/Combined, or 20/29/23 mpg without the stop-start system. The V6 is rated 333 horsepower and 285 pound-feet of torque.

The sportiest model is a Coupe with the 2.0-liter turbo with 6-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. It’ll do zero to sixty in 5.6 seconds, right quick. The V6 with the eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive might be more capable overall, but it’s also more of a Cadillac cruiser.

With any powertrain, the handling of the ATS is composed and precise, giving the driver confidence. The ZF electric power steering is part of it; we like the lightness in normal mode. In sport mode it’s heavier but not quicker, which we also like, for the predictability.

The multi-link rear suspension works well on all road surfaces. The front uses short and longer links with MacPherson struts to form a virtual axis; shorter links flex less, improving precision and response. The ATS corners flat, without body roll. Cadillac has learned a ton from its impressive racing program. The ATS feel more taut than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Audi A4, and it handles rough roads much better than an Infiniti G37.

The ATS with the optional FE3 sports suspension uses magnetically charged fluid-filled dampers similar to the Magnetic Ride Control in the Corvette. The FE3 package includes wider 18-inch wheels and tires, and Brembo brake calipers with upgraded pad material. It’s available with the 2.0 turbo.

The ATS-V is ready for the track, armed to take on a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, with stiffened shock towers, a stronger rocker bulkhead, stronger rear cradle-to-rocker braces, V-braces for the engine compartment, and an aluminum shear panel at the front of the chassis. The electronic limited-slip differential applies power progressively, while helping adjust the car’s rotational attitude.

The ATS-V feels wonderful at turn-in toward an apex, or at the edge in a fast sweeper. The 6-speed manual transmission feels a bit ropy, but it does rev-matched downshifts on its own. The 8-speed automatic accelerates quicker, and in manual mode it’s actually better on the track thanks to perfect gear spacing. With 14.5-inch rotors and Brembo calipers in front, and 13.3-inch rotors in the rear, the brakes can sure slow the car down from high speed, although it feels a bit squirmy under the weight of 3700 pounds on somewhat narrow 255-mm front tires.

One fun and useful option for the ATS-V is the Performance Data Recorder, which does video and audio, in addition to gathering data including acceleration, grip, steering angle, braking pressure, throttle input, and more. It can overlay laps from each session to study and improve. It’s what all the professional teams do.

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