The Cadillac ATS is damn fine car even if it doesn’t have a BMW badge on its hood. What do you need to know before you buy a Cadillac ATS? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in the Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.
Cadillac is trying to turn its brand around from one that elicits thoughts of pink fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror and shag carpet on the dash to one that elicits thoughts of fine engineering and excellent dynamic handling.
Basically, Cadillac doesn’t want you to think they build boats anymore. They want you to think they build BMWs.
So it should be no surprise that Cadillac was gunning for the E46 BMW’s handling when they designed this ATS, since that 3-Series was a damn fine specimen.
It’s great that GM’s engineers set their functional objectives based on a strong competitive set that includes the likes of BMW and Mercedes. For us, that means we get a better handling vehicle. But it’s easy enough to appreciate the ATS for what it is, not for what it’s pretending to be. It’s built on an excellent lightweight platform, it handles with precision, it comes with a stick, it gets a nice interior and manages to undercut the current 3-Series by a few grand. That’s a win in most people’s books, even if the 3-Series is a few tenths quicker through the twisties.
In a few years we’ll probably start buying ATS sedans and coupes on the cheap and start turning them into race cars. Try doing that with an old Cimarron or Catera or STS or just about any previous generation Cadillac.
The handling is sharp, the steering is good, and the power is pretty decent depending on which engine you buy. Is it the best track-car made in the last ten years? No, of course not, but it’s got the right formula and they haven’t been as appreciated as they could be.
The car isn’t perfect, either. The back-seat is about as unusable in the ATS sedan as it is in the coupe. The Caddy’s CUE system has been improved but it’s still not our favorite infotainment system. The car is attractive but a bit bland in sedan form.
It took years for the 3-Series to be recognized as the car it is and it’ll take generations for the ATS to get there, so it’s a good time to invest in an all-rounder.
Of course, throw all of that out when you talk about the ATS-V. If you’re buying the twin-turbo’d V6 model you should just go straight to the track. That car is a lot like the second generation CTS-V in that it’s just the right amount of crazy with a focus on making the driver into a Euro-beating monster.
Just watch the video above.
The Cadillac ATS launched in 2012 as GM’s first application of its new Alpha Platform. With the BMW 3-Series in its crosshairs, the Lansing, Michigan-built mid-size luxury sedan spent much of its development time around the Nürburgring having its suspension tuned to better its odds against the German stalwart. Cadillac boasts about the car’s low curb weight, 50/50 weight distribution and sophisticated suspension setup that allows for both refinement and precision.
That 2013 car came with a 2.5-liter I4, a 2.0-liter turbo I4, and a 3.6-liter V6. It also got plenty of tech like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, adaptive forward lighting, forward collision alert, an 8-inch touchscreen for its CUE in-car communications system, and lots more.
In 2014, Cadillac didn’t do much to their small sports sedan, but in 2015, they launched a Coupe version of the ATS appropriately called the ATS Coupe. The ATS Coupe had revised styling over the previous ATS sedans, so in 2015, Cadillac switched up the sedan’s styling to match the coupe’s. Aside from a few additional gadgets inside and a bit more torque for the 2.0-liter turbo, that covers the changes for 2015.
But don’t think Cadillac sat around playing Fallout after that new Coupe. No, for 2016, Cadillac launched a monster. A car that will give the other goliath in the Cadillac lineup, the CTS-V, a run for its money. The new monster is called the Cadillac ATS-V, and it boasts a 464 horsepower twin-turbo V6 along with a six-speed manual with rev matching, magnetic ride control and Brembo brakes. It’s kind of awesome.
While the rest of the “normal” ATS variants were overshadowed by the ATS-V, they weren’t neglected for 2016. The 2.0-liter turbo got start/stop and the V6 got swapped for an all-new, more powerful 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 with cylinder deactivation. Also new for 2016 is the addition of 8-speed Hydra-Matic transmissions across the board. The CTS-V gets a beefier 8L90 unit, while the rest get the 8L45.
So GM put their heart and soul into the ATS, and they’ve been continuing to keep it relevant with updates along the way.
Cadillac is throwing a naturally aspirated four cylinder and a six cylinder into the ATS, as well as turbocharged four and six-pots. The base engine is a 202 horsepower 2.5-liter naturally aspirated, direct-injected inline four. This is the car you rent. A step up from that engine is a turbocharged direct-injected two liter turbo making 272 ponies. This is a car you buy.
Get into the V6s, and you get either a naturally aspirated direct-injected 333 horsepower 3.6-liter or, if you go with the ATS-V, the mighty turbocharged, 464 stallion V6 with the same displacement.
All non-V models come with a Hydra-Matic 8L45 eight-speed automatic transmission, though the 2.0-liter can be had with a six-speed manual for no additional charge. The 3.6-liter twin turbo-powered ATS-V gets a Tremec T6060 six-speed manual transmission as standard and for an extra two grand, gets a beefy Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed auto.
2016 Cadillac ATS Engine Options
Engine Max Horsepower (hp) Max Torque (lb-ft) 2.5L I4 202 @ 6300 rpm 191 @ 4400 rpm 2.0L turbo I4 272 @ 5500 rpm 295 @ 3000 rpm 3.6L V6 335 @ 6800 rpm 285 @ 4800 rpm 3.6L twin-turbo V6 464 @ 5850 rpm 445 @ 3500 rpm
Gas mileage is decent across the board. Anything but the V model and the all-wheel drive trims will get you 30 MPG highway, and that ain’t bad.
The 202 horsepower 2.5-liter I4 and the 272 2.0-liter pony turbo I4 are the thriftiest, managing 26 MPG combined. Yes, despite the additional 70 horsepower, the 2.0-liter matches the 2.5’s fuel economy, though the 2.5 uses standard fuel and the 2.0 requires premium.
The 3.6-liter is still in the same playing field, scoring 24 MPG combined. that’s a number that may seem a bit underwhelming, considering cars like the 500 pound-heavier Chrysler 300 can achieve very similar economy figures.
Opt for the CTS-V and your combined fuel economy goes down the toilet and into the teens. But you’ll be smoking those tires down woodward avenue with those 464 horses, so you might forgive a bit of guzzling here and there.
2016 Cadillac ATS Fuel Economy Ratings (City/Hwy/Combined)
_ 2.5L I4 2.0L turbo I4 3.6L V6 3.6L turbo V6 6-Speed Manual NA 20/29/23 NA 17/23/19 8-Speed Auto 22/32/26 22/31/26
Technically, the Cadillac ATS comes as four different models: The ATS Sedan, the ATS-V Sedan, the ATS Coupe and the ATS-V Coupe. The ATS-Vs come only in standard trim, but the regular 2.5-liter comes in either Standard or Luxury trims, the 3.6-liter comes in either Luxury, Performance or Premium, and the 2.0-liter turbo can be had in any of these four trims.
Front brake discs on non ATS-V trims are either 11.8-inches on standard sedan trims or 12.6-inches for coupes and higher trim sedans. The 12.6-inchers are Brembos clamped by four-piston calipers. Rears on all ATSs are single-piston calipers squeezing 12.4-inch rotors. The ATS-V gets big brakes. Six-piston calipers squeeze brake pads against 14.5-inch rotors in the front, while four-piston calipers create the friction against 13.3-inch discs out back.
All ATSs get a MacPherson strut suspension up front, a five-link setup in the back and electric power steering.
- 2.5L Standard: Starts at $33,215. Notable standard features: 2.5-liter I4, 8-speed automatic transmission, 17” alloy wheels, Bose 7-speaker premium sound system, satellite radio, 4.2-inch screen for radio, Bluetooth, 5.7-inch driver information display, leather-wrapped steering wheel, halogen projector headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, power leatherette seats, OnStar three month trial (includes Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Roadside Assistance, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Advanced Diagnostics). Notable options: Cadillac CUE and Surround Sound: 8” touchscreen, Bose 10-speaker surround sound, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Wireless charging, rear vision camera ($1,575); Dual exhaust ($1,095); Sunroof ($1,050).
- 2.0L Standard: Starts at $35,245. Notable standard features over 2.5L Standard: 2.0-liter turbo I4. Notable standard features over 2.5L Standard: Front Brembo brakes. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); 6-speed manual ($0); otherwise same as 2.5L options.
- 2.5L Luxury: Starts at $37,340. Notable standard features over 2.5L Standard: Cue infotainment system with 8” touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Rear Vision Camera, Leather seating surfaces with 8-way power front seats and memory, front and rear park assist, remote start, Brembo front brakes, unique 17” polished alloy wheels, auto dimming mirrors. Notable options: Sun and Sound Package: Sunroof, Bose 10-speaker audio system, navigation ($1,500); Cold Weather Package: heated front seats, heated steering wheel ($600); Slotted Brake Rotor and Pad Upgrade Package ($1,190); Dual exhaust kit ($1,095); Sunroof ($1,050).
- 2.0L Luxury: Starts at $39,340. Notable standard features over 2.5L Luxry: 2.0-liter turbo I4. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); 6-speed manual ($0); Otherwise same as 2.5L Luxury options.
- 3.6L Luxury: Starts at $41,340. Notable standard features over 2.0L Luxury: 3.6-liter V6. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); Otherwise same as 2.5L Luxury options.
- 2.0L Performance: Starts at $43,155. Notable standard features over 2.0L Luxury: HID headlamps, adaptive forward lighting, LED vertical light signatures, performance bolstered front seats, Cadillac CUE and Bose premium audio with active noise canceling, rain sensing wipers, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Safety Alert Seat, Lane Change Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Magnesium paddle shifters, aluminum sport pedals, unique 17” painted alloy wheels. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); 6-speed manual transmission ($0); Cold Weather Package ($600); Slotted Brake Rotor and Pad Upgrade Package ($1,190); Sunroof ($1,050).
- 3.6L Performance: Starts at $45,155. Notable standard features over 2.0L Performance: 3.6-liter V6 engine. Notable options: Same as 2.0L Performance sans manual transmission.
- 2.0L Premium: Starts at $46,110. Notable standard features over 2.0L Performance: Head-Up Display, CUE infotainment with Navigation, Performance suspension with Magnetic Ride Control, adaptive suspension, limited slip rear differential, high capacity engine cooling, 18” forged aluminum wheels, performance summer run-flat tires, power tilt and telescoping steering column. Notable options: All-wheel drive ($2,000); 6-speed manual ($0); Cold Weather Package ($600); Driver Assist Package: Adaptive Cruise Control with full speed range capability, Automatic Safety Belt Tightening, Front and Rear Automatic Braking, Electronic parking brake, Head-Up Display ($2,885+Cold weather Package- Not available with manual); Slotted Brake Rotor and Pad Upgrade Package ($1,190); Sunroof ($1,050).
- 3.6L Premium: Starts at $48,110. Notable standard features over 2.0L Performance: 3.6-liter V6 engine. Notable options: Same as 2.0L Premium sans manual transmission.
- ATS-V Standard: Starts at $60,465. Notable standard features: 3.6L Twin-Turbo V6, 6-speed manual, Launch control, Performance Traction Management, magnesium paddle shifters, carbon fiber hood, electronic limited-slip differential, Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires, Cadillac CUE infotainment system with 8” touchscreen display, Bose 9-speaker audio system (7-speaker for Coupe) with Active Noise Cancellation and sound enhancement, 18” alloy wheels, wireless charging, dual-zone automatic climate control, front and rear park assist, power heated leather seats with suede inserts, electronic park brake, performance brake linings, Brembo brake calipers. Notable options: 8-speed automatic ($2,000); Luxury Package: Navigation, Sport alloy pedals, HID headlamps with Adaptive Forward Lighting and LED vertical light signatures, Split-folding rear seats for sedan ($2,500); Carbon Fiber Package: Carbon fiber front splitter, hood vent, and rear diffuser plus composite black rocker extensions and composite rear spoiler ($5,000); Safety and Security Package: Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Change Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Head-Up Display, rain sensing wipers, automatic high beam control, rear thorax airbags, theft avoidance sensors and locks ($1,850+Luxury Package); Cadillac CUE and Navigation: Cue infotainment with navigation, Bose 10-speaker sound system for sedan or 12 speakers for coupe, Apple CarPlay ($1,085); Track Performance Package: Carbon Fiber Package, performance data and video recorder, low mass battery, deleted front carpeted floor mats, deleted tow hook, deleted tire inflation kit ($6,195+Cadillac Cue and Navigation).
The ATS Coupe comes in only 2.0-liter and 3.6-liter trims, but is optioned very similarly to its sedan brother, though it costs about $3,000 more than its sedan counterpart. The ATS-V Coupe, too, costs about three grand more than a similarly equipped sedan.
In a year that’s been full of amazing cars, the ATS-V is near the top of the list. With more than 460 horsepower shoved into a light-weight chassis with all of GM’s racing-inspired suspension tuning, it’s an idiosyncratic way to have your fun. Sure, it’s $60,000, but there aren’t that many luxury cars you can get at this price that are this fun to drive. If that’s a little rich for your blood, there’s nothing wrong with the 2.0-liter turbo mated to a six-speed transmission.
MSRP: $33,215-$61,460 Top Speed: 189 MPH [ATS-V]
Acceleration: 3.8s to 60 [ATS-V]
MPG: 21 city / 32 hwy / 26 combined [2.5L]
Engines: 2.0L Turbo I4, 2.5L I4, 3.6L V6. 3.6L twin-turbo V6
Max Horsepower/Torque: 464 hp/445 lb-ft [ATS-V]
Curb Weight: ~3,319-3,700 IIHS Safety Rating: Not Fully Tested
Transmissions: 8-speed automatic, 6-speed manual
Drivetrain Layout: Front-Mid Engine, RWD/AWD
Photo credit: Cadillac