Forget dumb alphanumerics. Eldorado Jr. That's what we should be calling the ATS Coupe.
(Full Disclosure: Cadillac loaned us the ATS Coupe for a weekend of relaxed fall cruising. We used it to go to a bakery and buy a pie. It was delicious. The car tasted nice too.)
Cadillac has been making a push for years, years, to be seen as some sort of new-American BMW or Mercedes. The ATS Coupe is nothing like a 4-Series or a C-Class.
In days past, a Cadillac was the sort of car that you'd buy for relaxing. You wouldn't buy a Fleetwood or an Eldorado to do some corner carving. You buy them to drive down to church, to get to an early dinner, to take the family to the weekend matinee.
And that's perfectly fine! Not every car needs to have a "Nurburgring tuned" suspension or heavy steering. You don't always want 600 pound feet of torque or a supercharged V8 or sports seats. Whatever happened to a mid-level luxury coupe that was comfortable and relaxing?
The V6 ATS Coupe is that coupe.
My first thought after getting in was that this is the sort of car that a stylish middle aged to older man would want to drive. He wants to be comfortable but he also wants to project the image that he cares about his looks, but he isn't going to a track day or constantly seeking out a windy back road.
I imagine the ideal customer Cadillac has undoubtedly created in their marketing meetings, let's call him Mr. ATS Coupe, probably goes to the gym for a round of squash with the guys and then picks up the wife for a late lunch at the country club, where the valets know his name and ask him where exactly did he get this stylish car.
He's the kind of guy who looks at the 2015 Mercedes C-Class and its impeccable interior and says "that's all well and good, but I'd much rather buy American please and thank you." The C-Class is going rgeous inside, but perhaps a bit too art deco. The ATS is very old school. The gauges in the ATS look archaic, like they came out of a Chevy Celebrity, some of the stitching appears to be done at GM's corporate daycare, Cue can be infuriatingly difficult, and the leather needs to wear in before it feels expensive, but, that said, there is something comforting about being inside the ATS.
Unlike the spaceshippy beauty of the new C-Class, the ATS is decidedly old school. Switchgear is where it should be, there are no awkward iDrive-esque interfaces to get used to, and the seats are comfortable loungers for an extended drive This is grandma's house in car form.
The ATS has Cadillac's 3.6 liter V6 with 321 horsepower and 275 pound feet of torque. It's not the most refined engine in the world nor is it the most powerful, but it gets the job done. Much like the engine, handling is also "ok." The steering "feel" is more how the steering wheel itself feels than road feel. Driving the ATS is not really an event, it's not a "driver's car."
It's a comfortable coupe, a great cruiser, perfect for the long haul. Unlike the 2.0T ATS — which feels much sharper — the 3.6 Coupe feels relaxed, large, and comfortable, as if it's channeling the spirit of Cadillac's past. It's a thing that I like.
Mr. ATS Coupe is not looking for 0 to 60 times or cornering G. Those are not things that matter to him. He wants to cruise in style.
The ATS Coupe is a throwback to the Eldorado, just in a smaller package. This is a great looking car that has a surprisingly comfortable and controlled ride and an engine that doesn't overpower the experience. If Cadillac says that this is a direct 4 Series or C-Class competitor, they're wrong. Nothing about the ATS matches the BMW or Mercedes dynamically, it's just not that type of car.
But why should that matter? The ATS isn't a BMW or a Mercedes. It's a Cadillac. And a Cadillac that actually behaves like the Cadillacs you remember. Mr. ATS Coupe, you keep on being you.
Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove