If you have what's known as Old Money, meaning Really Very Ancient Old Money, you tend to live in New England and your great-great-great-grandparent has their own Wikipedia page and you drive a Range Rover. But if your money is slightly more youthful, you'll want the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe.
That's not to say it's for tacky, gauche Nouveau Riche-types. Oh no. Those people drive a Lamborghini with yellow wheels, which, let's face it, can be pretty awesome. But those who are in the market for what used to be called a "personal luxury" car and those in the market for a mid-engined supercar with garish footwear aren't entirely one and the same.
So if your money comes from at least two generations back, you'd want to drive something a bit more reserved and a bit less flashy, while still keeping a smooth, refined drive. You'd want a car that can get you places in a fun and engaging manner, but you wouldn't want to live in constant fear of flipping it.
Yes, cars like the Cadillac CTS Coupe, especially in V form, are for the bold and brash and not you, you scion of a multiple horse-owning family. But for those who want a good, old-fashioned American badge on something that can whisk you away to both a place that uses "Summer" as a verb and an athletic club that isn't just a gym, you can do worse than an ATS.
(Full disclosure: Cadillac wanted me to drive the 2015 ATS Coupe so bad that they had me drive to a resort on 58 acres in northwest Connecticut, a little corner of the world filled with horse farms upon stables upon horse farms upon stables, in keeping with who the car is for. We actually drove right nearby Lime Rock race track, but we didn't actually go on the race track, so I've got many years worth of resentment now bottled up because of that. I also slept in an enormous helicopter. Yes, a helicopter. You'll be hearing more about that later. As this disclosure goes on, I can feel your concern that I haven't mentioned the shrimp yet, because no press drive is complete without shrimp. Don't worry, the gazpacho they gave me had shrimp in it.)
In case you've gotten this far without realizing that the ATS Coupe is based on the ATS Sedan, the ATS Coupe is based on the ATS Sedan. Now you know. As such, it's got the same engines, the same transmissions, similar suspension, similar steering, similar everything, really.
But now with two less doors.
It's not entirely the same as the sedan, however. Scratch that, actually. From the outside, they're almost totally different. The only exterior pieces the coupe shares with the sedan are the hood and the headlights. The roof has been lowered, enabling a further raked windshield, the beltline is lower, and both the front and rear tracks have been widened.
It really is a handsome car from most angles. Cadillac's facet-y styling has been smoothed out for years now, and as it further matures it just gets better. What was once an upright, bullish, and almost awkward face, on the original CTS, has now made the Cadillac ATS Coupe – dare I say it – the prettiest in its entire segment.
Really, it is. The Audi A5 has the same exact teutonic visage as every other Audi (not that the ATS doesn't look extremely similar to the CTS), the C-class coupe, while pretty, isn't exactly daring, and the BMW 4-series looks like a rather large person sat on the hood when it was still warm from the factory, and now it's all squished.
If I have a complaint about the exterior, it's that the front looks oddly proportioned from some angles, and that the lower grille could be heaps more aggressive.
Though, I suppose Cadillac's saving the aggression for the imminent ATS-V model. Still, I'm not sure having it so toned down is the best idea, which seems to just serve the purpose of not offending people when you drop your small children off at boarding school.
The ATS Coupe interior is, well, good. Everything feels like it's made out of quality materials, and as the Cadilac marketing gurus drilled into our heads for 24 hours, "if it looks like aluminum it's aluminum, if it looks like it's wood it's wood, and if it looks like carbon fiber, it's carbon fiber."
So, yeah, it's all pretty good. Not zomgwowamazing, like some Citroen DS wackiness, but it's quiet and comfortable and everything falls to hand pretty easily. The steering wheel is surprisingly nice and chunky, everything's pretty readible, and the sound system plays music with a nice bass line.
Put the front seats back, and Shaq would have a hard time complaining about leg room. But if you put the front seats all the way towards the rear, expect to only fit amputees back there. But that's not exactly unusual for a coupe.
But a "good" interior is pretty standard for this class. So, yeah.
The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe comes in two main flavors, namely, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, and a 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated V6. Traditionalists might be scoffing right now at the thought of a tiny turbo-4 being put in their big Cadillac coupe, but while it's slightly down on raw horsepower from the V6, at 272 horses compared to the six's 321, it has more torque, at 295 pound-feet to the six's 275 pound-feet.
In day-to-day driving, you probably won't notice much of a difference between the two, but I actually think I like the little four a bit more. Yes, the V6 makes a bigger, deeper noise at the top of the rev range, but I found the four-cylinder to be a bit smoother and eager all the same. And that makes sense, when you think about it, because it's both a smaller engine but with more of the actual grunt.
Cadillac says it'll get to 60 MPH in 5.6 seconds, and from the driver's seat that seemed believable enough.
But where the drivetrain really shines is the transmission. Okay, so with the automatic it won't let you rev the engine at a stoplight, instead pegging it at 4000 RPM as the engine makes a sad little whine, but a lot of engines do that nowadays. I'm really not sure why, but my leading theory right now is to prevent people from destroying their engines when they fall asleep at the wheel and keep their foot pegged to the accelerator.
But that's just a guess.
The ATS Coupe comes with two transmission choices, either a six-speed automatic manufactured by ZF, complete with a sport mode with flappy paddles, or a six-speed manual. The automatic does just fine in regular-automatic mode, but if you shove the shifter in sport, the engine will actually let you have control. I know that seems like it shouldn't be a big deal, but it is.
You can mash your foot down, let the tach sweep all the way up to the top, and just leave it there. It won't shift for you, instead waiting for you to give the go-ahead. And there isn't a huge lag, either, from the time you hit the paddle until the cog swaps. It's really not so bad.
And then there's the manual transmission, which weirdly enough is only available on the 2.0 turbo. The shifter itself is maybe a bit loose, but the clutch is right in that Goldilocks sweet spot of not-too-light and not-too-stiff, and the shifter is beautifully smooth as well, slotting nicely into gear.
Well, when I say nicely into gear, I must include a quick caveat, in the interest of full honesty. At one point on the drive, Autoweek's Jay Ramey and I managed to take a wrong turn, and got a bit lost. That wasn't the worst thing in the world, as we were only about a mile or so off course, and simply had to figure out where we were on the map, and turn around.
That's normally an easy enough proposition, so we pulled into a parking space at a gas station, and figured out where we missed the turn within a few minutes. Easy peasy.
Now just came the turning around bit. I went to go put the manual-transmission shifter into reverse, which is to the left and up, just west of 1st gear, and...
It just went right into first, again and again. Jay and I looked for a button, a switch, maybe pushing the shifter in, but no, nothing got us into reverse. Eventually, desperate for help, desperate that we'd be lost in the Connecticutian wilderness of vast estates, stables, and quaint New England villages, we called OnStar, thinking that they may know the secret key to getting us moving backwards.
After bouncing us around to a few people, OnStar ordered us to take our ATS Coupe to a dealership IMMEDIATELY. I'm not sure what scared them so much, as their tone seemed to imply that the thing would explode at any second, but to have to explain to them that we were actually driving a pre-production model, these things happen sometimes, no, we didn't get it from a dealership, we were on a press drive, don't worry about it, really, it's no trouble, we'll just call the Cadillac PR guy, seemed like a bit of a hassle.
So we kept the car in neutral, and Jay, ever the gallant gentleman, pushed the car out of the parking space. And we were on our way again.
When we got back to the hotel, we explained the issue we had to one of the Cadillac techs waiting for us to return.
"Let me see what the problem seems to be," he said, looking at us with the faintest hint of some probably deserved skepticism. Hopping behind the wheel, he easily put the shifter right into reverse, finding no problem at all.
So that happened.
But beyond that slight hiccup, it really was a peach. And both the magnetic ride and basic suspensions were pretty neat as well, ironing out bumps and holding their own in the corners. My only real complaint would be that in "touring" mode, the electric steering actually felt a bit too light, but putting it all into sport fixed that right up, making it all nicely weighted and direct.
Pretty good, then.
The Toys And Tech
The ATS Coupe has all the gizmos that are pretty standard in the class nowadays, all sprouting out of its Cadillac Cue infotainment system. 4G LTE wifi, rear-cross traffic alert, automatically-tightening safety belts, radar-guided cruise control, lane-keeping assist, a pretty trick HUD system displaying a whole bunch of things, from RPM to the local speed limit, which is handy, a backup camera and parking sensors, the list goes on.
All of that would sound pretty whiz-bang jut a few years ago, but these days, it's all really sort of par for the course. Less expensive cars, like the Audi A3, have in-car wifi and active cruise control. So it's well-equipped, but it's no Q-ship like a Mercedes-Benz S-class. But it's not as expensive as an S-class either, so it's not like you'd expect it to be.
One thing that was definitely pretty neat, however, was that you can hit a little tab in the center stack, and half of it rotates up and out of the way to reveal a little cubbyhole, complete with wireless charging station. Just place your properly-equipped phone on the bottom of the compartment, and away it goes with the charging. No plugs and cords to fiddle around with at all.
And that sort of thing requires a bit of thought, so kudos to Caddy.
Like I said earlier, the Cadillac ATS Coupe is a fine car for the kind of person that would want one. The kind of person that wants a sporty-ish four-seater with only two doors, who looks at a BMW and its squishy face and says "no thank you," who looks at a Mercedes with its teutonic face and says "no thank you," and who looks at an Audi with its Audi face and says "no thank you," to that as well.
But I feel like that's being harsh, because if you're in the market for this sort of thing, you definitely shouldn't look at the ATS as an afterthought, something you only look at if you've already declined the other three. It's a swell automobile in its own right, and deserves to be looked at first.
It starts at $38,990, too, which is extremely competitive with its market, and goes up from there.
But for my money, there's only one model I'd have, and that's the 2.0T with a manual transmission and magnetic ride. Because it's pretty fun, and gives you tons and tons and tons of control, and isn't that what you want?
Unless you just want your grandkids to be the best polo player they can be.