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The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe: A Strong Contender to Germany’s Prizefighters

Known for his infectious sense of humor, captivating personality, and impeccable sense of style, my Italian-American grandfather owned a night club just outside of Boston, danced soft-shoe, sang with Jimmy Durante, and, of course, drove a Cadillac.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Cadillac brand represented the finest in made-in-America quality, luxury and prestige. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, General Motors’ luxury line may have had a slight misstep or two — try the Cimarron — but for the most part, Cadillac continued to be a well-respected marque, especially among U.S. buyers wanting to drive a domestic luxury car or SUV.

Discussions of unequalled curb appeal, upscale interiors and excellent value continually revolved around the Fleetwoods, Eldorados and DeVilles of the past, but rarely did the colorful crest evoke accolades for “raw visceral driving performance.”

16-ATSV-Ext-2Over the past decade, Cadillac has developed a succession of cars that would radically alter the brand’s public perception. With the introduction of the 2004 Cadillac CTS-V — a V8-powered midsize sedan aimed directly at the ranks of BMW’s M Series and Mercedes’ AMGs — Cadillac proved that the U.S. automaker could stand shoulder to shoulder and exchange punches with the legendary European performance prizefighters, landing a few damaging blows in the process.

Gunning once again for the likes of BMW’s M4 and the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63, Cadillac has prepared another brawler for the ring, this time using the compact Cadillac ATS as its platform. The result is the all-new twin-turbocharged 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe.

16-ATSV-Int-engine-1Powered by an exceptional 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6, the new U.S. contender delivers 464-horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. An active rev-matching six-speed manual transmission is standard, an eight-speed automatic is available as a $2,000 option.

Those numbers, as impressive as they are, only tell part of the story. The engineers at Cadillac have created a near perfect chassis. The abundant use of ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum and carbon fiber reduce weight and add structural rigidity. More than just a sum of its parts, the ATS-V’s components work together flawlessly to create a performance car that Cadillac claims to have built for the track but feels perfectly at home in rush hour traffic or spirited drives to the local supermarket.

Acceleration is exhilarating. Employing the standard launch control feature or simply mashing the throttle to the floor means a dramatic rush from 0 to 60 mph somewhere in the vicinity of 3.8 seconds. Matter of fact, straight-line performance is so satisfying that you cross your fingers in hope that the traffic light will turn red every time you approach a freely moving intersection.

16-ATSV-Ext-10If there is a simple beauty to a high-displacement normally aspirated V8, then a masterfully built twin-turbo V6 is intricately elegant. A twin-turbo V6 offers a complex soundtrack that the guttural V8 cannot deliver. Full-throttle hits like a drumstick on the head of a tightly tuned snare drum. The whistles of the spooling turbos sing in perfect harmony with the ATS-V’s trumpetlike exhaust, growing in volume and intensity as the tachometer races toward the engine’s redline. The ATS-V immediately reaches for another gear and the song continues until the driver’s right foot finally relents or you run out of road.

The V-tuned ZF electric steering is instantaneous, well balanced and provides plenty of feedback to the driver. By placing the ATS-V into track mode, the wheel becomes firm to the point where it feels more like a manual steering box. The extra necessary effort results in driver influenced steering accuracy more akin to bare-bones race-prepped cars than frilly modern luxury sport coupes.

Handling is superb, thanks to the rigid chassis, the smaller than typical 18-inch wheels and the temperature sensing magnetic ride control suspension system that reads the road up to 1,000 times a minute. The same components also work together to assure comfortable, stress free highway journeys and smoother wanderings down not-so-perfect city streets.

16-ATSV-Ext-7The six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brakes assure quick, compliant stops that could potentially throw you through the windshield if you aren’t wearing your seatbelt. Thanks to the nicely integrated brake cooling ducts and the massive coated and vented rotors, the ATS-V resists brake fade; even under the most brutal conditions.

While the folks at Cadillac are not going to win any conservationist awards, the 2016 ATS-V coupe earns respectable EPA ratings considering the power and purpose of the vehicle. Rated at 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined on premium gasoline, the ATS-V is thirsty enough that you probably won’t lead conversations by mentioning the fuel economy, but efficient to the point that those numbers will surprise anyone you take for a spin.

I rarely spend time commenting on exterior styling unless the design somehow impedes performance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and frankly, I rarely match my clothes well enough to be a consultant for what “looks good.” That said, the nose of the new ATS-V, especially when it is dressed up with the $6,195 Track Performance package that includes a carbon fiber front splitter and air extractor, is strikingly attractive. The aggressive front fascia blends dramatically with the 18-inch polished aluminum wheels; the optional $595 red Brembo calipers serve as the cherries on top.

I would prefer a lower stance and bigger wheels for the ATS-V, but the engineers at Cadillac designed and built the ATS-V for optimal performance; either tweak would arguably serve my eyes more than my time around the track.

16-ATSV-Int-1Sitting behind the ATS-V’s chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel in the optional 16-way adjustable Recaro seat is an enjoyable enterprise, albeit with a few shortcomings.

The gauge cluster features a configurable center screen that can display vital engine information, fuel economy, or what is playing on the Bose audio system. I found having the boost gauge displayed to the left, fuel economy numbers in the middle and tire pressure to the right ended up being my “go to” configuration, but the ability to turn any of them into a digital speedometer served me well to avoid tickets. The numbers, when placed in the center, are big enough to see out of the corner of your eye without actually looking down. The optional head-up display would be an even better option for tracking how fast the premium fuel burning sport coupe is traveling.

16-ATSV-Int-5The handcrafted cut-and-sewn interior, complete with carbon fiber trim and suede microfiber accents is purposeful and mostly easy on the eyes. While it is all a bit “busy,” I think Cadillac is on the right path, but not quite there, compared with the closest competitors.

I found the implementation of the many, many steering wheel-mounted buttons and levers to be helpful, especially in light of the complexity of the CUE infotainment system.

To be fair, it is not that CUE is a terrible system. The features actually work quite well, if you can figure out how to work them. The buttons or heat sensors (or whatever they are) offer inconsistent feedback and only work some of the time. I would push the same spot five times and it would work twice. The glossy touch screen looks fantastic when it is clean, which is pretty much when you buy the car, but shows fingerprints to the point that on a sunny day you’ll want to pack a tub of bleach wipes in the glovebox.

16-ATSV-Int-3Rear seating is typical for a sport coupe, which means that it is a great place to put extra cargo and groceries, but not necessarily adult passengers. I climbed back there a couple times and quickly cried uncle. Cadillac decided to attach the seatbelt to the bottom of the Recaro seatback instead of the floor, making the tiny opening to the rear seats incredibly difficult to climb in and out of, essentially becoming a tripping or choking hazard depending on whether you climb over or under the belt.

That said, my 12 year old, once she got in there, enjoyed riding around in the back seat, finding it comfortable and the center console cup holders nicely accessible. Being daddy’s girl, she also enjoyed the soundtrack radiating from the cars exhaust.

Pricing for the all-new 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe starts at $62,665, placing it on equal footing with those European prizefighters that we mentioned.

16-ATSV-Ext-5My test vehicle included a $6,195 Track Performance package that has a second low-mass battery, a tire inflator kit that replaces the spare, some lovely carbon fiber dress up items and a rather large but functional rear spoiler. Options also include $2,300 Recaro seats, a $2,000 eight-speed automatic transmission, and the $1,085 Cadillac User Experience (CUE) system with navigation. You will need to hand over an additional $995 for the Red Obsession Tintcoat paint, $900 for the wheels and $595 for the red Brembo calipers (they are normally gray), as well as $305 for a protection package.

As seen, the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe retails for $78,035.00 including a $995 destination charge.

It should be obvious that I really enjoyed driving Cadillac’s new performance coupe. After a full-throttle launch up to 60 mph, it’s not hard to imagine my grandfather telling me that he really likes it too.

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