Pedro Arrais review: ATS-V definitely isn’t your father’s Cadillac

Cadillac got tired of the competition kicking sand in its face in the luxury-car segment, so for 2016, its muscled ATS-V now kicks butt.

The compact Cadillac ATS started life as the new entry-level model in the luxury brand’s line in 2012. It is the brand’s smallest four-door, five-passenger vehicle, aimed directly at the BMW 3-Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4, among others.

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The ATS is available either as a four-door, five passenger sedan or as a two-door, four-passenger coupe.

But if just luxury is not good enough for you, or you have had enough of Europeans embarrassing you at stoplights and on the highway, Cadillac has raised the ante with the ATS-V. This high-performance car is meant go headlight-to-headlight against performance versions from the Germans.

I drove an ATS-V coupe with a list price of $68,305.

At that price, the V coupe is up against some serious machinery — the BMW M4 and the Mercedes AMG C63 sedan.

Here, the Cadillac shines, with a list price about $8,000 less than the BMW and $6,500 less than the Benz.

It more than holds its own in the power department as well, the 464 horsepower and 445 lb.-ft. of torque more powerful than the BMW. Cadillac boasts the V can go from zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds (with an automatic, no less) with a top speed (on a track) of 304 km/h.

Although my tester was an automatic, those wishing the maximum of control can order their ATS-V with a manual six-speed transmission. I can’t remember the last time I drove a Cadillac with a manual transmission. Then again, I can’t remember any Caddy that is as fast as a Porsche, either.

Several automotive magazines have taken the ATS-V to test it against the Germans, and all have come back with glowing reports on acceleration and braking after driving it on racetracks. On the latter point, our tester had optional race-inspired Brembo disc brakes, the best in the business.

At legal highway speeds, the ATS-V feels rock-solid and supple at the same time.

On secondary roads, the car feels sublimely balanced, a compliment I never thought I would confer upon a Cadillac.

My tester had an eight-speed automatic with (genuine) magnesium paddle shifters. One can manually shift when in Drive, or choose Manual mode to listen to the engine scream at higher revolutions. The ATS-V has a throaty exhaust sound, and the engine rev-matches downshifts.

Fun on back roads is assured with magnetic ride control, an electronic limited-slip differential and staggered 18-inch alloy wheels — nine inches wide in front and 9.5 inches in the rear — wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer-only rubber. The V is only available with rear-wheel drive (other ATSs can be equipped with all-wheel drive).

Beware that ground clearance is low — as low as a Corvette, it seems. Take great care, as that very expensive carbon-fibre front spoiler looks expensive to replace. On my drive, I was warned to carefully approaching even moderate driveways at an angle.

Carbon fibre on a Cadillac? To save weight, the hood is made of the exotic material. My tester went even further, with an optional carbon-fibre package that included a front spoiler, hood vents and a rear diffuser in the light, but pricey, material. The package also included composite rocker extensions and a rear spoiler.

The driver is held in place — firmly — by an available powered Recaro performance front seat. The wings of the seat can literally squeeze you if called upon. Unfortunately, nobody thought about carrying rear passengers. To get to the back, the front seats have to be moved manually before passengers can get in or out. Remember too that the coupe is rated for four occupants, not five like the sedan.

The instrument binnacle is large and easy to read. I would have preferred the tachometer to be directly in front with the speedo to the side, but that’s what I expect in performance vehicles. The steering wheel is beefy and a pleasure to touch with the optional suede cover instead of smooth leather.

Drivers can choose a Track setting if they choose to explore the limits of performance of the car. Those who would like to critique their exploits should either order the Track Performance package or just get an available data and video recorder for $1,430.

Once word gets out about Cadillac’s newfound muscles, I am certain it will no longer get sand kicked anywhere near this car. I could even see Charles Atlas endorsing this car.

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