The 2017 Cadillac ATS Coupe disappoints a couple of friends shortly after I take delivery for a week-long evaluation. “Oh, it’s not the ATS-V?” they both say. No, my test car isn’t General Motors’ 464-horsepower performance monster, it’s a base model with a turbocharged four-cylinder and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. They are unimpressed.
Still quite a performer
At first glance, writing off the ATS Coupe, as my two comrades did, may seem easy. But take a closer look at the drivetrain and you’ll see that this entry-level Caddy’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is nothing to sneeze at. With 272 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque, the ATS outmuscles same-sized turbo mills in the Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe (241 hp, 273 pound-feet), BMW 430i (248 hp, 258 pound-feet) and Audi A5 (252 hp, 273 pound-feet).
Off the line, the ATS fires forward rapidly and with no turbo lag, delivering potent thrust all the way up to its engine’s 7,000-rpm redline. The deeper tone from my tester’s optional performance exhaust system adds to the experience. Shift performance from the eight-speed auto transmission is brisk, but not quite as quick and buttery as the ZF units in the Audi and BMW.
Not only is the drivetrain peppy, it’s fairly efficient. EPA estimates call for 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
Most impressive of all is the ATS’ handling, especially with the available V-Sport suspension that brings stiffer springs, dampers and Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer tires to the party. Pairing the upgraded hardware with a rock-solid platform creates a coupe with superb grip and a keen sense of balance that encourages quick changes of direction.
The whole thing feels light on its feet because, well, the ATS is light compared to its trio of German rivals. At just over 3,400 pounds, the ATS weighs over 150 pounds less than BMW’s 430i, while being roughly 200 pounds trimmer than Audi’s A5 and .
Hefty steering feel and respectable feedback adds to the ATS’ engaging drive experience, as does a strong brake package featuring four-piston front Brembo calipers. My test car’s binders have a bit more bite thanks to more aggressive pads clamping down on slotted rotors, a worthwhile option at $1,190.
Unfortunately, the ATS’ nimble handling does come with tradeoffs. Ride quality suffers with the low-profile performance run-flat tires and firmer suspension. You feel impacts from ruts and potholes in the cabin, and some tire noise is also noticeable.
A visual standout
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of Cadillac’s design language on its sedans. To my eye, the ATS sedan and CTS look soft and uninspiring. However, on the ATS coupe, sharper and more defined lines work, giving it a distinct appearance that helps set it apart from rounder German designs.
With the accessory V-Series rear spoiler, various black chrome trim pieces and 18-inch wheels, the ATS is without a doubt a looker, but I still prefer the appearance of the 4 Series, A5 and especially Benz’s C-Class Coupe.
Inside the cabin, materials are of excellent quality with nice leather, stitched microfiber accents and carbon fiber trim. Front seats are comfortable and offer respectable side support to keep occupants happy. As for the backseat, that’s another matter entirely — limited head- and legroom means the second row is best for small children, if not shopping bags. In a pinch, folding up an adult or two in the back will work for short trips.