First Drive: A track day with the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, the M3 BMW should be making
We track-test the hotly-anticipated 2016 Cadillac ATS-V for a day at the Lower Hudson Valley’s automotive mecca, Monticello Motor Club. It’s as good as you heard it to be.
Storming down the back straight and flat-out through “The Kink” at Monticello Motor Club, I felt the rear confidently plant itself into the bank. Neatly and without drama, I negotiated a clean outside-inside-outside execution, tapping the apexes perfectly into the famed “Switchback” on the full course. That was incredibly easy, I thought, briefly catching the needle hovering well passed the 100 miles per hour mark. Then, the needle sank as I stomped on the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V coupe’s standard Brembo clamps.
Disclaimer: Cadillac held a private event for journalists to sample the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe and Sedan on a racetrack at Monticello Motor Club. They wanted me to review it so bad, they threw me the keys, made me sign some waiver, and said, “have fun.”
Good brakes…actually, really good. And they’re not even of the fancy carbon ceramic type. I nudged the gas the pedal with the side of my right foot for an easy heel-toe downshift decelerating into that “Switchback.” Already, disbelief began to set in. I just heel-toed a downshift…in a Cadillac. So much for that reputation of blubbery land yachts. Though rowing down from fourth to second revealed the ATS-V’s shifter could use some tightening up. A quick flick of the light and accurate tiller through the chicane really showcased the ATS-Vs quick reflexes and eager turn-in. The minimal shift in center of gravity and the stability through undulations further exemplified the well-balanced Alpha platform. In these moments, I finally accepted Cadillac’s ability to make a serious performer.
America’s top brass had finally produced a genuinely true competitor to the beloved, respected, and benchmark of them all, the BMW M3. For decades, Cadillac struggled to compete with the foreign influxes from Japan and Europe. Troubled management left the brand trying to make lemonade out of lemons as engineers clashed with bean counters and tight budgets, preventing them from doing what they really wanted. But they finally did it.
2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe and Sedan Specifications
|Style:||Compact luxury sports sedan or coupe|
|Seating Capacity:||Four and a half passengers|
|Base Price:||$60,465 (sedan); $62,665 (coupe)|
|Price As Tested:||$78,680|
|Engine:||3.6L DOHC twin-turbocharged 24-valve V6 with VVT variable valve and direct injection – 464hp @ 5850 rpm; 445 lb.-ft. @ 3500 rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed manual (optional eight-speed automatic)|
|0-60 MPH:||3.8 seconds (3.8 for automatic)|
|Top Speed:||189 MPH|
|Fuel Economy (City/Highway):||16 / 23 (17 / 25 with automatic) w/ 16 gal. tank|
V, Aggressive, V, V, Aggressive!
The ATS-V in both forms clearly differ from their non-V siblings thanks to a menacing body kit and larger wheels. The big bulge in the hood clearly insinuates the beast that lurks beneath. It’s also a signal in the rear-view to get out of the way. Hardly overdesigned, but elegantly stanced, the ATS-V is best described as sedated, clearly representing the heart of Cadillac’s latest design language.
Keeping both me and my fellow colleague riding shotgun planted in the corners are epic Recaro performance seats. The cabin itself is cozy and yet, the ATS-V manages to make good use of its space. Except for in the back where only half humans could fit. The driving position is where it should be, enabling nearly perfect visibility in all directions. From the pedals, the driving position, and to the steering wheel, as well as exterior visibility, it’s all very driver-focused like a BMW is.
But it ends there as Cadillac’s conflicted CUE system continues to phase and confuse, even for me, who’s a very tech-inclined and geeky Asian. All the functions are labeled just fine, except the touch-sensitive and haptic buttons are an ergonomic nightmare. That’s because the system requires you to take your eyes off of the road in order to do simple things. Like changing the HVAC temperature. What was wrong with traditional buttons? In a car this fast, tactile feel is kind of important when your eyes should be forward at all times.
V is for very fast
How fast exactly is the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V? Really. Beginning with the twin-turbocharged 3.6L LF3 V6 we’ve come to love and appreciate in the CTS Vsport, the ATS-V’s version gets some extra love and a new designation, LF4. With more boost, high-flow injectors, lightweight titanium connecting rods, and a low-volume charge-cooling system for the snails, power hikes to 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of twist. Sixty happens from a standstill in four seconds with either the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. Get a long enough straight and the top run is limited to 185 miles per hour by drag.
Numbers may speak for the ATS-V’s capabilities, but the previous CTS-V proved Cadillac had no problems achieving numbers. Rather, the ATS-V epitomizes the company’s performance division understanding of how to make all this performance and tuning come together in unison with luxury and civility.
I imagine I could really turn out a commendable track time at Monticello with Caddy’s latest beast if I really spent a full day figuring out the car’s full track potential. But I didn’t need one to be convinced of the ATS V’s capabilities. Part of its allure stems from making its drivers feel as fast as Sebastian Vettel without actually being him. The beauty of the ATS-V is that it’s confidence inspiring, regardless of your level of experience, as long as you know how to handle a fast car. Whereas the M3 can still catch you by surprise at the limits, the ATS-V feels like less of a handful. In a way, it reminds me a little of the simplified experience of the older generation M3s.
After 10 hard laps, I turned in to the pits, yielding to a complaint of nausea and motion sickness from my colleague riding passenger. The day was coming to an end, but I felt the ATS-V could do another 10 laps around Monticello…and then another just to squeeze out as much daylight as possible.
Quibbles? The engine needs more verve and the interior quality still harks back to GM’s struggles with mediocre materials. The Caddy’s stability control also felt a tad over intrusive whenever I wanted to steer the car with the pedals, even in Competition Mode on the driver’s selector. But after a few laps of getting used to nanny, the system rather encourages you to clean up your lines through corners for a faster pass.
As a strict track machine however, the ATS-V provides one of the best high-performance driving experiences in its class. Whipping it around for hot lap after hot lap reveals nothing but the pure driving nirvana one should expect from a $77,685 luxury sports coupe meant to dethrone the BMW M3. The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe proves the company earned its status as a frontline player, competing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best that Europe and Japan has to offer. But how is it as a road car? Stay tuned.
|· Killer looks||· The V6 is rather characterless|
|· Exquisite ride and handling||· Cadillac CUE|
|· Manual still an option||· GM materials|
|Verdict: One of the most anticipated cars of the year is also one of the best. Bravo Cadillac.|
– By: Chris Chin
Follow Chris Chin on Twitter @SirChrisChin and Instagram @CSquaredPhotography or @egmCarTech
Photos Copyright 2015 © C Squared Photography for egmCarTech.