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2019 Cadillac ATS Coupe
Sam Moses

Introduction

For 2019 the Cadillac ATS becomes a coupe-only nameplate; it’s no longer offered as a sedan.

This cutting of two doors is just a prelude to cutting the car altogether. The rear-wheel-drive ATS, fun to drive and fairly luxurious, will be discontinued soon. It’s not been a big seller. We’re not sure why.

When it was introduced in 2013, it won North American Car of the Year right out of the box. It’s been a worthy challenger to the best of the German sports sedans and coupes, as well as the Lexus IS and others.

The ATS is powered by two excellent engines, a turbocharged 4-cylinder or silky powerful V-6. The 2.0-turbo makes 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, with an 8-speed automatic or Tremec 6-speed manual that’s more fun. The 3.6-liter V-6 makes 335 hp and 285 lb-ft, mated to an 8-speed automatic; unfortunately it costs about $10,000 more, and we don’t think it’s worth it. All but the Premium Performance model are available with all-wheel drive.

The 2.0 turbo with the 6-speed manual transmission is a sleeper, a serious sports sedan with more torque than the V-6 and the stimulation of changing gears with a slick gearbox and old-school shift lever. It rides on a superb chassis with stiff suspension. It’s like the little brother of the ATS-V, and it’s our favorite model. Like all ATS models, standard equipment includes Cadillac’s responsive and colorful 8.0-inch infotainment unit with Bose sound, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The ATS-V is the mega-high-performance model. With vigor and enthusiasm, it challenges the BMW M3 and the Mercedes C63 AMG. It uses a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 making 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to either a 6-speed manual with rev-matching or an ultra-fast 8-speed automatic.

The turbo-4 gets about 25 miles per gallon combined, on premium fuel. The ATS-V with its twin-turbo V-6 gets about 19 mpg.

The ATS earns five stars from its federal crash tests. Features such as blind-spot monitors and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking come standard on the upscale models.

Model Lineup

The ATS comes in four models: Standard, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Premium Performance.

Standard and Luxury are equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The top two trims, up around $50,000, get Cadillac’s 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque.

The Standard model can feel meagerly appointed, with its synthetic leather upholstery. But that feeling can go away fast, with options like wood or carbon fiber trim and heated and cooled leather seats. Standard equipment includes a rearview camera, 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and Bluetooth.

Cadillac ATS Premium models come with forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, and a seat that vibrates to warn the driver when an accident may occur. Premium Performance models have adjustable dampers and a limited-slip rear differential.

Walkaround

The ATS is distinctively Cadillac, with the classiest styling in town. Nobody does edges like Cadillac, and the ATS is beautifully chiseled in the front and rear. With a long hood and athletic stance, it’s crisp and handsome. Its proportions establish a presence.

The ATS Coupe boasts a character line that runs the length of the car, while the ATS-V shouts muscle car, with an aero kit, a pronounced front fascia, wider fenders, big alloy wheels, fatter tires, twin pipes, and domed hood.

Interior

The ATS cabin is warm, plush and well-crafted. A noise cancellation system keeps it quiet. It’s relaxed and ergonomic, draped in wood, leather and metal. The center stack is cool and high-tech, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen. The CUE infotainment system is improved, and shines. The CUE system uses haptic feedback systems that can be frustrating, but it cleans up clutter in the cabin. A wireless charging mat lives in a secret compartment behind the screen.

In front there’s plenty of room and the deep sport buckets are comfortable. In back it’s a tight fit with 33 inches of legroom, well short of the BMW 3-Series and Benz C-Class. There isn’t much trunk space either, well below the Audi A4 and Infiniti Q50. Entry and exit can be tricky.

The ATS-V is available with Recaro seats with suede accents, but standard cabin materials are about right for the price. Some trim details don’t meet the level of the Mercedes C63 AMG. However when compared to the BMW M3 and M4, the ATS-V feels a step ahead in its leather seats and its metal and plastic trim.

Driving Impressions

The ATS brings the most powerful 2.0-liter turbo in the class, its 272 horsepower more than that in the Mercedes C300. The engine is agile, nimble, quick and eager to run with the big boys. The ATS can shoot from zero to 60 mph in less than six seconds, which is right fast for a 4-cylinder in a big car.

The bigger engine, a direct-injection 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6, is super-smooth and powerful. It turns the ATS into a long-legged cruiser. The 8-speed automatic is seamless.

With either engine, the chassis offers composure, confidence, and precision. The ZF electric power steering contributes much to that, a nice light touch in Normal mode. Sport makes it firmer but not quicker; we like that the steering ratio isn’t variable, it makes the car more predictable. In the dynamic department, the ATS smokes the field, except for the BMW, which it matches.

The ride with the standard suspension is fairly stiff, but it might change with other available wheel sizes and tires. The suspension enables good cornering, and the ride is good even with the wider 18-inch wheels and tires. Brembo brakes come with the bigger wheels.

The available FE3 sport suspension uses dampers with magnetically charged fluid that changes the stiffness depending on the road surface. GM’s Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) came from the Corvette, and continues to flatten the road.

The rear-wheel-drive ATS-V has a monster V-6, with 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque, thanks to twin-turbocharging the 3.6-liter engine. The electronic limited-slip differential keeps the power balanced between the rear wheels. The paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic is poised on the track, thanks to its sophistication. The Performance Traction Management stability and traction control system is adjustable. Huge Brembo brakes bring the car down from high speeds.

The body is very stiff, braced at the shock towers, rockers, subframe and engine bay. That helps make the ATS-V remarkably easy to drive, with an alive feel that some rivals lack. However it can get a bit squirmy, with 3,700 pounds of curb weight pushing on relatively narrow 255-series front tires.

The ATS was developed at the challenging Nuerburgring, a benchmark circuit that’s a surefire signal that a manufacturer is serious about handling. And proof that Cadillac does not fear to tread into the backyard of Mercedes and BMW.

Summary

The Cadillac ATS has it all: distinctive classy styling, a fabulous turbo-4 engine or long-legged V-6, a sharp transmission, tight and responsive handling, and a quality cabin with great leather. So we have nothing but good things to say about this car that Cadillac is discontinuing. Maybe you should run out and buy one, with dealers no doubt soon dropping the price if they haven’t already. Maybe even go for the ATS-V, that perfect monster.


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