New twin-turbo super-coupé serves up more punch than a BMW M4, as well as a whole host of other surprises

What is it?

If you attended the European Cadillac ATS-V press conference, you might have observed some trying to quell a wry smile when what were considered its rivals were revealed. There, alongside the new ATS-V, sat the BMW M4 and Lexus RC-F.

Cynics, however, had their doubts dispelled as the conference ran on. In fact, as the development processes were explained, the upgrades detailed and the numbers presented, the ATS-V really began to appear a viable and seriously capable alternative to an M4.

It's virtually the same size, for starters. Similarly, motive power comes from six force-fed cylinders, albeit ones arranged in a ‘V’ instead of in a line. Power is sent to an electronically controlled limited-slip differential at the rear, although only via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Alas, there's no manual option for European market models.

The Cadillac, however, packs more firepower. Its twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6 deals out 464bhp and 445lb ft, eclipsing the BMW's 425bhp and 406lb ft. Despite tipping the scales at 1768kg, some 81kg more than the equivalent M4, it's also claimed to be faster. 

Manage what must be the world's best standing-start launch in perfect conditions and the ATS-V will reputedly sprint from 0-62mph in 3.9sec, beating the M4 to the punch by 0.2sec.

What's it like?

Let's get the predictable out of the way. Many aspects of the interior still can't compete with European rivals. It's quiet, comfortable and well equipped, as is usually the way, but thin-feeling materials, dated-looking instruments and finicky touch-sensitive controls let it down. The boot might be big but the rear seats are cramped, and side and rearwards visibility is not too hot, either.

This all fades into relative insignificance, however, the moment you give the Cadillac's throttle a prod. Blimey, it sounds remarkably like a more refined Nissan GT-R. It warbles along at part throttle, engine note falling to a deep burble as the revolutions drop. Pin the throttle to the floor and a sonorous howl fills the cabin as the ATS-V surges forwards, engine rushing without hesitation towards its 6500rpm limiter.

Putting the power down is easy, thanks to the limited-slip differential, finely engineered suspension and an easily modulated throttle. Unfortunately, the eight-speed automatic transmission proves to be the weak link in the chain. It's usually fine when left to its own devices, but it responds too slowly when you manually command shifts, occasionally leaving the engine against its limiter.

Another chink in the Cadillac's armour can be found when you try to stop the damned thing. It may have staggered six-piston calipers and substantial discs up front, but there's very little feel to the hard, short-travel brake pedal. It's difficult to correctly meter out braking effort as a result, which can initially result in some closer-than-expected calls.

Once again, however, the ATS-V claws back your admiration by cornering in a fashion that you'd never expect. A lightning-quick variable and electrically assisted ZF rack transmits your input precisely to the front tyres and serves up adequate feedback and gratifying heft.

Grip levels are high and body roll almost nil, allowing you to blow through corners at a vast rate of knots; alternatively, disengage the traction control and revel in endless and easily controlled power oversteer. Standard-fit MagneRide electronically adjustable suspension offers a firm but fine ride, bolstering the Cadillac's appeal.

Back to top

Should I buy one?

Those seeking road-based fun rather than outright track performance will find much to like here. The charismatic ATS-V feels less treacherous than the highly strung BMW M4 when pushed hard and offers more engagement and theatre at lower speeds. Couple these traits with the Cadillac's head-turning looks and rarity and you may well judge its pros to outweigh the cons. 

Ultimately, though, the four-star M4 is the superior driver's car, thanks primarily to its better transmission options. Let's also not forget its far more upmarket interior. You could easily overlook the Cadillac's foibles if there was a substantial saving to be had, but there isn't at the moment. Either way, if you made space for an ATS-V on your drive, I'd both envy and applaud you.

It's also worth noting that you won't have to go to the trouble of importing one yourself. There's a solitary UK dealership and, in early 2016, you'll be able to order an ATS-V for around £60k. A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty will be standard and there will be numerous GM-associated service centres to keep them on the road.

You'll have to wait several years for a right-hand-drive version, however, as that's not mooted to arrive until the launch of the second generation of ATS. Here's hoping a manual gearbox makes it over at the same time, too.

2015 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Premium

Location Munich, Germany; On sale Spring 2016; Price £60,000 (est); Engine V6, 3564cccc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 464bhp at 5850rpm; Torque 445lb ft at 3500rpm; Kerb weight 1768kg; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; 0-62mph 3.9sec; Top speed 189mph; Economy 24.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 260g/km, 37%

Join the debate

Add a comment…
abkq 25 October 2015

Hi Daniel Joseph - For me the

Hi Daniel Joseph - For me the Fiat 130 looks cleaner and more muscular than the Lancia Gemma. I am not sure about the Volvos, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the King of Sweden loved his 262C ... I think more successful than the Volvos stylingwise is the Rover 800 coupe, another rarity.
abkq 25 October 2015

My problem with the ATS-V

My problem with the ATS-V dashboard is that it looks too much like standard GM issue and is at odds with the planar and severe exterior design. On the subject of rectilinear exterior design, I am glad that Lewis shares my enthusiasm for the Fiat 130 coupe.
Daniel Joseph 25 October 2015

Rectilinear coupés?

Hi abkq. The Fiat 130 coupé was another of my teenage crushes. It still looks great today, although the (often orange!) velour interior and plasticky dashboard really date it. Speaking of rectilinear coupés, how about the Lancia Gamma by Pininfarina, or Volvo 780 by Bertone? Perhaps the latter is a bit too square and sensible. It looked a bit like a larger Maserati Biturbo and at least it was rather more elegant than its predecessor, the 262C!
gillmanjr 24 October 2015

My biggest problem with the

My biggest problem with the ATS is, and always has been, the instruments. I really do not understand what Cadillac is thinking with those gauges, they look 30 years old and could not possibly be any more boring. And its even more ridiculous that they are using the same ones in the V model.
Lewis Kingston 25 October 2015

RE: Instruments

Morning gillmanjr. Agreed, the cluster looks dated and cheap. In the bigger CTS-V you get a completely digital (and customisable) 12.3in instrument cluster. It looks far more modern and upmarket, and it's a shame it hasn't found its way into the ATS-V. Perhaps the next generation, or facelifted, version will of the ATS-V receive it. Here's hoping...