What is it?
Cadillac’s challenging the best of Germany might sound laughable when you recall the wheeled shortfall that was the Saab 9-3-based BLS. This sorry reskin was the brand’s last serious effort to build a car to tempt Europeans, its key class-beating feature a depreciation curve resembling a Himalayan scree-slope. But you can’t accuse Cadillac of giving up.
True, you can now only buy left-hookers from long-time official importer Bauer Millet, but the company still harbours a late-decade plan to return with right-hand drive models.
In the meantime, there’s this 4-series-rivalling ATS coupé. While America’s most prestigious car brand is a near silent player in Britain, in the US it has doggedly continued with its rehabilitation as a premium sporting brand.
The ultra-rare, ultra-fast and hugely entertaining CTS-V proves that this mission is not so fanciful, and the ATS saloon has surprised plenty with its capabilities too.
The ATS coupé gets off to a decent start with its subtly chiseled, subtly wedged style, its dynamic ambitions underlined by a promisingly athletic wheel-to-arch stance.
Your hopes rise higher when you step inside, a tasteful mix of double-stitched leather, Alcantara, open-pored wood (call it textured) contrasting with piano black inserts and satin chrome highlights. It looks classy, and a little different too.
Mechanically, this Cadillac could almost be European, which is less surprising when programme engineer Waqar Hashim tells you of its 4-series and Audi A5 targets.
Up front there’s a downsized 2.0-litre turbo yielding 272bhp and a 295lb ft , and though you can only have it with a six-speed automatic, its ratios can be shuffled via elegant magnesium paddles.
Better yet, the four pot drives the rear wheels located by a five-arm multilink axle, the front end suspended by geometrically superior double-jointed struts. And on the two-wheel drive ATS you get magneto-rheological (MR) dampers.
There’s also an all-wheel drive ATS with conventional shockers among a six-model range starting at £34,395. Besides striving for an idealized suspension architecture, Cadillac has worked to provide excellent steering feel.
It has also chased a rigid, low-mass body structure, says Hashim. Among the body shell’s various high strength metals is a press hardened steel so strong that it can only be stamped when it’s heated and more malleable.
It allows for a usefully lighter B pillar, roof and side impact structure that complies with the assorted roof-crush and rollover tests, Cadillac eager to reduce the ATS coupé’s upper body weight in the interests of handling. The roofline sits 20mm lower than the saloon’s for the same reason.
On a comparable specification basis, Hashim claims that the ATS is lighter than its three German coupé rivals, too.