While Cadillac has certainly offered two-door coupes at various points in its history, its latest entry in this bodystyle is a far more foreign machine compared to what has come before. And the formula for its latest two-door car doesn't seem to have come from Detroit or even New York City, where the division is currently relocating to distance itself a bit from its corporate parent.
The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe can be viewed as a part of the company's expansion into other segments that have remained largely unvisited by the brand until now. The ATS sedan certainly broke a stereotype or two when it debuted in 2013, and Cadillac made no secret of the fact that it would offer a coupe version of its smallest vehicle. But the ATS coupe is a bit more than that, as it signals that the company is ready to take on the competition from Germany and Japan head on with vehicles that have previously been deemed too small or too niche for its traditional buyers.
New for 2015, the Cadillac ATS coupe aims to attract even more first-time buyers to the brand than other small(er) Cadillacs have given the company in recent years, starting with the debut of the CTS-V exactly a decade ago (yes, it really has been that long). The ATS now occupies that extreme end of the size spectrum -- if we were to ignore the pure-electric ELR for a moment -- but there's arguably more to the coupe than just a rakish greenhouse and longer front doors.
In fact, just about the only things the new ATS coupe shares with the ATS sedan on the outside are the hood, headlights and a number of various trim pieces. Everything else, the windshield included, has been tailored to fit Cadillac's new luxury entry. Even the grille has been tweaked to accomodate the wider stance of the coupe -- it's a grille that now wears the new Cadillac crest, the one without the laurel wreath. The ATS sedan has not been cut in the middle either, as the coupe is actually 0.8 inch longer than the sedan and 1.4 inches wider, while the roofline has lost 1.1 inches to give the car a sleeker look. All the glass is unique to the coupe, and Cadillac has even tailored the side mirrors for a sharper appearance. The window sills have also been changed a bit and sit slightly lower than in the sedan, which features a slightly higher shoulder line. The overall result is a sharper, sportier look that retains most of the styling cues of its sedan sibling while retaining the family look. But the changes are subtle enough to remain unnoticed for some time even with two cars side by side.
Powering the new ATS coupe are versions of engines carried over from the sedan, starting with the direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, a gain of 35 lb-ft from the sedan. The second powerplant for the ATS is the direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 that's been getting a lot of play in the range recently, good for 321 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. Both versions are available with a choice of a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual, driving the rear wheels of course, though all-wheel drive is an option on automatic versions of the car.
The interior has also been slightly altered with a different seating position to accomodate the lower roofline and the elongated cabin, while the rear seat has been redesigned and has managed to stay functional and retain the legroom offered in the sedan -- something that not every car in this segment manages to accomplish. While the rear-seat legroom may have stayed the same, headroom is a different story, as is ingress and egress. Cadillac has managed to make it easier to get into the back seat with -- that's right -- powered front seats, though the process even for average-sized humans is one not associated with speed or grace.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: The coupe version of the ATS makes the lineup better suited to combat the BMW 3-series/4-series, which is the plan Cadillac had in mind all along. When I first saw the ...
The ATS coupe's cabin is dressed to impress with expensive-feeling materials and an impressive variety of surfaces to look at. Much of it is carried over from the sedan, though the coupe manages to pull off its own look and feel. Cadillac's mostly intuitive CUE infotainment system is in the ATS -- and it works well enough here -- in addition to new tech like the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and a wireless charging bin located behind a panel just below the A/C controls. The latter piece of kit will charge only compatible devices, though for others there are thankfully USB ports to be found, as well.
Some more clever tech makes it all come together, in the form of a multi-link double-pivot MacPherson-strut front suspension with direct-acting stabilizer bar, electric variable-effort steering, Brembo brakes and a five-link independent rear suspension. The one feature that Cadillac engineers were the most excited about at the time of the coupe's launch in the States was perhaps the sport suspension with Magnetic Ride Control, a real-time damping system that effectively reads the road and leans into the corners.
On sale now, the 2.0-liter version starts at $38,990, while the 3.6-liter V6 version starts at $46,145. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder is the only engine that does not carry over from the sedan, so don't look for it like for some ultra-rare special edition -- it's not offered in the coupe.
The ATS coupe starts at $38,990 for the 2.0-liter turbo version.PHOTO BY CADILLAC
How does it drive?
We got a chance to try out both engine versions of the ATS coupe, including those fitted with Magnetic Ride Control, and came away impressed with just how much tech Cadillac has been able to pack into a relatively small package. And after driving multiple versions of the ATS coupe around northwestern Connecticut and parts of upstate New York along some twisty back roads, not too far from Lime Rock Park, we picked our favorite engine and transmission combo.
Cadillac's 3.6-liter V6, paired with an automatic transmission and equipped with Magnetic Ride Control, presents a combination that will perhaps draw the most interest from buyers, and this is the version that we drove first when just getting introduced to the range. The 3.6-liter engine offered plenty of torque that was available throughout the rev range, showing no gaps in the powerband, and offered lively responses to throttle inputs. There's a reason Cadillac likes this engine; its predictable behavior and warbly soundtrack are among the things we liked about it in the ATS. The automatic transmission in this model is the Hydra-Matic 6L45 six-speed, and it does its job well even without the extra two or three cogs that are now becoming the industry standard.
Paired with Magnetic Ride Control, the coupe serves up thoroughly impressive ride quality, with the car seemingly anticipating the corners and leaning ever so slightly along with them. With variable-effort steering doing its job, this really transforms the coupe into something that takes very little effort to drive, not to imply that it takes a great amount of effort to drive a Cadillac along the empty roads you see in car commercials. The combined effect, however, becomes even more impressive as we push the car a little closer to its limits, with the damping system providing the same road-reading effect. But even at slow speeds, the subtle real-time damping inevitably led to us conclude that all cars should, as a matter of course, have this system.
There are of course limits to the ATS coupe's handling envelope, ones that become evident without really pushing the car to its limits on a public road. This is still a Cadillac, and its primary mission is to transport its driver and passengers in luxury. So even with the top engine in the ATS coupe and a real-time damping system, there is a still a limit to just how far the car can be pushed.
The interior is spacious, at least for the driver and front passenger.PHOTO BY CADILLAC
The 2.0-liter version of the ATS coupe provides a slightly different experience, and we drove a version with the six-speed manual. The engine itself feels pretty refined, not just a cheaper version of the 3.6-liter powerplant. The 2.0-liter turbo does have to work a bit harder, and this much can be heard inside the cabin. The six-speed manual transmission offers smooth shifts with slightly long throws and a fairly deep clutch pedal. The gears aren't especially notchy, and overall it's a combination that takes no time at all to adjust to, provided you want a manual transmission in your Caddy coupe. The ATS retains good road manners, even with Magnetic Ride Control absent, and with 272 hp under the hood there is no need to work the transmission to get up steep hills. This engine and transmission combo feels very capable and offers plenty of acceleration even when skipping into the higher gears at low speeds. Overall, the manual-transmission versions of the ATS coupe make a good pair with the 2.0-liter turbo, with this version of the car perhaps designed to appeal to those who prefer more sport rather than gentle cruising in their midsize coupes.
The driver's seating position in the ATS coupe is spacious and relaxed, and offers plenty of adjustment range, something on which some automakers choose skimp. The ATS coupe, thankfully, does not do this, and the interior really offers the driver and passenger plenty of room, more than one would think would exist in a coupe this size when just looking at the car from the outside. The seats are supportive despite their angular design, and the steering wheel offers plenty of adjustment. The doors are a bit long and shut with a plastic-sounding thunk, but that's about the only stylistic or ergonomic miscue that we managed to come up with. At least in the front of the cabin.
The rear seats, which we braved after some hesitation, are a bit of a challenge to get in and out of given the skimpy headroom allowed to the rear passengers, so even though legroom is generous, it does take a while to actually position oneself in the back seats, as the powered front seats don't roll forward all that quickly. So this isn't some 1980s coupe where you can just yank the front seats forward to slide into the back, not to imply that the ATS coupe will probably see all four seats taken up all that often.
The smallish side mirrors are about the only other item that deserved a few convenience demerits, though spotting vehicles in our blind spots the old-fashioned way was never a problem in relatively dense traffic while driving the ATS coupe.
Cadillac has a new ATS sedan variant on the way -- at least for Chinese buyers. The ATS-L, an extended-wheelbase take on the sporty luxury sedan, is coming August 15.The ATS-L gets the eager 2.0-liter ...
Do I Want It?
With the ATS coupe, Cadillac has proven that it can field a luxurious and entertaining two-door that offers an elegant exterior design that isn't chasing some fad or that'll change radically with the next update. With a right-where-expected starting price, it should present a credible alternative to the Germans when it comes to luxury, with options that won't be as dear when it comes time to write the check. That doesn't mean that the ATS coupe will have a fun time keeping up with what is now called the BMW 4-series, but then again we don't expect too many buyers to cross-shop the two and to make their choice based on their handling abilities at the limit. But it's nice to know Cadillac now has a smallish coupe that can handle and can do more than simply hold its own in the corners.
The differences between the ATS coupe and the sedan are pretty substantial in terms of design and detail, with the coupe managing to retain most of the space, if not the versatility, of the sedan. But what it loses in versatility, it makes up for with a fresh look inside and out, one that remains somewhat understated.
Both engines in the ATS coupe are smooth operators, even though the 3.6-liter V6 paired with an automatic box is our favorite of the mix purely for its smoothness and well-tuned throttle response.
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