If you ask luxury car buyers what they think Cadillac stands for, the answer is unlikely to be pulse-raising performance. Many might be surprised to learn that Cadillacs routinely win in motorsports competition or that the brand is one of the few offering standard transmissions in performance models, complete with rev-matching. And if you wish to try your luck taking on our ATS-V test car with its 0-to-60 sprint of 3.8-seconds, better bring something quick.
It’s no mystery to me that Cadillac can build fast cars. The larger CTS-V and nicely tuned V-Sport models can pin an enthusiast’s ears back. But the ATS-V coupe brought the quick, athletic handling that was what I expect in BMW’s M4 coupe and is close to the track readiness of Alfa Romeo’s Gulia Quadrifoglio. From the moment you snuggle into the Recaro deep bolstered seat and push the start button that’s answered with a deep growl, you know this Caddy is as sharp as its creased lines.
I spent my week in the ATS-V while visiting family in New Jersey, so while I had an opportunity or two to move with some alacrity, the landscape didn’t provide the challenging, winding roads we take for granted. However, I had a few opportunities to tip into the 464HP twin-turbo V6 and it’s easily world class. And Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control, a technology it licenses to Ferrari, creates a nice balance of luxury ride with quick reflexes.
If you haven’t ventured inside a new Cadillac recently, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Former GM co-chair and legendary car guy Bob Lutz understood that the first impressions were made with exterior styling, but the deal was closed inside. When Lutz retired, Cadillac had former Audi executive Johan de Nysschen at the helm to assure that materials, fit, and finish were world class.
That luxury effort was on display in our ATS-V, where the standard clichés of woodgrain and dazzle were replaced with carbon fiber accents, surrounded with cut and sewn Napa leather. The infotainment system with great Bose stereo along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has improved, but still takes some time to learn. And coupe styling is visually compelling, but is a challenge for rear seat passengers. We negotiated my mother-in-law, a lovely lady in her mid-nineties, into the back seat for a short journey. When we arrived, I worried that the jaws-of-life might be required for her extraction.
Challenge and Opportunity
Cadillac has had quite a challenge in its mission to reclaim its Standard of the World title. After moving to Manhattan with a former German automaker executive, the brand is back in Michigan under new leadership. The moving experience was reminiscent of Lincoln’s journey to California a few years ago in an effort to uncover the mystical luxury genie. Cadillac’s crosstown rival returned to its Midwest roots, including dumping Euro style model IDs like MKX for Aviator and bringing back Continental. Certainly Cadillac can follow suit since it owns some of the most glamorous model names in the industry. Meantime, Cadillac’s lineup is well worth a serious look.