Today, we discuss something seldom seen in modern traffic: the Cadillac ATS coupe. Yes, it’s still available! But what with ATS sedans outnumbering the svelte coupe by probably 15 to 1, they are kind of rare. Oh, Cadillac. What highs and lows have been wrought over the last thirty years! Certain know-it-alls on the coasts think Cadillac should just give up. I disagree. Things have changed a lot, even since the ’90s, for GM’s finest marque, but there’s still a lot of style and elegance in evidence. Let’s take a closer look.
I have a friend over at our local Cadillac dealer. And even though he sold me a Lincoln instead, I still like modern Cadillacs. I also love the classic, Broughamtastic Cadillacs. For some, it seems as if you can only like one or the other. Go onto Facebook or certain self-indulgent GM-hatin’ blogs and you may think the current Cadillac lineup doesn’t have a chance. Plenty of, well, let’s be blunt, angry old farts, carp about the looks, the price, and basically everything else about modern Caddys.
I must admit that I wouldn’t mind if future Cadillacs had just a touch more of heritage-inspired design, but I really think the current lineup isn’t bad. Sure, it could use maybe some refinement, but most new Cadillacs look good. My favorite is the current CTS sedan. Give me one of those in pearlescent red with an off-white interior and moonroof and I’d be damn happy! But my salesman buddy at McLaughlin Cadillac, Brian Cox, once told me that he thought the most fun new Cadillac was the ATS.
Yes, the ATS, derided by both East Coast and West Coast shrimp buffet-guzzling “professional” writers. The same ones who pant and gush over the current Teslas, despite losing 650+ odd million dollars apiece for the last two quarters. But there I go, digressing again, ha ha!
I guess I am not strictly a professional. I got into writing in late summer 2011 when, due to downsizing and general cravenness by the bank I had worked at for five years, I found myself selling Fords for KV Dahl in Davenport. I submitted a post on my dad’s 912 Targa to a site who shall not be named, and it was accepted. No cash, I just wrote because I felt like it. I enjoyed writing. This, from a guy who once waited until 10 PM the night before it was due to write a book report for school! But anyway, it was good therapy. It felt good to write. So I contributed, through losing the sales gig and moving on to better jobs over the next couple of years. Until a certain self-indulgent bozo got on my nerves one time too many and I exited stage left. But hey, things happen for a reason (some times) and I found myself writing once more after a break right here at Brothers Baruth Central. And here I am! With a lot of salesman buddies here in town, and a kind word and a cup of free coffee, and away I go! Now where was I?
Anyway, I write because I enjoy it and feel like it. So, about a month ago McLaughlin got in a really nice ATS sedan, in a somewhat unusual yet attractive metallic fawn color. The interior was a light beige with a dark mocha instrument panel, steering wheel and door caps. I texted Brian and said, “I’d love to try this out and write it up for RG!” He said that would be great and we set up an appointment for the following Saturday. Sadly, my parents were in Florida and I was house-sitting and had one (or two) too many rum and Cokes Friday night, and I had to cancel. Shortly thereafter the car was sold and I was, as someone once said, SOL.
But hark! Not all was lost! For a few weeks later, I was perusing the front line at the dealership and saw this car. And the week after that I tracked Brian down and he arranged a test drive for me. Even ran it through the car wash so it would look even better in this review. And I thank him. He’s a good guy.
The ATS coupe more or less replaced the CTS coupe, which went away with the CTS’s redesign in 2014. The coupe in particular was very attractive in my opinion, but of course in this day and age it is hard to sell a two-door car that is not a Camaro, Mustang, Challenger or 911. But Cadillac persists, and the ATS coupe is a very nice looking piece or machinery.
So there I was, sitting in Brian’s office while he got the car and put a dealer plate on it and ran it through the car wash. It was Crystal White Tricoat over black leather. Just shy of 22,000 miles were on the odometer.
This was a 2016 model, with the turbo four and all wheel drive. Now there’s a somewhat unusual combination. An all wheel drive Cadillac coupe? It is more common than I’d thought. Brian told me that McLaughlin orders all their ATS coupes with AWD. The turbo four produces 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission rounds out the power train.
I still have a hard time associating Cadillacs with four-cylinder engines, the specs certainly looked promising. 270+ is not shabby for a four cylinder, especially one about the same size as the Knight Rider lunch box I had as a kid. It sure looked small in there! But enough of that. Seeing is believing. It was time to close the hood and try things out.
So I did. The first thing I noticed is that this car has a rather generous wheelbase for a coupe. 109.3, a factor in its fine handling, or so Brian told me. I didn’t actually sit in the back seat, but it actually looked like real live full-sized humans could sit back there.
So I hopped in, adjusted my fedora, and took off. I launched the Caddy out of the dealer lot and hit the four-lane.
But first, a digression. I hate, I hate, I HATE that every fricking manufacturer thinks that a 2.0L turbo four cylinder engine is the bee’s knees in modern motivation. Oh ya, let’s put in a temperamental turbo in a kiddie’s lunchbox-sized powerplant and hope for the best! No matter what you do to a four cylinder engine, it is still not going to be as smooth as a six or an eight. I made an effort to ignore my bias while driving this car. And for those who want a new one, the 3.6L V6 is also available in this car. That would definitely be my preference.
However, the 2.0L four in the ATS is sprightly enough. I drove the car extensively on John Deere road, where everybody is always in a damn hurry and MUST pass you NOW dammit! The Caddy held its own. Of course, with a turbo, power came on in no time.
Case in point: I was driving along in the inside lane, when some woman in a new Rogue came up way over the speed limit, to pass me on the right. And probably nearly hit the Sierra in front of her, and then cut me off. So I did what anyone would do: Floored it. The Cadillac said, “no problem boss!”, and said combover (with Self-Destructo CVT transmission at no extra cost!) rapidly shrunk in my rearview mirror.
“F you, I’m a Cadillac! Muhahahaha!” Damn, this car was bringing out the Mr. Hyde in my driving habits!
The interior, though drab in basic black (my least favorite interior color) was otherwise attractive. As the sporty Cadillac, it had aluminum trim accents on the instrument panel and the doors.
If I was ordering one, I would have sprung for the red interior, and wood accents instead of the aluminum garnish moldings, if they are available. And the 3.6L six, but I’m getting off tangent again, ha ha.
As with pretty near all cars built in the last five years, there was a huge LCD touchscreen on the dash. I didn’t have too much trouble adjusting the radio stations and volume, and Cadillac provides redundant controls on the steering wheel as well.
I can tell you that this definitely is a fun car to drive. My test route took me on the highway, a busy arterial road, and stop-and-go city streets, as well as some two-lane semi-rural routes. The Cadillac indeed has fine handling. The steering is very precise. One time I took a curve at a much higher speed that I would have in my Town Car and the Cadillac seemed to love it, zipping right along with zero perspiration. Fun!
Quality and fit and finish were good for a luxury car as well. The door panels, the dash cap, seats and stitching were all nicely finished.
Paint quality and exterior parts were all well finished too, with good panel gaps. Everything looked nice. As it should be. I mean, this is the entry-level Cadillac, but it’s still a Cadillac, not a Cruze or Sonic. I did appreciate that it didn’t have the me-too five spoke wheels, as seen on so many cars these days!
The only other ‘modern’ Cadillac I’ve driven was a 2014 XTS, also provided by McLaughlin Cadillac. Finished in gunmetal gray with dove gray leather, it roughly corresponds to a modern Sedan de Ville in the lineup.
That one did have the 3.6, and it was a great car to drive. I preferred it somewhat to the ATS Coupe, because I’m personally more invested in “Broughamy” features and a smooth ride than zipping through curves and looking “sporty.”
But looking back, there were similarities to the ATS, and a family resemblance, both in look and feel.
I did enjoy driving this car. It had good zip, comfortable seats and attractive lines. Visibility to the front and sides was all right, but the rear quarter windows and smallish backlight made me nervous when backing up. I also had no use for the steering column-mounted shift paddles. Twice I accidentally hit them when I was trying to use the turn signals, which was annoying.
And although the car was pretty smooth and quiet, that four-cylinder made its presence known on at least a few occasions, with some vibration and noise, which somewhat crimped my Cadillac Style.
I’ll probably never buy one of these, but if I did, I’d definitely seek out one with the six. I have no interest in owning another turbo car, and the 3.6 in the XTS I drove had plenty of power. I’m sure it is even more fun in the lighter ATS coupe! It’s not an Eldorado, but it was a pretty decent coupe, with plenty of gadgets and good looks. If these appeal to your aesthetics, I’d say at least try one out. You definitely won’t see yourself in traffic like you would in a beige beigemist ES350-or a silver ATS sedan, for that matter!