2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0 Premium


MSRP: $37,995 (base); $47,095 (2.0L Premium); $49,880 (as tested)

We first drove the ATS ? Cadillac's entry level Sedan ? when it made its debut in the 2013 model year. The ATS lineup expands this year to include a two-door coupe. It's a stylish addition. Riding on the same (109.3 inches) wheelbase as the sedan, the two-door is lower (1.1 inches), wider (1.4 inches) and shorter (.8 inches) than the four-door.

Coupes are traditionally more design conscious than sedans. Buyers willingly sacrifice rear seat room/access for a sleeker look ? and often, a sportier driving experience. The ATS hardtop becomes the latest recipient of Cadillac's Art & Science design philosophy. The characteristic creases and sharp-cut corners look good on the new coupe. It's edgier than most Cadillacs ? as befits a two-door ? but not as extreme as some of the earlier designs from this school of thought (like the CTS).

As with the sedan, the ATS Coupe is available in four trim levels ? Standard, Luxury, Performance and Premium. Prices start at $38,990 for a base coupe, and my ATS Premium test car had an as-delivered price of $48,885.

Buyers choose from two engines and two transmissions. The base motor is a turbocharged, 2.0L four-cylinder, while the optional mill is a 3.6L V-6. The former makes 272 horsepower and 295 lb. ft. of torque. The latter is rated at 321 h.p. and 275 lb. ft.. Rear-wheel-drive or (optional) all-wheel-drive can be had with either engine. A six-speed manual is available only on four-cylinder models with rear wheel drive. A six-speed automatic is optional with the four, and standard with the V-6. All-wheel-drive is only offered with the V-6/automatic transmission combo. The EPA estimates fuel economy with the 2.0L four and stick shift at 19 miles per gallon city, 30 highway. Six-cylinder models with the automatic are expected to return 18/28. Both engines have direct injection, with dual, overhead camshafts and variable valve timing.

When I first reviewed the ATS Sedan in 2013, I wrote, "..while the V-6/auto combo is strong and smooth, I have a suspicion that the turbo four/six-speed stick would be closer to the heart of this car." Suspicion confirmed. The turbo four is impressively quick and fun to run. You hit 60 m.p.h. from a standstill in less than six seconds. The car feels lively off the line, with no perceivable turbo lag. The engine isn't especially loud, even when you lean into it, and is quiet at cruising speed. The shifter has a positive action and clutch take-up is smooth. Braking is stout and consistent.

Driving dynamics are first rate. The suspension combines a MacPherson strut, double pivot design up front, with a five link independent setup in back. GM's Magnetic Ride Control with monotube struts is offered as part of the Premium trim level, which also includes a limited slip differential, summer, speed-rated, run-flat tires and adaptive suspension dampers. The coupes have a front/rear weight balance of 51 percent/49 percent, and the road feel is as balanced as the numbers suggest. The electric power steering is nicely weighted, with good road feel. Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control offers a composed blend of handling and ride quality. Adjustable settings allow the driver to switch between Sport and Touring settings.

Rear wheel drive is ideal for performance driving, but far less suited to winter's worst. It's therefore driver's choice with the ATS: opt for max sport with the six speed manual and RWD, or go with the enhanced traction and security of all-wheel drive (and sacrifice the stick). If you go the RWD route, understand that on certain days every winter, you're going to need a Plan B for your transportation.

As in the Sedan, the Coupe's interior fit and finish is impressive. Trim materials (real wood, carbon fiber, metal, cut-and-sew covering on the instrument panel, console and doors) and lighting (LED for the gauges, ambient lighting) give the cabin a look and feel that's upscale and up-to-date.

On all but the base level car, CUE ? Cadillac User Experience ? is the interface to access many features (navigation, audio, phone) via 8-inch touchscreen. A secondary set of virtual switchgear for HVAC and sound system lie just below. These are touch-sensitive controls, navigated by swipes and pokes familiar to anyone who owns a smart phone or tablet. The touch screen's reaction time varies; sometimes taking a moment before reacting. Adjustments to fan speed, radio volume, etc. via the lower panel are erratic. The multiple swipes/pokes routinely take longer to produce the desired results than they would with conventional controls, and the lower panel won't take input from a winter gloved hand. Auxiliary (steering wheel and voice) controls provide a partial workaround, but the inconsistent response of CUE controls is the weak link in an otherwise nicely appointed cabin.

The front sport seats are supportive and comfortable, with enough travel to accommodate even the very tall. Wide roof pillars hinder rear visibility. Enhanced side blind-zone protection has been added to the Driver Assist package for 2015 ($3,035, optional on Premium and Performance trims), and is recommended.

Back seat leg and foot room quickly run short with taller folks up front, and access to the back seats requires mucho dexterity. However, rear passenger space is rarely a consideration with coupe buyers (if it was, they'd buy a four-door). Trunk capacity is a smallish 10.4 cubic feet. The opening isn't very tall, but looks wide enough to handle a golf bag.

ATS is Cadillac's best effort yet in the competitive, upscale compact sport segment, and the new coupe is a fine complement to the sedan. Both are capable of standing up to the scrutiny of buyers shopping their elite Euro rivals, with no excuses.