2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe exciting car to drive


Cadillac engineers and planners have done a quick study on what makes a good compact luxury coupe and the results are stunning to look at and great to drive.

Last fall we enjoyed a short drive in the Cadillac ATS Coupe during the annual Northwest Automotive Press Association's "Run to the Sun", and we finally got a chance to spend a week driving it at home recently.

All new for 2015, the ATS Coupe is a spinoff of the ATS sedan that debuted with the 2013 model year, and it's about same size as other coupes like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the new Lexus RC.

"The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is a natural step in the brand's progression, and another distinctive fun-to-drive and technologically advanced product for a new generation of drivers extending our target groups," said Uwe Ellinghaus, chief marketing officer, Global Cadillac. "It is an exclusively distinctive American alternative, unique in its class, yet delivering a sporty and sophisticated driving experience rivaling the world's best."

The shiniest part of the 2015 Cadillac ATS is the styling which takes cues from the slightly larger CTS coupe. Actually the ATS Coupe shares the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as the ATS sedan, but the roof, doors, rear fenders trunk are all different. The front fascia and fenders are distinctive and it has a wider front end than the sedan. For trivia buffs, the ATS Coupe is the first car to use the new simpler and more contemporary Cadillac Crest.

All Coupe versions get projector-beam headlights, with upper level models getting standard high-intensity-discharge lighting. LED lighting with Adaptive Forward Lighting is an option. It's not a big deal, but we both think the new capless fueling system is a handy new feature, too.

The interior is a little bit busy, and the center stack controls have given way to soft touch and slide type controls that we had trouble adjusting to. Call us old-fashioned, we still like knobs and buttons. We like the new start/stop ignition buttons but the ATS system presented a challenge our first time behind the wheel. It is triangular and blends nicely with the dash.

The side spokes on the three-spoke steering wheel contain easy to use controls for many of the vehicles functions like audio and communications along with the available Adaptive Cruise Control and the heated steering wheel.

We like the latest version of the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system which controls audio, navigation, communications, climate and the General Motors OnStar connections; it responds quickly and is fairly intuitive. The system is controlled by a tablet-like eight-inch touch screen (located at the top of the center stack) or by audio commands. The system is available on base models and is standard on the three upper level models. One of the new features is a text-to-voice for smartphone users and a Sire Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7 users. There is also as a new built-in Wi-Fi hotspot that can connect up to seven devices at once.

The ATS incorporates features that bring it to the forefront of the category with choices like rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive; six-speed manual or no-cost automatic transmission and turbo-charged four-cylinder engine or naturally aspirated V-6. To further enhance the choices, the ATS engineers made the coupe one of Cadillac's lightest and most agile models ever, and it is the lightest car (3,411-pounds) in the compact luxury coupe segment.

These foundations combine to produce a nearly perfect 50/50--front/rear balance -- and a low center of gravity. The front suspension is a sophisticated multi-link variation of the MacPherson-strut system and the rear is a five-link independent setup. Other elements of the ATS suspension come from top manufacturers including a belt-driven, electric assist variable ratio ZF steering system and front Brembo brakes. Some trim levels even come with four-wheel Brembo brakes and Cadillac's state-of-the-art Magnetic Ride Control.

Until the ATS sedan debuted, the only Cadillac with a four-cylinder engine under the hood had been the ill-fated Cimarron in the late 1980s. However, our ATS test car was powered by the standard four-cylinder engine. Rated at 272-hp, this 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is smooth, quiet and delivers excellent performance, making a 0 to 60 mph run in as quick as 6.0 seconds with the six-speed manual transmission according to buff magazine numbers. EPA fuel economy is listed at 19 mpg city and 30 mpg highway; we actually averaged 23.7 mpg during our week of local driving.

Our rear-wheel drive test car had the manual transmission, and while it wasn't the very best transmission we've driven, it was very good making smooth shifts and providing excellent driver control. We haven't had a chance to drive the optional six-speed automatic transmission, but traditionally GM Hydramatic transmissions are among the best in the business.

The second engine choice is a 321-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine with direct injection and a double overhead cam - the magazines list a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.4 seconds. EPA fuel economy is listed at 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe pricing starts at $39,985 for the 2.0-liter turbo with manual transmission and rear wheel drive. It's also available in a Luxury, Performance and Premium trim levels and with and automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. A fully-loaded Premium model with V-6 engine, all-wheel drive, automatic transmission and all the available options will have a bottom line price of about $60,000.

The Cadillac ATS coupe is a car we'd like to keep in our garage. It is great looking, exciting to drive with impressive performance and handling. If you are thinking about one of the competitor's luxury coupes, take the time to drive the ATS Coupe, it's a contender and it shows that Cadillac is very serious about making drivers' cars.