Cadillac enters compact sport coupe segment


Cadillac's first compact two door, the 2015 ATS Coupe, is a stylish, rear- and all-wheel drive performer with nimble handling, standard rearview camera and a starting retail price that's less than $39,000.

Buyers of the more expensive and nearly identically sized BMW 4-Series Coupe have to pay extra for a rearview camera, and the BMW base turbocharged four cylinder produces less power than the turbo four in the base ATS.

Indeed, the new-for-2015ATS Coupe can seem like a luxury sport coupe bargain, considering even the base model comes standard with strong-working Brembo brakes, carpeted floor mats, 295 foot-pounds of torque and premium Bose audio with Active Noise Cancellation and nine speakers.

The new coupe builds on the compact ATS sedan, which debuted in 2013 as Cadillac's entry model and quickly became a top seller for America's 113-year-old luxury brand.

Unfortunately, though, Consumer Reports puts ATS reliability at worse than average. U.S. sales of ATS models declined in calendar 2014 by 22 percent to 29,890.

The base, 2015 ATS Coupe has a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $38,990 with rear-wheel drive and 272-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder. Buyers choose from a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; the price is the same for both.

The ATS Coupe is $4,780 more than the $34,210 starting retail price, including destination charge, for a base, 2015 ATS sedan that comes with a naturally aspirated, 202-horsepower four cylinder.

The 2015 ATS sedan also can be had with the same, 272-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder that's in the ATS Coupe. Starting retail price for this sedan is $36,240, or $2,750 less than the ATS Coupe.

The lowest starting retail price, including destination charge, for an all-wheel drive ATS Coupe is $41,440.

The 2015 BMW 428i Coupe with 240-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder, eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive starts at $41,700. Adding a rearview camera to the 428i costs $950 extra.

And an all-wheel drive, 2015 428ix Coupe has a starting retail price of $43,700, and adding a rearview camera pushes the price up to $44,650.

Another competitor, the 2015 Infiniti Q60 Coupe, has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $41,855 with 330-horsepower V-6, seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. The Q60 is not offered with a four cylinder.

Cadillac's ATS Coupe also offers a V-6, which generates 321 horses and 275 foot-pounds of torque. Yes, the V-6's peak torque is less than that of the turbocharged four cylinder. Starting MSRP, including destination charge, for the 2015 ATS Coupe with V-6 and rear-wheel drive is $46,145.

The four-cylinder ATS weighs some 200 pounds less than the BMW, and the Cadillac test car with automatic felt spirited and eager to respond.

Cadillac said 90 percent of the peak torque is available from 2,100 rpm to 3,000 rpm, which is a very usable range.

Zero to 60 miles per hour in the turbo ATS Coupe has been measured at 5.6 seconds, which rivals the performance of BMW's 428i.

The six-speed automatic in the ATS tester allowed for manual shifts, but the shifts made automatically were well-timed on their own.

Adding to the charm of the test, rear-wheel drive ATS in Performance trim was the stick-to-the-pavement personality of the car and the minimal body motions in twists and turns.

The ATS sport suspension includes, in the rear, Cadillac's first five-link independent suspension using lighter-weight, high-strength steel and straight link designs.

The tester moved with poise through slalom maneuvers, and the belt-driven, ZF steering system had quick response.

The ATS Coupe is lowered about an inch in height from the sedan, and passengers drop down onto the seats and look up at trucks and sport utility vehicles in front of them in traffic. But front-seat passengers don't necessarily feel tightly constrained in the nicely appointed interior.

While the base ATS Coupe comes with faux leather that's convincing, upper levels are offered with attractive brown or red color semi-aniline leather.

Cadillac also offers performance sport bucket seats in place of the plainer front buckets.

The layout of electroluminescent gauges is well done, and controls are easy to understand for anyone who has been in a Cadillac in the last few years.

Cadillac's User Experience, known as CUE, is available even on the base model and adds a sizable, 8-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard where audio and navigation, among other things, can be controlled. But be careful not to accidentally activate the volume or other controls that are below, in silver-colored, jazzy "lines" on the dashboard.

It takes a bit of maneuvering to get to the coupe rear seats, and headroom is 35.1 inches, less than what's in the sedan.

Trunk space, though, remains the same at 10.4 cubic feet.

The tester averaged 22.8 miles per gallon in combined city and highway travel, which was less than the federal government's estimated average of 24 mpg. Premium gasoline is recommended but not required.

Last month, Cadillac announced a safety recall of 58,698 ATS cars from the 2013-2015 model years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted the "Slide" and "Tilt" control buttons for the cars' power-operated sunroofs are not recessed as required by U.S. vehicle safety standards. As a result, a driver or front passenger might accidently activate the sunroof auto-close feature, which could lead to injury, NHTSA said.

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