By Derek Price
Having grown up in the 1980s and ‘90s, a time when Cadillac was known for making big, squishy land boats, the sentence I’m about to write is shocking.
Cadillac now sells a car that, in some ways, beats the BMW M3.
I just spent a week driving the super-fast ATS-V Coupe, a Caddy that was designed from the outset to directly compete with the fabled car from Germany — something unthinkable a few years ago.
To reach that lofty level, Cadillac had to start planning a long time ago, and that meant creating a stronger, stiffer platform that can handle all the extreme forces of physics that powerful cars generate. You can feel that in the “ordinary” ATS that benefits from a rigid, carved-from-granite chassis, but it’s even more remarkable in the V-spec car with its powerful engine and telepathically sensitive suspension that magnifies any imperfections.
How powerful is it? The ATS-V makes 464 horsepower, enough to scoot from 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds, Cadillac claims. That’s a tick faster than what BMW boasts for its 2016 M3, and it’s believable considering the Caddy makes 39 more horses from its twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder engine.
Granted, that doesn’t make the ATS-V a shoo-in for anyone fortunate enough to be shopping for this class of high-caliber car. The BMW has a sense of rawness and excitement — not to mention its long heritage — that the fresher Cadillac and Mercedes competitors struggle to match.
But the Caddy makes its case with more than its engine.
Its body is striking with a form-follows-function shape that’s wonderfully honest. All the slits, vents and moldings are functional, designed to reduce drag and add downforce to keep the car glued to the pavement at high speeds, particularly when you opt for the track aerodynamics package.
A carbon fiber hood helps reduce weight and gives the ATS-V an added mystique shared with exotic vehicles. If that’s not enough, you can opt for an extra carbon fiber package — which added a whopping $5,000 to the price of my test car — but also gives it the eye-catching look of exposed carbon bits.
The brag-worthy list gets longer. You can get amazing Brembo brakes, Recaro front seats that pin you in place through corners, magnetic ride control that lets you tune the suspension feel from the driver’s seat, and a technology suite that seems more at home on a SpaceX rocket than a road car.
Not only can you adjust your performance experience through the digital settings, but you can record the whole thing, too. An available Performance Data Recorder will track your times and record high-definition video you can share with your friends on social media, making this truly a car for today.
Unsurprisingly, all this speed and tech doesn’t come cheap. The four-door ATS-V starts at $60,465, while the sexier coupe version costs $62,665 — and that’s before you add in the delicious options that are sure to be tempting. My tester came with a sticker price just shy of $80,000 with the extra goodies.
That’s a lot of money for a car this size, no doubt. The back seat and trunk space are smaller than any $80,000 vehicle I can recall driving, but I can’t imagine that people shopping for this kind of car will care. The ATS-V isn’t about logic and practicality, after all. It’s too wild for that.
Instead, this car is about creating one of the most thrilling behind-the-wheel experiences on the planet. And to me, the fact that it’s a screaming statement from one of America’s most storied luxury brands makes it that much better.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe RWD ($62,665). Options: Carbon fiber package ($5,000), Recaro performance seats ($2,300), luxury package ($2,100), eight-speed automatic transmission ($2,000), performance data recorder ($1,300), power sunroof ($1,050), 18-inch polished wheels ($900), dark gold Brembo brakes ($595), sueded steering wheel and shifter ($300). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $79,205
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 184.7 in.
Width: 72.5 in.
Height: 54.5 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter twin turbo V6 (464 hp, 445 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 16 city, 24 highway
2016 Cadillac ATS-V
Why buy it?
With mind-blowing handling and power, it’s claimed to be even faster than the legendary BMW M3. It’s an exercise in engineering excess and a milestone for the Cadillac product portfolio.