The 2015 Cadillac ATS is a competent and credible compact sport coupe with fast styling, which stopped several passers-by who seemed compelled to say, “What a pretty car.”
And it is — and well put together with contemporary features and engaging design. The four-seat ATS also will compete with the new Lexus RC and the current Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Infiniti Q60.
Derived from the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as the sedan, the coupe has its own bodywork, including roof, doors, rear fenders and trunk lid, along with a specific front fascia and fenders. With a wider track than the sedan, the stance is solid.
But the Cadillac marketers get sideways when in press materials they take a swipe at the BMW 4-Series coupe, claiming their ATS has higher horsepower and a lighter curb weight. All true, but the translation in the driving is not as convincing.
Comparing sizes, the ATS is within an inch of the BMW in most specifications, such as length-width-height. But the Bimmer rides on a 1.3-inch longer wheelbase and manages another 1.2 inches of front shoulder room, inches more headroom and a larger trunk.
Like the BMW 4-Series, the ATS Coupe is sold in rear- and all-wheel drive with four- and six-cylinder engines. And the starting prices are close. The four-cylinder rear-drive ATS starts at about $39,000 (including the $995 freight charge from Lansing, Mich.) and the V-6 at about $46,000; AWD adds $2,450. And, like BMW, pricing includes four years or 50,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
Today’s V-6 rear-drive tester was $53,330 with several options, including Black Diamond Tricoat paint ($995), which has an almost three-dimensional glitter of metal flake. And the Kona Brown interior ($1,295), which has a rich presence from Cadillac’s hand cut and sewn leather upholstery.
The entry ATS has a 272-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with 295 foot-pounds of torque from 3,000-4,600 rpm. The 321-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 has 275 foot-pounds torque at 4,800 rpm. Both engines have bragging rights of sophisticated aluminum architectures with direct-injection and double overhead camshafts.
But the V-6 does not feel “all ate up with power” even in Sport mode. Fuel economy ratings are 18 mpg city and 28 highway, on 87 octane. (The four-cylinder is rated 21/31 mpg on the recommended but not required premium.)
Drivability is nimble. The sport suspension is firm, not jarring, and the car will dive capably into a corner and maintain a flat line through the apex. But it needs more exit power for that big grin of satisfaction. That’s what the BMW does so well.
Performance braking comes from 12.6-inch vented front Brembo discs and 12.4-inch vented discs rear. But while the BMW gets an eight-speed automatic, the ATS has six-speeds, manual or automatic.
The ATS is an easy car to like. Entry and exit are comfortable. Sightlines are good, helped by a large rearview camera and parking sensors front and rear. The seats are supportive (and heated) with lumbar adjustment. But the haptic touch features (iPhone-like) to adjust audio, climate control and other features take time to master the right swipe action. Dials are so much simpler for making climate and audio adjustments, but the steering-wheel controls are helpful.
Standard 18-inch wheels seem small to the body and there’s too much space between tire and fender well. Definitely not a BMW design hallmark.
The cabin is compact with just niches of storage and phone-stashing space. Headroom of 37.6 inches may be tight for the big and tall. (The 4-Series manages nearly 40 inches of headroom.) And the ATS back seat is snug, with just 33.5 inches of legroom, a tad less than the BMW.
Trunk space of 10.4 cubic feet is wide and usable but not comparable to 15.7 cubic feet in the BMW.
And while the base ATS weighs about 77 pounds less than the base BMW, Cadillac should have applied more soundproofing to tame the cabin noise. At highway speeds there is noticeable tire sizzle and ambient noise coming from the ground upward and through the side glass.
The competitive advantage for Cadillac is its long list of standard features. To build a BMW 435i with similar content as my test car would pencil out to about $60,000.
Cadillac does not need to call out BMW. The ATS is a contemporary coupe with assets of its own. Let this car be an individual — for individuals.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage