Totally bonkers Cadillac ATS-V smokes competition
The swagger-laden modernization of the Cadillac brand truly walks the walk when it comes to the unbelievably fast, tremendously capable and awfully slab-sided, Batmobile-inspired ATS-V — the newest of General Motor’s terrifying, entirely BMW/Audi/Mercedes-beating products.
And if the handling, thrust and classy but subdued cabin are any indication of what a mere 464-horsepower Cadillac can do, the prospect of the full-blown CTS-V and its 600-plus horsepower scares me silly.
ATS-V’s explosive power is derived from a massively reimagined, twin-turbo version of the 3.6-liter V6 found across the GM family, transformed into a high-revving weapon of mass destruction. It even purrs softly like a European turbo at idle, but nail it good and you’ll achieve 3.8-second 0-to-60 times, and get so much raw thrust (even in third or fourth gear) that you’d swear they’d welded on a couple of extra cylinders.
That engine is remarkable, and means the brutal ATS-V is good for speeds above 190 MPH, which I sadly, but wisely did not put to the full test. You’ll find yourself going dangerously fast, and capable of what seems like unlimited extra acceleration, even in most normal settings. And if you’re not drag racing all of the time, you’ll get the 23.9 overall MPG I experienced.
All that power, competently and confidently put into action by a solid six-speed manual transmission, thank you Cadillac, is tied to a chassis that offers an experience that ultimately feels like a taller, four-passenger-ready version of the new Corvette Stingray.
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Corners melt and curves give way with a flowing, beautiful intensity. Add the light overall steering feel and the organic wonder of old-fashioned rear-wheel drive and the ATS-V is an absolute dream to drive on a twisty road. Fat Brembo brakes (six pistons up front, four in the rear) also keep all of that galavanting pretty realistic and safe, when you need to reel it in.
The ATS-V’s body design is certainly heavy on the thrill factor, especially the insanely low and prominent carbon fiber front splitter, rear diffuser and air extractor — all part of the $6,195 Track Performance Package, as well as a body colored-rear spoiler.
Air intakes like snow fencing on the grille indicates the millions of gallons of oxygen that will be sucked in as the V’s engine rips through the world like a ramjet — with careful venting as well to cool the brakes. And Corvette-styled quad pipes in the rear finish the job, with slightly less explosive sonic results than they might on a ‘Vette. So it goes with a V-6.
I found the two-door coupe version’s proportions maybe a little boaty. The doors are huge, but there’s an awfully long section of basically blank sheet metal behind them, and some awfully plain curves for an otherwise striking and almost perversely impactful look.
I had to check the Internet to make sure this isn’t indeed another reimagined Australian Holden Commodore; no, it’s all Cadillac, though a Cadillac that snarls with active hood scoops and its fantastic sweeping stretches of headlamps — even the side mirrors have an anxious brutality to them.
That Holden deal might help explain why the ATS-V, priced at a little over $74,000 in the model I tested, had an interior that was impressive but not quite as classy and composed as you’d find in the car’s European targets — BMW M3, the Audi S4 or the Mercedes AMGs.
Yes, there’s tall chrome, leather and Alcantara-infused Recaro race seats — for $2,300 — plus piano black on the console, fancy haptic A/C controls and a somewhat scaled down version of the CUE infotainment system found in other Cadillacs. But there’s also a lot of dark plastic in the cabin, including some odd pleather-styled patches genuinely stitched to the top of the Alcantara-draped doors, with an overall feel that seems just a little austere given the rest of the car’s insane presence. Could they have sprung for aluminum pedals, rather than rubber ones? Maybe that’s an option I missed.
And the red-needled instrumentation is a tad basic, minus the fancy three-way-adjustable digital trip and information display, configurable to your heart’s content.
Massive square-edge A-pillars up front will also block some of your forward/side vision but will probably be appreciated if the car goes end over end at 190 MPH.
Those seats suck you in big time and hold you in place; rear seating is deep and leathery but a tremendous pain to access, with the power-sliding, partially reclining front seats not offering a very large space to climb aboard.
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