Cadillac ATS V6 test Drive

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 I have to say, I thought the ATS was really boring when it fist came out.
Nothing new. And the grille was especially uninteresting.

After living with one for a week, I have some different thoughts.
Yes, it does look quite conservative in general. (And that grille is still quite boring )
But there are so many interesting elements. The headlights, the rear deck lid, the sharp lines.
It actually looks quite nice and does have some presence.

Although I must say, all my younger friends in their late 20’s and 30’s did describe it as “an old man’s car”. (Older people were more impressed.)
The younger crowd does relate more to the Audi A4 or the 3 series.

 Inside, my first impression was quite negative.
Due mostly to the choice of color in my test car. A combo they call “platinum with brownstone”.
Brownstone is fancy for “reddish chocolate color”. And it does NOT go with light grey. At all.
(A much better “grey/black combo is available)

The front seats are very comfortable. But the transmission tunnel is really wide and intrudes into the leg space, for both the driver and passenger. So the whole things ends up feeling small, and not that roomy.

The Bose stereo sounded great and I didn’t have any problems with the Cue system. Which is basically the same thing as in other new GM models. With the same menus.

BUT… There are no switch or buttons whatsoever. Which really sucks.
There should be at least one for volume ( I don’t remember  anyone complaining about a dial for volume control).
It just feel like old people’s idea of what would look cool in a car.
Sure it looks good. But it drives you crazy. And the artificial haptic feedback always feels like the screen is loose or broken.
It is just a major pain that needs to be corrected ASAP.

 The rear seat is quite small. Which is a problem is most fancy RWD compact cars.
It is on par with the class I guess.
And there are only vents for the air, but no controls.

And again, that tunnel is pretty wide, so this is in effect a 4 seater car.

 The trunk is fine but not that roomy.

 Some details inside are very nice. Although the wood didn’t look that real to me. With its tiger looking stripes.
The metal trim is quite nice.

 The steering wheel looks good.
But seems to have too many controls that are not really needed. And they are all lit at night. All the time. Which is just too bright and distracting.
(You can lower the brightness level of all the interior lights, but not just the ones on the steering wheel.)

 My test car was the loaded V6 version and retails for over $48 000.
For that price, I was quite surprised to see quite a few cheap interior bits.

Like the power window controls and the plastic surrounding them.
The whole thing is more at home in a Chevrolet Cruze than a “almost $50 000 Cadillac”

 Same for the control stalks, which are pure generic GM parts. They are not bad and feel pretty solid.
But they are also the same ones used in the $17 000 Chevrolet Cruze, and most other GM models.

And, as you can see on the pic, my $48 000 car did NOT have power control or memory settings  for the steering wheel. This is really bad…

 Again, the headrests are fine and comfortable, but also from the Chevrolet Impala.

 Once you get in, you realize you are sitting pretty low. Like in a sports car.

The roof is also pretty low, so you can’t really move the seat up that much.
It all feels more like a sports car than a luxury one.

Under way, I was surprised how firm the suspension was. (On the regular setting)
Even though I did get used to it after a day or so, I still think this should be the “Sport” setting.
The regular mode should have a smoother ride. (This might also be due to the run flat tires on my test car)

The steering is very nice and gives plenty of feedback without being too “twitchy”.
I couldn’t feel much difference between the “Touring” and “Sport” settings.

 The engine has plenty of power Acceleration is strong and smooth all the time.
Although it doesn’t give you that kick in the pants feel.

The V6 sounds very quiet yet very sporty when you push it.

It is officially rated at 18/28MPG.
Driving like grandma I was able to get 18 in the City.
(But like most big V6 engines, it mostly gets about 15/16 when driven normally.)
And I did get 30 on the freeway.

 It does have a manual mode with paddles, but it is really not needed.
As the transmission always seems to be in the perfect gear.

One small detail I noticed was the automatic high beam feature. Which dim the headlights back to normal as soon as another car shows up.
A very nice and useful feature.

 The ATS V6 is a very nice car. And it does have that super solid tank feel of many expensive German cars.
But I am not as crazy about it as some other people who drove it.
Too me, it feels closer to an Infiniti than a European car.

.Despite its smaller size, it still doesn’t feel young.
.The ride is much too firm in its regular setting(At least on my test car)
.Some interior bits do not belong in a $48 000 car

It is a very sporty car. Sportier than it is luxurious. As such, it seems that it is has the wrong body.
That this chassis should be used in another car. Like maybe the next Camaro.

Because of this, I think the upcoming 2 door ATS Coupe might be a better car. More in tune with the spotty character of the chassis and engine.
As the back seats are really small anyway.

As I mentioned before, my test car was $48 620. Without a sunroof!
Which seems really expensive.
(You can save about $2000 by choosing the 2.0 Liter Turbo model.)

But a loaded BMW 335 is actually over $55 000. While a loaded C Class is above $53 000.

So no matter how expensive the ATS is, it is still between $5000 and $7000 cheaper than its closest competition.
(But BMW and Mercedes don’t have access to cheaper bits to cut down cost either.)

But there is still a little bit too much Chevy in the ATS…

Conversation 16 comments

  1. GM: The surfaces and objects your customers (no, not the dealers–the end users) touch and come into contact with most shouldn't feel generations behind, and far cheaper than what the rest of the world offers. Shame on you for STILL not figuring this out. And shame on you for building something that looks like the ATS Coupe, while I'm thinking about it.

  2. I find the rear and the whole design of the ATS boring and forgettable. Cadillac is obsessed with boring vertical taillights. Even Volvo is changing. One thing is to stick to the same grille and another to a rear look generated more than 10 years ago. Is the design offensive? No. Is it for people wanting an appliance? Yes. Who are these people? Older folks. As far as ride, the BMW is probably the benchmark for a fine balance between ride comfort and handling. Everyone else is still trying to reach the Bimmer's dynamics of 20 years ago. MB gets it. Do you want to attract younger audiences and make them customers for life? They decided to design the CLA and made the price right. In both aspects of design and price ATS misses the mark. Stiff suspension and handling can get you so far.

  3. Thanks for the review Vince.
    The ATS is a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall Insignia (Buick Regal) and yes, it should've stayed in that body as either the OPC or VXR cars with the proper V6 turbo engine and active suspension. Not the scraps marketed and spoon fed to all here in the States. Sad.

  4. This is sad…looks like they revived the first CTS rear flank which with that tall rear fender which makes the rear wheels look much smaller than the front. They've made a huge mistake with cost-cutting the interior parts and why, why, WHY have a 4-door car with a small, uncomfortable backseat?! As much as I applaud Caddy for the XTS and CTS, this "Cimmaron" re-do is 2-steps back. Cadillac should drop the 4-door ATS and just do a coupe and convertible…and call it "Eldorado". Enough with the letters dangnabbit!

  5. Why compare this car to a "loaded" 3 Series or C-Class? No matter how much you load the ATS, you'll never get rid of the GM-generic interior bits, and it's not any faster than the mid-range 328i or C300. That's the ATS's real competition, and the problem is that both of those are cheaper/better than the ATS.

    Size-wise, the ATS is more like a CLA or A3, so maybe it's actually 50% more expensive than the competition.

    Can you tell I don't get this car? To me it looks like a 2004 CTS, only with an even worse back seat and crappier ride.

    Young people won't like it because they can't get their friends (or child seats) to fit in the back. Old people won't like it because Cadillac hasn't realized yet that old people come in sizes over 5 feet now. Cadillac's traditional crowd won't like it because you can't fit real estate signs in the trunk and a couple of out-of-towners in the back.

    Who does that leave? Anybody here buy one? With all due respect, what were you thinking?

  6. Great review, but are those headlights halogens??? It looks as if LEDs have taken the world by storm, even in cars with halogen headlights which makes things looked mismatched. I'm not sure because color variation is possible in photos, but that projector headlight looks like a halogen illumination to me…which is also not appropriate on a $50,000 car. The base has them, but I didn't expect it on this, I hope I'm wrong.

    – FusioptimaSX

  7. "Cadillac hasn't realized yet that old people come in sizes over 5 feet now"
    This is the best line I have seen in a long time!

    On another note, the ATS is NOT a rebadged

    Insignia/Regal. These cars are using GM's Epsilon2 FWD platform. (also used by the Malibu, Impala, Lacrosse and XTS)

    The ATS uses the Alpha RWD platform.

  8. I really like this car. It has a much better presence in person than online. However this is the most vulgar color combination for the interior. Cadillac should never ever attempt another interior in burgundy or reddish brown. It was awful in the 80s and it's awful now. And yes, it's awful in German cars too.

    No, the swichgear isn't as good as in the German cars. But as good or better than the Japanese competitors. I do think that the putrid burgundy doesn't help. The CTS has the tips of the door switches finished in aluminum, which really helps them feel more substantial. Let's hope they decide to use those in the ATS soon.

    Caddy needs to learn from Audi about how to varnish wood properly. GM has always over processed and over-varnished veneer to the point that the real stuff looks fake. Shiny is not in style. Matte is.

    Anyway, I'm surprised at how many of these I've seen around. Looking forward to seeing the coupe on the road.

  9. I agree with you that they need to get some of the details not the interior right, including the door switches. However, if you look at the door switches on an Audi A4, Current C Class or the BMW, they are not much better!

  10. A sunroof should be standard on any car over 30K. I find it shocking to see it missing on a car in this price range. The back seat looks very cramped. The only market I see for this car is yuppies from the Northeast that still feel some sense of guilt for not buying American.

  11. Re: Carl,

    No one considers Acura to be a luxury brand, and that is one of the reasons. Cadillac is working hard to be one.

  12. I'd agree that this car is perhaps for a slightly older crowd… say, 30's+. But its also more elegant looking. And I would say the exact same thing about Mercedes' designs. But those youngster probably wouldnt make the same claim bcuz its a MB and they're badge whores. Welcome to California.

  13. I think it's the most attractive Cadillac to date. I'm NOT a fan of the nauseous Bi-Nougat colored busy interior.

  14. A pretty fair review, Vince. But the new Impala is a world of difference from the old one, so having some Chevy in it isn't really an insult. And most people in their 20s and early 30s can't afford cars like this anyway, so if they think of it as an old man's car, that's probably because to them, 40 is still old. If Cadillac can appeal to people who are 45 they will have lowered the average age of their buyers by about 2 generations!

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