The new Cadillac ATS-V can embarrass some German hotrods


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One day soon, some glossy, button-down dude in a new BMW will slide up next to a smallish razor-cut Cadillac ? and scoff.

Where are the gold hubcaps and vinyl top, he might wonder?

Then the ?lowly? Caddy will disappear with a deep, street-scouring growl and two hazy strips of tire rubber.

Bimmer Bob won?t have a clue that he just encountered a 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, a 464-horsepower, corner-bending, asphalt-eating coupe about the size of a 3-series BMW.

It may be General Motors? best-kept secret.

Though few people seem to realize it, Cadillac hasn?t been the cushy national sedan of Florida since Wild Bill Clinton prowled the White House at night.

For more than a decade now, Cadillac has gotten steadily better at seriously tweaking suspensions, steering and horsepower.

In fact, the CTS-V sedan is probably a better performing and handling car than BMW?s vaunted M5.

But none of that has pumped up Caddy?s bottom line or its lingering grandad-and-gold-chains image.

So far this year, sales of all models of the truly good CTS are down 39 percent as buyers continue their migration to crossovers. Meanwhile, the slightly smaller ATS struggles with a 15 percent decrease.

Maybe the V can bring some heat.

Certainly, no one will mistake the one I had recently for a sandy South Beach cruiser, even with my buzzed-off gray hair poking over the steering wheel.

In metallic gray, the coupe looked like a lean, lethal bar-room brawler dressed in dark slacks and a $200 silk shirt.

Unusual vertical headlamps ? a contemporary Cadillac trademark ? provided a steely glare, while a bold chain-link silver grille flashed a bit of bling.

Extremely short overhangs and a slightly raised hood gave the car a purposeful look, as did functional vents at the front of the hood.

The mostly flat sides appeared to be tighter than a plastic surgeon?s smile, sliced lightly by a sloping character line that darted through the door handle to the extremely vertical taillamps. A gunslinger top that stretched out and down like a hatchback complemented the edgy body nicely, I thought.

And the taut mix of steel and aluminum looked pretty darn menacing crouched atop fat 255/35 tires up front and 275/35s in back, on 18-inch alloy wheels.

None of it ? not a single vent or grille ? was for show.
Under the hood

Beneath the aggressive hood lived a grumbling 3.6-liter V-6 with twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection.

Sadly, the eager engine was tied to an eight-speed automatic, which was pefectly functional but kind of tamped down the fun factor.

In multiple, uh, test runs, I never noticed any turbo lag. Boost came on so fast under full throttle that the rear of the car sometimes squatted and squirmed oddly ? as if it were grappling with the sudden outburst of power.

The power band felt potent, popping necks ? ouch ? away from stops and sprinting with that sandpaper growl to 60 in 4.2 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

The V felt especially stout from about 3,000 rpm on, though it tended to get kind of coarse as it approached its 6,500 rpm red line.

As you might expect, fuel economy was not a priority. The souped-up six manages to get 16 miles per gallon in town and 24 on the highway, according to the EPA.

However ? and you might want to sit down for this ? when the road started to bend and curve, I thought the ATS-V felt more composed than the last M3/M4 I drove.

Like the Bimmer, the Caddy corners flatly with grip that will reshape your liver. But the ATS-V felt slightly more natural than the BMW, though both rely on far too many electronic suspension devices to save us from ourselves.

The steering in the ATS, for instance, was quick and precise, transmitting road feel better than the BMW.

And while just as heavy as the BMW at about 3,800 pounds, the Caddy seemed to turn into corners a bit more crisply.

It did not ride any better, though, stumbling some over midsize bumps and getting downright rough and rowdy on bad pavement.

But, hey, what do you expect? The V truly is not a luxury car, though you might think otherwise when you see the car?s heavy-metal window sticker ? $76,940 on the one I had.

Just keep in mind that the ATS-V?s base price is about $4,000 less than the M3/M4?s.
Inside view

The black interior in my ATS was good, not great ? and I was OK with that. A lot of the little Caddy?s expense probably covers the cost of its fine new rear-wheel-drive platform, which will be shared with the next-gen 2016 Chevy Camaro.

A deep, graceful dash in pliable black plastic curved over a black-faced instrument panel. The material trimmed the door tops as well, along with dashes of suede.

A large center stack in piano black was topped by Cadillac?s cursed CUE infotainment system, housed in an 8-inch display screen shaped like a large, slightly disagreeable iPad.

In the past, the touch pads beneath various functions ? such as sound-system volume and the climate-control fans ? were a major pain even when the car was sitting still.

Back then, I sometimes drove with Whitey Morgan and the 78s deafening me and the fans blowing gales of hot air over me in July.

In the ATS-V, they seemed a bit more functional, though I still vastly prefer real buttons and switches.

At least the seats fit the car?s raw personality. The form-fitting Recaros in mine had leather bolsters with stitching on their edges and firm grippy suede centers to hold you in place if your drifty urges get the better of you.

Ignore the back seats or reserve them exclusively for exes. They are cramped even on short trips, and crawling under the front-seat shoulder belt to get in may almost make you see the wisdom in four doors.

But the ATS-V is meant to move you, not a carload of deadbeat buddies.

Somehow, Cadillac needs to get the word out about the ATS-V and its other special sedans before GM?s truck-happy managers lose interest in the cars.

  • AT A GLANCE: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V coupe
  • Type of vehicle: Midsize, rear-wheel-drive, four-passenger coupe
  • Price as tested: $76,940
  • Fuel economy: 16 miles per gallon city, 24 highway
  • Weight: 3,760 pounds
  • Engine: Turbocharged, direct-injected 3.6 liter V-6 with 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds