2016 Cadillac ATS Sedan Review – Bitter Medicine
3.6-liter LGX DOHC V6, variable valve timing, active fuel management and cylinder deactivation (333 hp @ 6800 rpm; 285 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm)
8L45 8-speed automatic transmission
20 cities / 30 highways / 24 combined (EPA, MPG rating)
24.5 mpg combined in 60/40 city / highway, downtown traffic nightmare combined cycle (MPG observed)
Options tested: Driver assistance package – $ 2,885 (adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, seat belt tightening, electronic parking brake); Kona Brown Semi-Aniline Leather Seats – $ 1,295; Power sunroof – $ 1,050; Cold weather package – $ 600 (heated seats, heated steering wheel); Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic Paint – $ 495.
$ 49,105 *
As tested price:
$ 55,430 *
* All prices include the destination charge of $ 995 (US)
It’s easy to get carried away by the BMW-Mercedes-Audi hyperbole. These automakers trade spec superlatives in generational battles for supremacy that, in reality, won’t matter when the time comes for most of these buyers to pull the proverbial trigger.
In many ways, the Cadillac ATS is being left behind. It doesn’t have the story, drama, or marketing machine that the 3-Series and C-Class beat us with every day.
In fact, when Cadillac announced it would take on these much-vaunted cars head-on, most people laughed as long as it took them to drive one. Then it got very real. Although ATS competes with the Germans in terms of price, it also competes in terms of capacity. The foundations are solid as a rock. The range of engines is comparable. And the performance of the ATS-V is really good.
For 2016, not much has changed with the ATS, but gradual improvements in interior technology and its premium engine bring the car closer to its German counterparts.
And for many people, it will be a clumsy, angular shaped pill to swallow for the future.
Fewer words could and should be written about Cadillac’s “art and science” approach to exterior design. The sheet metal of the ATS, especially in its grille, is a cold, harsh take on geometric car design and one that won’t be mistaken for any other marque anytime soon.
It’s easy to fault the ATS for being too tough, angular, and forward-thinking, but compared to others in the segment – ahem, Audi A4 – at least it is. Something. After looking at the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, the ATS really makes sense. Compared to the nostrils and aggressive front fascia of the ATS-V, the normal sedan’s hood lines and vertical LED lights that run up to the front wheel arches seem more subtle and nicer than first impressions.
At the rear, the “mini fins” and double exterior exhausts tie the whole thing together with an ideal short overhang. I nitpick, but I’d say the rear is so symmetrical it feels unusually cold. Compared to the front end, the tail lacks real expression or style.
Compared to the 3 Series, the ATS presents an alternate reality. The skin of the BMW is stretched over its muscular frame, while the Caddy’s sheet metal falls flat along its angular bodywork. Simply put, the Series 3 wears spandex and the ATS wears a pointy suit – it’s up to the eye of the beholder to determine the preferred approach.
Full Disclosure: The inside of the ATS is not my cup of tea, and this is how I Feel. Based on what I know, The ATS represents a giant leap for the General Motors genre in terms of interior design and finish. Gorgeous open-pore wood accents blend seamlessly into a suede-finished dashboard, and the ATS’s ergonomics easily beat the Series 3.
Our tester, shod in Kona leathers finished with jet black accents on the interior, was the best interior match for our dark blue metallic finish on the exterior. The subtle and harmless samples were the perfect combination for the real world. I can’t say the same for the Light Platinum and Medium Cashmere packages inside; The Red Obsession shade and regal plum metallic paint on the outside – but that’s just me.
The ATS ‘interior space may seem cramped compared to its 108-inch wheelbase. The ATS is actually a bit longer than the 3 Series and 2 inches shorter than the C-Class, but looks a lot smaller than both. The 10.4 cubes in the chest are smaller than the 12.8 cubes in the Merc, and I don’t understand why. Rear passengers don’t benefit from the ATS’s dimensions – the 3 Series offers almost 2 inches more rear passenger legroom than the ATS’s 33.5 inches allotted for rear passengers.
At first glance, it would appear that Cadillac’s padded sport buckets are to blame; bulky padded thrones are comfortable but feel bulkier and heavier than the Rocky Mountains. The chairs are comfortable and provide good support, but it was difficult to find a neutral and comfortable sitting position – the steering wheel was just too high.
Including Apple’s Car Play was one of the biggest improvements over last year’s model. The system is simple and user-friendly and, I believe, a solid step forward for automakers as they search for something that attempts to relieve drivers of their obsession with their cellphones.
The simple layout mimics Apple’s iPhone interface with Phone, Messages, Cards, Music, Now Playing, Audiobooks, Podcasts, and (at least on my phone) MLB At Bat apps that drivers can use. Most apps, including Phone and Messages, immediately prompt Siri to ask what you’re trying to do, instead of allowing drivers to scroll endlessly through contacts and messages.
The Maps app appeal highlights Apple’s familiar (and terrible) user interface, but doesn’t allow drivers to pinch or zoom. To his credit, he immediately posted my home address and gave me an ETA (with real-time traffic) wherever I went.
Music was perhaps the most familiar and dangerous app CarPlay had to offer. The interface offered artists, albums, playlists, and everything else found on Apple’s Music app, and quite often finding what I was looking for required considerable scrolling and manipulation of the screen. Simply put: I could have found the music faster on my phone, which I felt was counterintuitive.
CarPlay represents a solid step forward for automakers to adapt to something most drivers already know: their phones. If there’s one downside to having such an intuitive infotainment system, it’s that the steering wheel controls can’t come close. Navigating the same menus and controls on the steering wheel was very different from the CarPlay system and it’s not something I would recommend to someone like my dad, aka the typical Cadillac buyer.
The all-new 3.6-liter V6 is the other notable improvement over 2015, and its modest power boost (333 hp vs. 321 hp) is not the real story. The LGX V-6 can shut down two of its cylinders to extend the duration of highway driving and that helps. Our observed combined driving mileage of 24.5 mpg was marred by the near constant traffic in downtown Denver. (Dear Texans, please go home. Signed, everyone.)
The shift from motivation to four and six was smooth and often, thanks to our avid right footer wanting to test the cylinder deactivation system.
The enthusiastic V6 hit its limit of 7,000 rpm, though its rumble wasn’t as loud as the ATS-V’s tuned intake. The V-6 never let us down, even though it felt like it was the victim of an overly anxious 8-speed automatic transmission that pushed the car insistently and frequently at higher and higher speeds. high.
Our test model was only rear-wheel drive – and in a perfect world, they all would be. In reality, many buyers will opt for Cadillac’s all-wheel drive and this preference is understandable for cold climates. But, if I could, I would offer the Pepsi Challenge with all-season winter and RWD tires and AWD to potential buyers – this combination is just too much fun.
Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control is now showing up in 3.6-liter ATS cars with the Premium Package and that’s wonderful, but we’ll get to that later.
As a relatively newcomer to the block, ATS has the unenviable task of having to catch up with the Germans. The Caddy doesn’t just have to be better, it also has to cost less.
The ATS sedan with a 3.6-liter V6 costs $ 17,000 less than an ATS-V and it shows; this car is completely different from its performance variant and would never be confused with it – ever. (By the way, I wasn’t sure the last-gen M3 and 335i are that different.)
ATS Magnetic Ride Control boosts ATS to heroic proportions and keeps the car flat and balanced, ready and neutral for more. When paired with a crisp, wrung-out V6 with shift paddles, the ATS can break bread with any German of its ilk. I firmly believe it.
But as the sport fades and the road wears down, the stiffened suspension becomes too hard and too uninhabitable for long drives. There’s no middle ground in the sedan: either you’re dealing with the sluggish acceleration and shifting of “Touring” or the heart-wrenching drive of “Sport”. The semi-customizable suspension and throttle response would go a long way here.
At $ 55,430, the ATS comes dangerously close to the ATS-V’s starting price of $ 60,465, but it’s hard to imagine that they will overlap.
At its most expensive, the ATS is a serious and significant competitor to the compact sports luxury crown of the Germans.
And it will be a tough pill for all of us homeowners to swallow.