- Forget the days when Germany was the only country producing sports sedans worth mentioning. The Cadillac ATS-V proves that those times are long gone.
- It’s blisteringly fast and incredibly capable, yet the ATS-V still manages to be an approachable performance car.
- Those looking for the most luxurious sports sedans, though, are better served elsewhere. The ATS-V is nice, but it can’t match the class leaders in materials and overall interior quality.
It's a common assumption that the best sports sedans in the world are built in Germany. The conventional wisdom suggests that no automaker can match the suspension and handling prowess of BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
That's not true.
After testing it, I'm confident that the 2018 Cadillac ATS-V can run with anything German automakers send to our shores.
Much like BMW’s M models, Mercedes’ AMG cars and Audi’s RS line, Cadillac's "V" is the letter code that tells you that this model means business. Hellfire-spitting engines, magnetic suspension and needle-sharp steering are to be expected. They should be comfortable, quiet and offer the luxury features you expect in exchange for spending $79,360.
Perhaps it’s the magnetic dampers, which adjust the stiffness of the suspension using electromagnets up to 1,000 times per second to keep the ATS-V smooth when cruising and knife-sharp on a hairpin. Maybe it’s the twin-turbo V6, which delivers 464 horsepower and a bottomless supply of low-end torque that makes the car feel ready to pounce at any moment. Or the 8-speed automatic transmission, which delivers blink-quick up-shifts and holds the monster motor in the prime of its power band.
But I don’t think that’s it. German automakers will gladly sell you power and well-tuned suspensions.
I think the secret sauce is in two other parts of the ATS-V. The first is the Cadillac’s chassis, which is unflappable and well-engineered from the start. The second is PTM, or performance traction management, which is one of GM’s best pieces of performance software.
PTM is a highly-advanced traction control system that allows just enough slip to make sure you’re having fun without letting the car’s power send you careening off the road. The ATS-V encourages you to push it on the road while being reasonably certain you won’t exit the corner in a heap of twisted wreckage.
The Cadillac ATS-V will rip apart Audis and Mercedes Benzes all day, but settle down to a nice comfortable highway cruise right after.
It’s not large, but it works as a real life sedan. Plus, while the carbon package pushes the ATS-V’s looks to the realm of overly-aggressive, it’s still quite a handsome thing to behold. It won’t garner the instant approval that a BMW badge might, but the ATS-V still looks at home in more upscale neighborhoods and locales.
The AT-V also has a great Bose audio system, lane-keeping assist, remote start, supremely-comfortable seats and WiFi. It’s not decked out with the latest and greatest semi-autonomous tech, but the cabin is a comfortable and well-equipped place to be for less money than any of its chief competitors.
Other luxury sedans have much nicer interiors. A Mercedes C-Class might not delight as much on a back road, but the sheer opulence of the cabin could make you forget that. The impeccable-quality leather, metal and wood that dominate true luxury offerings are largely absent in the ATS-V where plastic sets the tone.
The ATS-V interior feels like a nice version of a regular car.
The Cadillac ATS-V felt cramped on the inside, too. I’m sure the small footprint helps it deliver its mind-bending performance, but it’s still a bit hard to stomach paying $79,360 and knowing four people would get uncomfortable after more than a few hours of driving.
Expect to pay between $595 and $1,225 if you want a color that isn’t black. An additional $2,000 from from the base model gets you the luxury package, which adds split-folding seats, upgraded infotainment, Bose Centerpoint audio and a power outlet.
You should add $600 for dark-finish wheels to help make your ATS-V visually distinct from the lower-trim ATS models on dealer lots. $2,000 more gets you the automatic transmission, which is probably what most buyers want in the premium sports sedan market.
The awesome Recaro performance seats seem worth the $2,300 up-charge, especially if you drive like me. There are driver aids on offer, too, but none of them felt particularly advanced or necessary so hold off on those.
All in, that puts the price somewhere between $68,990 and $70,215, depending on what color you pick.
The Cadillac ATS-V is neither the most luxurious nor the most prestigious vehicle in its segment, but it makes up for its shortcomings with unrelenting charm on the road.
It’s fast and sharp, with road feel and handling that recalls the more analog days of performance cars. The Cadillac ATS-V manages to blend raw American power with hyper-advanced technology to create a total package that’s as lovable as it is smart.
Driving Experience: 5
Price as configured: $79,360