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The ATS-V rides on GM's new Alpha platform, which boasts 25 per cent more torsional rigidity than the stock ATS's chassis
The ATS saloon signalled a fresh start for Cadillac, a marque that had become so tragically unhip that it had to relocate to New York City in a bid to reinvent itself. It seems to have done the trick. The luxury carmaker is now attracting a younger crowd to its products by offering a credible rival to the likes of the BMW 3 Series. And this, the ATS-V, is aiming straight for the top — gunning for the M3/M4. The V-series, as you would've doubtless gathered by now, is about performance. And boy, does this hot ATS move. Granted, it doesn't have Corvette-derived engines or performance parts like the CTS-V — that one has the Z06's running gear — but what it does have does not feel inadequate in any way.
It's all it needed, to be fair, as even the short sighted can tell that Cadillac means business with its V cars. Even though it's powered by a 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged V6, the power output is more V8-like at 457bhp. Drop 603Nm of torque into the equation and you have a very, very rapid car indeed. Mated to an eight-speed automatic (it has paddle shifters that are based on the Z06's) and sending the grunt to rear wheels, the ATS-V saloon and coupé are able to reach 100kph from rest in about 4.0 seconds. Keep your foot buried in the carpet and they'll hit a sportscar-shaming top speed of 304kph. Along Yas Marina's long straight, I regularly see in excess of 250kph on the head-up display, yet it is apparent that there is much more in reserve; even at that speed it feels stable and utterly unfazed. However, as thrilling as the ATS-V is on the straights, it is in the corners where the saloon (and the coupé, a touch more) displays handling prowess you wouldn't have associated with an American car just a few years ago.
The V's engine may have the same displacement as the regular ATS, but don't let that fool you. This V6 is specific to the ATS-V and is Cadillac's first use of this twin-turbo unit in a V-Series car. It's got more punch than the twinturbo V6 in the current CTS (44bhp more) as it keenly demonstrates under the lights at Yas. It's not just about the power though, with 18in Michelin Pilot Super tyres, Brembo brakes, electronically controlled mechanical limited slip differential, new aerodynamic front splitter and Magnetic Ride Control adaptive shock absorbers, it exhibits precise and planted handling. The tauter chassis — stiffened up by 25 per cent — also sharpens the car's reflexes further.
The exterior too gets suitable upgrades to separate it from the garden variety ATS. There's an enlarged grille, V-specific fenders, rear spoiler and rocker mouldings, and most notable — the carbon fibre (the real thing) bonnet with a heat extractor. The ATS was already attractive, but the V takes the aggression up a notch or two. It's transformed, pumped-up and ready for action.
The cabin is also up to par. The Recaro seats are extremely supportive (the side and thigh bolsters are power-adjustable), there's lots of suede-like microfibre, and authentic carbon fibre trim on the dash and door cards, and the fit and finish is good, too. However, the capacitive touch buttons on the centre console can be annoying to operate. The piano black surfaces look pretty good but can get grubby quite quickly with every prod of the finger. Space wise, the saloon's rear bench is fine for adults if the journey is a short one. Overall, it is loaded with all kinds of kit including Cadillac's User Experience (CUE) multimedia system, Bluetooth, voice recognition and text-to-voice SMS, USB ports, Wi-Fi hot spot function, parking sensors, a backup camera and satellite radio.
As is customary these days, the ATS V also gets a clutch of driver aids with multiple settings (Tour, Sport, Track and Snow/Ice), but it is in Track mode that it really dazzles. The computers keep the car in check but allow just enough slip in the corners to make you feel like a hero. Both the saloon and coupé come with an eight-speed auto (GM built a six-speed manual but it's not coming to our market unfortunately) and it's a delightful unit that's never flummoxed by the demands of the motor up front. Shift using the paddles behind the electromechanical steering and you won't even feel the cogs swapping; it's a near instantaneous surge. But on the flip side, it may be too smooth for a performance car.
A new piece of software that also warrants a worthy mention is the Performance Data and Video Recorder, which the C7 has. It lets you record your drive (in highdef video) and has data overlays so you can see where you need to improve — but set a good lap and you can share it on your FaceTube.
On balance, though, the ATS-V doesn't quite feel like an M3/M4-beater; the steering isn't as sharp as the BMW's and the high-performance bushings in the chassis increase road noise. However, considering it costs less, is just as quick and in my opinion looks far better than the BMW, the ATS-V is worth a look. More pertinently, as statements of intent go, it is a pretty powerful one.
Specs & Rating
|Engine||3.6-litre V6 turbo|
|Transmission||Eight-speed auto, RWD|
|Max Power||457bhp @ 5,850rpm|
|Max Torque||603Nm @ 3,500rpm|
|Top Speed||304kph (derestricted)|
|Highs||Good engine, quick, smooth transmission|
|Lows||Not quite an M3/M4-beater|
Compare this to the Chrysler 300 SRT - Powered up