Despite their struggles in the market, Cadillac has come out as one of the most impressive domestic brands in the past few years. After building fairly boring and confusing cars like the Allante in the ’80s, Catera in the ’90s and the DTS in the 2000s, they finally seemed to hit a turning point with the angular and aggressive CTS coupe in 2009. But 2014 has been their biggest year yet: they moved their headquarters from Detroit to NYC’s SoHo neighborhood, made beautiful updates to models like the Escalade and launched new ones like the ATS. And as 2014 wrapped up, they brought out the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe ($37,995 base), a German headhunter with a Silicon Valley mind, as well as a new wreath-less logo that seems to signal their intentional departure from pure luxury to sport luxury.
The ATS Coupe is the kind of car you’ll want to dress up for when you’re handed the keys — not out of obligation, but because it’ll make you want to be a better man. The twin-crossbar grille with the new logo, center-raised hood and vertical HID/LED lighting convey an infectious sophistication and presence. The high belt line steers the eyes right past the invisible b-pillar to land at an integrated spoiler and wider rear haunches, inspired by the aforementioned CTS coupe but executed much more elegantly.
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo
Torque: 295 lb-ft
MPG: 21 (city) / 30 (highway)
0-60: 5.6 seconds
Our loaner came in a gorgeously dark and metallic Adriatic Blue in the premium trim (an additional $10,000), with sport aluminum pedals, full-color head-up display (HUD), performance suspension, a limited-slip diff and Magnetic Ride Control. Additionally it came with one of a fan-favorite feature: striking illuminated door handles, which caused a lot of geeking out at night time and in dark parking garages.
And maybe that’s a win for Cadillac, because this car seemed to be squarely aimed at the 30-year-old tech-conscious car geek (arguably, more geek than car geek). The feature list speaks for itself: the HUD, the 8-inch touch screen CUE (Cadillac User Experience) with a motion sensor that brought up option buttons as your hand approached the screen (which maximized real estate), parking sensors that vibrated the seat when curbs or cars were too near, optional 4G-LTE wi-fi, a customizable digital dash, lane-keeping assist and Bose speakers with active noise canceling (just like their headphones). But it wasn’t all digital; the feel of the car impressed as well. The doors, door handles and steering wheel all mimicked the substantial feel of German imports, while the magnesium paddle shifters, open-pore wood trim and firm supportive seats made simply sitting in the car with the engine off almost as enjoyable as driving.
But you can’t have a true competitor to the Germans without real driving chops, and the ATS Coupe’s 2.0-liter turbo fired to life and flung us through traffic adroitly. After just a few minutes of driving we pulled over and double checked the Monroney spec sheet to confirm it was “only” 272 horsepower, because it felt like at least 50 more — presumably due to the nearly 300 lb-ft of torque. Either way, it was very quick. The steering was certain and purposeful, and thanks to the optional magnetic ride control, which reads surface conditions at 1,000 times per second and adjusts to minor glitches in pavement, the tires remained planted on fast twisties as well as long, winding turns.
After just a few minutes of driving we pulled over and double checked the Monroney spec sheet to confirm it was “only” 272 horsepower, because it felt like at least 50 more.
The six-speed manual is an option for ATS drivers, but ours was outfitted with the automatic. Its quick, smooth shifts through the wheel-mounted magnesium paddles were a pleasant surprise, especially after scrolling through the drive modes from Snow/Ice to Touring and then finally to Sport, where the MRC stiffened the suspension, tightened throttle mapping and loosened the traction intervention.
The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is a fantastic car, but there are a few knocks against it: fuel economy is poor, netting about 19 mpg from a week of mixed driving; the back seats are too firm and head room is for middle school girls at best; the haptic feedback buttons (no knobs) from the CUE system are tough to find without taking one’s eyes completely off the road. And then there’s that price tag: our model with the smaller engine and only rear-wheel-drive still goes up to about $49,000.
That said, this car checked all the boxes, from performance, to looks, to connected tech — and the one we don’t often get to check: domestic. The past 24 months have signaled a major change for America’s best luxury brand (sorry, McConaughey), and the ATS Coupe is the logical next step in their attempt to take on the those Germans. Welcome to NYC, neighbor.