Cadillac ATS Coupe — More than good looks

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We have become less fond of the two-door coupe style as the years rolled by because the older we get the more doors we want — and need. That makes it's easier for our grandchildren to access the rear seats as well. Climbing into a cramped back seat is simply no longer in the cards.

However, and somewhat to our amazement, we liked the new-for-2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe more than the ATS sedan. If we were forced to purchase a vehicle with just two doors, the compact Cadillac would be high on our list. What you lose with the ATS coupe in addition to the two extra doors are rear-seat passenger space and about an inch of head room because of the tapering roof line.

But it's what you gain that drew us to the coupe. The ATS is hunkered down, a pleasing stance that's visually lower (1 inch) and wider (1.4 inches) and with a wider track (0.8 inches) than the sedan. And the tapering roof line — that erases some headroom — and the bolder fender flares give the coupe a stylish head-turning athletic stance.

The ATS is up to date with bold lighting elements including LED (light-emitting diodes) headlamps, LED taillamps and Adaptive Forward Lighting that lend a sense of luxury to the distinctive coupe styling.

Most important to us is the delightful way the ATS performs. The new coupe does not have the European feel of a BMW or Audi, but more an American kind of persona that serves it just as well with quick acceleration, point-and-shoot handling, responsive steering and stop-on-a-dime braking.

We took the coupe over our usual winding rural road "test track" and we were highly pleased at the way it stuck to the asphalt as it kept asking for more hotfooting during high-speed cornering. We're sure the car's nearly 50-50 weight distribution has something to do with its rock-solid performance as we pushed it hard into the twists and turns.

There are two engine sizes — a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.6-liter V-6 that features 321 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. We tested the 2.0-liter turbo and found the car had a wonderful balance between handling and power with a great toss-ability quotient. Our test car came with the very good six-speed automatic, but we found ourselves at times wishing for the available six-speed manual. The 2.0 is not a rocketship, but it compares favorably — although a tick or two slower when compared to the V-6. By the numbers, the ATS turbo completes a 0-to-60 run in 5.6 seconds according to Cadillac. The ATS V-6 has a run time of 5.4 seconds.

For those who want all-wheel drive for perceived handling improvements or for bad-weather driving, it's available for prices ranging from $1,100 to $2,450 depending on trim level.

There's no letdown inside the ATS. Its cabin comes with high-quality materials including wood and metallic accents. The optional CUE infotainment system features large icons and operates much like an iPhone or iPad making it instantly familiar to many. We found the front seats user-friendly. On the downside, rear legroom is tight and the ATS has a rather small trunk with just 10.2 cubic feet of storage capacity. The ATS coupe comes with standard wireless charging capability for smartphones. OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot are also offered.

A Bose premium audio system with Active Noise Cancelation technology is standard on all models and includes electronic sound enhancement on models equipped with the available premium surround sound audio system. Our test car came with the 12-speaker surround sound upgrade, and it provided an outstanding listening experience.

Like most luxury cars these days, the ATS can be loaded with safety features. We recommend the $3,460 driver assist package — standard equipment on the Premium trim and optional on lesser trim levels — that includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, head-up display, front and rear automatic braking, and automatic collision preparation.

The ATS coupe comes in four grades — base, Luxury, Performance and Premium — starting at $38,990 and running through the trims to the Premium AWD V-6 starting at $52,430. Standard features on all models is generous and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, run-flat tires, keyless entry and ignition, "leatherette" upholstery, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power front seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and the aforementioned Bose sound system with satellite radio.

Our Performance edition rear-wheel drive test car with several options carried a bottom line of $53,140.

Base price: $38,990; as driven, $53,140
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 272 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 295 foot-pounds @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 183.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,411 pounds
Turning circle: 36.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 10.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 31 highway, 21 city, 26 combined
0-60: 5.6 seconds (Manufacturer)
Also consider: BMW 4-Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A5

The Good
• Pleasing performance with the 2.0-liter
• Outstanding handling traits
• Well-crafted interior

The Bad
• CUE system can be distracting

The Ugly
• Less head room, rear leg room than sedan counterpart