In the two short years since its debut, the Cadillac ATS has done what some thought impossible: It proved an American brand can successfully challenge European benchmarks like the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Not only did Cadillac's compact luxury sedan go toe-to-toe with its German rivals, it attracted young and upwardly mobile buyers to General Motors' luxury nameplate. For 2015, the ATS expands its lineup with a stylish coupe to take on 2-door rivals such as the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5, while also upping its game where technology and power are concerned. The 2015 Cadillac ATS doesn't have the name recognition that competitors have taken decades to establish, but in just about every other regard, it matches or outperforms them.
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If you want to stand out with a fresh entrant in the compact luxury sedan or coupe segment, the 2015 Cadillac ATS enables that while still wearing a revered American badge. The ATS also differentiates itself with its angular (some may say edgy) exterior design.
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Here's where the ATS' relative newness can work against it: If you want an immediately recognizable luxury model, you may be better off in a BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, or even a Lexus IS.
With the sedan off and running, 2015 marks the arrival of the sleek Cadillac ATS Coupe. Across the lineup, ATS models with the turbocharged 4-cylinder get a nearly 14 percent boost in torque to 295 lb-ft. New tech upgrades include wireless phone charging and 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot.
Driving the ATS
The 2015 Cadillac ATS has three distinct personalities, each related to your engine choice. At the practical level, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder in base sedan models gets the job done with...
... 202 horsepower, but isn't for the enthusiastic driver. At the high-performance end is the 3.6-liter V6 and its 321 horsepower. The V6 is smooth and has vast power reserves, but it's not necessarily the powerplant we would recommend – even if you can afford it. We instead suggest the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which has a better balance of power and efficiency. Standard in coupes and available in sedans, this engine enables the ATS to sprint from 0-60 mph in the mid-5-second range (just a tick behind V6 models) while offering better fuel economy. Like the other engines, it plays nicely with the standard 6-speed automatic transmission, but if you like a manual gearbox, the one available here is a joy to use. In corners the ATS is lithe, though its steering feel isn't as spot-on as a BMW's.
FIRST-CLASS HANDLING DYNAMICS This is the entire premise behind the ATS: Can an American manufacturer build a sports sedan that matches up to the best of the fabled European and ascending Japanese models? The answer is yes. With a 2-door coupe model now in the mix, the ATS lineup is all the more attractive.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINE If this review could convince you of only one thing, it should be to at least try out an ATS with the 2.0-liter engine. For the 2015 model year, it's even more impressive with 295 lb-ft of torque – up 35 lb-ft from last year and now 20 more than the larger V6.
2015 Cadillac ATS Details
Whether in sedan or coupe form, the 2015 ATS has a sophisticated, well-appointed interior. Leather seating is standard in most models, while base trims use the faux "leatherette." Available wood or carbon-fiber trim also make the ATS look and feel the part of a luxury car. Front-seat legroom is adult-sized, but headroom can get cramped with the sunroof. Rear-seat legroom is tight in the 5-passenger sedan, and feels even more so in the 4-passenger coupe. The available CUE touch-screen infotainment center plays a starring role in the center of the dash, but can be frustrating to use, especially when traveling at higher speeds.
Boldly angular bodywork set off with Cadillac's signature LED-infused vertical lighting elements gives the ATS an edge and clearly identifies it as the midsize Cadillac CTS sedan's younger brother. Posed curbside, Cadillac's compact sports sedan shows a confident, well-planted stance. Standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and optional 18-inch upgrades add even more visual intensity. The 2-door ATS Coupe has the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as the sedan, but is slightly wider, lower and longer. Cadillac says that the only sheet metal shared by the coupe and sedan is the hood. All ATS models feature a new Cadillac crest on the grille. Models labeled ATS4 signify all-wheel drive vs. the standard rear-wheel drive.
Standard equipment on the 2015 Cadillac ATS sedan and coupe expands as you move from the base (Standard) models up through the Luxury, Performance and Premium grades. Spend the least on a Standard edition ATS and you'll still get dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and 7-speaker Bose premium audio with USB/SD/Auxiliary ports (note: If you have big CD collection, a player is optional). Base ATS Coupes include a turbocharged engine, rearview camera, Brembo performance front brakes, and 18-inch wheels. All new ATS models also include a one-year trial of GM's OnStar Directions and Connections Plan with emergency assistance.
Stepping up to a Luxury trim brings leather interior, power front seats and rearview camera, while Performance trims come with the CUE infotainment system, 10-speaker Bose sound and a Driver Awareness Package that includes lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert. Premium trims add navigation, a split-folding rear seat and a head-up display projecting driver information onto the windshield. Other options include blind-spot monitoring, automatic front and rear emergency braking, the DockSpot wireless phone-charging system, and magnetic ride control suspension. Additionally, all-wheel drive is available in lieu of the standard rear-drive for ATS models with the 2.0-liter turbo engine and the V6.
Under the Hood
The 2015 Cadillac ATS offers three different engines, with the Standard trim sedan getting a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. The Turbo versions have the impressive 272-horsepower turbocharged four, which is the base engine in the new ATS Coupe. Top-line models get a 321-horsepower V6. Except for the rear-wheel drive (RWD) ATS turbo that is available with a 6-speed manual transmission, all other versions of the Cadillac ATS will come with a standard 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional on ATS models with the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder or the 3.6-liter V6. Unlike some luxury rivals, the Cadillac ATS is happy running on regular unleaded gasoline. Premium grade is recommended for models with the turbocharged 4-cylinder to get the best power output, but it's not required.
The 2015 Cadillac ATS Sedan has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $34,200, while the ATS Coupe, which comes standard with the upgraded turbocharged engine, starts just under $39,000. Like its rivals, the 2015 ATS has a broad price range. Loaded versions can pass the $50,000 mark. Compared to rivals, a base ATS Sedan is in line with the starting prices of the BMW 3 Series, Volvo S60 and Lincoln MKZ, and higher than the new Acura TLX. It starts below the Audi A4, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Coupe variants slightly undercut the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for Cadillac's compact luxury car. Down the road, the ATS' resale value is expected to be in line with the 3 Series and A4 but trail that of the Lexus IS.