The Cadillac ATS-V: A Better BMW M3 Than the M3
Is the ATS-V another “objective over subjective” performance car?
No, and praise be to the Cadillac Gods for that.
Objectively, the Cadillac ATS-V is a very fast car. 464 horsepower, and 445 lb-ft of torque from it’s twin-turbocharged 3.6L LF4 V6 takes care of that. For those keeping track, that’s a healthy 39 horses and 35 lb-ft advantage over the Bimmer. Cadillac isn’t blind to the fact that, to an extent, cool facts and figures do help sell cars. So, a sub-4-second 0-60 sprint easily matches the M3. Likewise, my (very well-calibrated) butt dyno says this thing is easily running mid-12’s in the 1/4-mile. It’s no slouch.
Subjectively, the LF4 sounds, and feels better than the oft-derided S55 engine in the BMW. It’s quite quiet initially, like most modern turbocharged cars, but the ATS-V’s quad tail pipes eventually let loose a charming growl, especially in the mid-range. Though, with it’s redline of just 6,500 RPM, the Caddy does seem a bit shortchanged over the 7,500 revs that the Bimmer spins. This is especially noticeable because of how hard the ATS-V pulls right up to the rev limit. Seriously, there were many instances where I was bouncing off the limiter at 6,500 before shifting. This motor pulls hard, and it feels like it wants another 500 revs to play with. Peak horsepower is quoted at 5,850 RPM, but the power curve is delightfully deceiving. Likewise, peak torque is quoted at 3,500 RPM, but there is a very usable amount of power once you’re north of about 1,500 revs.
It’s more than just an engine, too.
The Tremec TR-6060 6-speed manual transmission is a joy to operate. It’s smooth, yet precise, and able to be shifted very quickly, and hard. Oh, and did I mention that the Cadillac has no-lift shift programmed into it? Yup. Keep your right foot flat to the floor on full throttle up shifts and the ATS-V will keep those turbos on boil between gear changes. It works perfectly, every time, and it works really well.
The MagneRide adaptive suspension is likewise, a total triumph, and makes the Cadillac one of the best riding street cars I have ever experienced. The magnetorheological dampers are a genius piece of tech: magnetic particles are suspended in the shock oil, and react to magnetic fields. This allows for the damping of the shock to change almost continuously for changes in the road surface, which makes the ATS-V complaint, yet firm, in almost every instance. I can’t stress how well-implemented it is here, other than to say that this redefines what it means to “ride like a Cadillac.” It’s amazing.
Those sweet shocks work together with the other upgrades Cadillac has made to the ATS-V over the standard car. The spring rates are firmer (170 lb-in fronts and 560 lb-in rears), the sway bars are bigger (25-millimeters up front, and 19mm out back), and, I’m willing to guess here: firmer suspension bushings all around. The car has prodigious corner, braking and acceleration grip. Though, some of that most be attributed to the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, which measure 255/35R18 and 275/35R18, respectively. The ATS-V is poised at all times, with just enough roll in the corners to communicate what the car is doing. It’s decidedly neutral in it’s balance: it can understeer if you overload the front tires, and it can oversteer if you overload the rear tires. It’s all very gradual, and easy to handle. Never once did the V step out on me without my intentional provocation.
Oh yeah, and the big brakes well great, all the time, even after beating on this nearly 3,800-pound car in the canyons for hours. This coming from someone who earned the nickname “No Brake Jake,” after killing many brakes, on many different cars. Good job, Cadillac.