I’ve done a bad thing this week. I’ve transferred some paint that rightly belonged on a car-park curb to the ATS-V’s front carbon fibre splitter. Even though the damage isn’t as hideous as it sounded, the ATS-V decidedly needs more care in a tight car park than, say, the BMW M3 or the Mercedes-AMG C 63.

On the upside, it does look a lot more dramatic with its low-slung stance and that massive air scoop on the bonnet. And unlike American performance cars of yore, everything that looks like carbon fibre is the real thing and not a cheap facsimile thereof. This is a big factor that goes some way in reiterating this Caddy’s serious performance intent.

And it’s not merely performance trinkets either; the ATS-V is a capable car. The new 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine is superb with a great spread of torque across the rev range. In fact, off the mark it feels more rapid than the 640-horsepower CTS-V. It sounds great too, and unlike the M3, which pipes fake engine noise into the cabin through the speakers to enhance the sensation of speed, the ATS-V feels and sounds more natural. 

But is it as good to drive as the M3? The simple answer would be no. Purely because of one factor; the gearbox. The eight-speed auto just cannot match the urgency with which the Bavarian car’s double clutch rifles through the ratios. There are far too many gears, too. Drop a cog on the move and you’re still in a higher gear than you ought to be for the purposes of rapid overtaking manoeuvres. Another downshift or two and the opportunity has already passed.

The cabin although satisfactory for a car at this price point isn’t exactly as plush as the Mercedes-AMG C 63 or even the BMW M3, while the haptic feedback controls are still unintuitive and a nightmare to use. Another chink in the armour is the air conditioning, which doesn’t seem to be able to maintain the requested temperature. Five minutes into a journey and it starts blowing warm-ish air; remedied only by pressing the button to lower the temperature every time. Then again, this is a pre-production car, and the issue will have likely been sorted for the car you’ll buy from the showroom, but still something to keep an eye out for if you’re taking one for a test drive.

Overall though, as a sports saloon the ATS-V does snap ferociously at the M3’s heels. Given that it’s Cadillac’s first foray into the segment, that’s a pretty huge achievement I think.

The progress

Week 2 As Fadi drives past a camouflaged Alfa Romeo  Giulia on Shaikh Zayed Road, the driver and the passenger of the Italian saloon wave at him in appreciation. That fortuitous meeting was interesting as although the Giulia has likely been benchmarked against the C 63 and the M3, the ATS-V is also going to be a direct competitor to the Italian sports saloon when it hits regional showrooms.

Highs Good looks, performance.

Lows Air conditioner failed.

Week 1 The Cadillac ATS-V impresses with its outright performance and dynamics. Of particular note is the well-weighted steering, and the taut handling. But it isn’t the most practical of saloons what with one of the smallest boots in class.

Highs Certainly not lacking in power.

Lows Boot isn’t the biggest.