For 2017 Cadillac has made a Carbon Black sports package available for the ATS-V Coupé and if you tick this box you’ll get a more prominent front splitter, bonnet vent trim, rear diffuser, composite rocker extension panels and a taller body-colour rear spoiler. Sometimes packages such as these can make a car look gaudy — but not this one. The exposed carbon fibre trim has enhanced what was already a very attractive model and our Vector Blue Metallic tester, dressed with this pack, sure looked the business. The extra visual pizzazz complemented the car’s racy character perfectly but this striking looker doesn’t rely solely on eye-catching aesthetics to impress. It has the go to back up the show.
Floor it from standstill and you’re not only pinned back to your seat, you’ll think your face is being rearranged by the 603Nm of torque...
Even though Cadillac has been playing catch-up and doesn’t have the same long lineage as the European and Japanese when it comes to sporty coupés, the inception of the V-Series in 2004 has proven in a very short space of time that it can match the best in class. Given the choice I’d jump at the chance to own the two-door American over other luxury options available from the M division, AMG and the rest because this one is sublime; GM has revitalised this brand and its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Not only are Cadillac’s performance cars exhilarating but they also retain a touch of class which the badge demands. For instance, the interior here is put together really well and doesn’t just serve its purpose — it’s attractive and is inviting. And even though the shiny piano black trim leaves lots fingerprints, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Just keep a rag handy. Moving on to those Recaros, they’re ever so supportive (it’s easy to find a comfortable seating position what with them being electronically adjustable every which way) and the sueded microfibre-wrapped steering feels nice and meaty in your hands. But like some other Cadillacs I have driven recently, this one is also let down a tad by the CUE infotainment system. Adjusting certain things such as the volume on the radio is difficult to do via the touch buttons in the centre stack. But this is a V-Spec car, let’s focus on what really matters and that is performance.
It doesn’t lack grunt, is very capable of tackling corners with real intent and with it being fortified with race-ready hardware such as a superb twin turbocharged 3.6-litre V6 and a brilliant eight-speed automatic sending 464 horses to the fat rear wheels, it sure delivers the goods on the move. Floor it from a standstill and you’re not only pinned back to your seat you’ll think your face is being rearranged by the 603Nm of torque and if you are brazen enough to give traction control the day off it’ll double up as a smoke machine. Those poor Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. I had the pleasure to wheel the CTS-V a few months ago and loved that massive V8 and although this one makes do with two fewer cylinders, it is still able to put a goofy smile on my face. No, it doesn’t sound as good as the V8, but at higher revs and moving at pace, the good news is that the turbo stays in the sweet spot (and there’s hardly any noticeable lag either) making for a truly engaging drive. The fact I was able to get around 10 litres per 100km — with a very heavy right foot — was impressive too. And even with so many ratios to choose from, the eight-speed never went hunting; under normal driving conditions in town it was always in the right gear and didn’t shift too quickly to seventh and eighth in a bid to save fuel. But, it really came alive when it was unleashed in Track mode and I took control of the transmission via the shift paddles behind the wheel; the upshifts were so fast that it’d worry some dual-clutch setups, and with a sharper throttle and weightier ZF electric power steering my smile was as wide as the 1,560mm rear track width. And if you actually take it to the track you can learn how to shave off a few seconds on your lap record thanks to the available Performance Data Recorder which allows you to record, view and analyse your driving by capturing real-time video, cabin audio and performance data.
It isn’t blessed with just raw power — it has a terrific chassis that is 25 per cent stiffer than non-V models; the Alpha platform gives it an abundance of confidence in the corners and with the Magnetic Ride Control delivering 40 per cent faster damping response the ATS-V handled really well and proved to be ever so agile. I only ever switched to Touring momentarily but even then the suspension never felt soft; toggling through the drive modes revealed varying degrees of firmness (but nothing so bad that it’d rattle your teeth out) and there wasn’t a hint of roll at all. It corners flat and true at pace.
Overall, this is a formidable rival to the best that the Europeans have to offer. It’s a bit of a thrilling secret for those in the know, and to be fair, you can even live with that annoying CUE system. Once that is finally on a par with, say, the BMW iDrive, then there would be very little to criticise here and GM might just have a new segment leader on its hands.