The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is the two-door version of the entry-level end of Cadillac’s sedan lineup. It competes against cars like the BMW 4 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe. It is like neither of those cars, though. It’s uniquely Cadillac, and it’s a return to providing some modicum of “personal luxury” to people whose kids are old enough to climb in a tight back seat.
The ATS Coupe is the latest Cadillac model to hit the streets and it’s in the second coupe in Cadillac’s line. The CTS arrived in 2008, and went a long way toward reminding people that if you built a decent, attractive, fun two-door, people will come out and buy it. By 2011, when the economy began to improve, CTS coupe sales accounted for 27 percent of CTS sales volume.
We used to love cars like this. In 1973, Oldsmobile was selling more than 200,000 two-door Cutlass models. Chevrolet sold more than 250,000 Monte Carlos. Every car in Chevrolet’s line had a coupe variant.
Then suddenly, it was all over. When Chevrolet and Pontiac killed off the Camaro and Firebird, and Cadillac dumped the Eldorado in 2002, the only four-place coupe in General Motors’ entire lineup was the flaccid front-drive Monte Carlo, which sold 67,000 units that year. Sales fell precipitously every year afterward. I remember being in a presentation with a GM executive at the time, and being told “The numbers don’t lie. American’s don’t want to buy coupes.”
The ATS Coupe is supposed to wear a lot of hats for Cadillac. It’s supposed to skew Cadillac’s demographics hard to the lower end of the scale, waving them away from cars like BMW’s 4 Series, Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class, and Audi’s A5. It’s also supposed to provide a classier alternative to cars like the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger. Then again, it’s supposed to be fuel-efficient, leading off with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four and a manual transmission. That’s a lot of responsibility.
If you’re expecting this to be a BMW, you’re going to be disappointed. That’s not saying the BMW is better, because it’s not. But this car is American, and it comes through in every pore. It’s a Cadillac, sharing both an exterior and an interior family resemblance with every other Cadillac in the line. If you LIKE a Cadillac interior (I do), you’ll like this car. If you’re looking for what BMW has been serving up for many years, it’s hard to think you’d be wooed out of that brand into this one.
When manufacturers used to build coupe versions of a sedan, with the exception of the doors, as much sheetmetal as possible was shared between the two cars, to recognize some economies of scale. The Cadillac ATS Coupe shares one panel — the hood — with its four-door counterpart. It has some of the CTS Coupe’s shape, and he V-6-powered car we drove has its large, obvious twin exhaust outlets, but it’s more angular than the CTS Coupe is. It’s a good looking car from any angle though, and it stands out in the parking lot from the lesser cars surrounding it.
The Coupe also has a wider tread width than the four-door car, and the weight distribution gets a bit closer to the ideal 50/50 mark at 51/49.
Our tested car was V-6-powered, rather than the turbo four. It meant that we got the six-speed automatic rather than the manual transmission everyone’s been writing about. It offers 321hp at 6,000 rpm. It works to get there, though. The V-6 isn’t a torque monster, with just 275-lb-ft. of torque at a relatively high 4,800 rpm. Select the Sport mode on the button next to the gear selector and shifts hold longer, throttle response gets tighter. It revs quickly and you get the bulk of the power at the high end of the rpm range.
Again, it’s not worse than a BMW or an Audi, just different. For example, both the BMW 4 Series with the 3.0-liter, turbocharged inline six provides 21 fewer horsepower, but it also provides better torque at 300-lb.ft. to the Cadillac’s 275, and delivers it at just 1,300 rpm, where you can really use it. Its borne out in the performance numbers, with the BMW hitting 60 miles per hour half a second sooner.
The pricing of a base ATS Coupe offers a compelling point of entry. It starts at $37,995, and you’re going to see a lot of these cars driving around at that price. The V-6 is a different story, though. Selecting the V-6 pushes the price up by more than five grand to $45,150, and you’ve only picked up a tenth of a second in zero to 60 time. Stepping up to the Premium trim crests the $50,000 mark, where a whole lot of cars are competing for your luxury car dollar.
That’s the bottom line: I enjoyed driving the ATS Coupe, but there are cars that you’ve always dreamed of owning that are in that price bracket. At the lowest end of the price spectrum, I can see an ATS being a draw, but at the top of the heap, I’m not sure who buys it, other than the few remaining people who simply won’t consider an imported car. That audience gets narrower every passing day.
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
Base Price: $37,995
Price As Tested: $56,200
Options: Crystal White Tricoat ($995), Driver Assist package ($3,035)
Uniquely Cadillac interior and exterior styling
Intuitive CUE audio system
Engaging V-6 power
Premium price tag in a strong segment
Tight back seat