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2016 Cadillac ATS: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Cadillac ATS, we’ve published an updated review: 2018 Cadillac ATS Review

The 2016 Cadillac ATS is Cadillac’s attempt to flip the script in the entry-level luxury segment. As usual, the bogey is the BMW 3 Series — but unlike many other automakers, Cadillac has reason to believe it can unseat BMW. For one thing, the 3 Series has grown a bit soft with its latest redesign, so there’s daylight at the sporty end of the spectrum. But more importantly, the ATS is very good at what it does.

First and foremost, the ATS is a driver’s car. Cadillac tuned the handling on Germany’s famous Nurburgring circuit — and in the case of the ATS, it’s definitely more than just a marketing exercise. This is an honest-to-goodness performance car that will give any rival a run for its money.

Yet it’s the completeness of the ATS package that really wins us over. It’s athletic, sure, but the ATS is also every bit as smooth as a premium car should be. Technology galore awaits in the well-appointed cabin, and a choice of powertrains means there’s something for just about everyone. Is it better than the 3 Series? We’ll reserve judgment for now, but we suspect the 2016 Cadillac ATS script will have a decidedly happy ending.

What’s New for 2016?

Most ATS models receive only minor changes for 2016. In addition to a revised V6 engine with a new 8-speed automatic transmission, the ATS also offers an updated version of its CUE infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Most notable, however, is the sporty new ATS-V model, which is now the high-performance champion in the ATS lineup. See the 2016 Cadillac ATS models for sale near you

What We Like

Genuinely sporty handling; signature Cadillac styling; smooth and substantial ride; improved CUE infotainment system; available all-wheel drive (AWD)

What We Don’t

So-so base 4-cylinder engine; limited rear legroom; tight trunk

How Much?

$34,200-$63,700

Fuel Economy

The ATS starts with a 2.5-liter inline-4 rated at 202 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission are mandatory. This configuration is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Drivers who step up to the ATS’s midrange powertrain get a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 272 hp and 295 lb-ft. The 2.0T is offered with rear- or all-wheel drive and with manual or automatic transmissions. With the automatic and rear-wheel drive, fuel economy is 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy, while choosing AWD drops those numbers to 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. Pick the manual, and you’ll get 19 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

Next up in the ATS powertrain range is a newly revised 3.6-liter V6, which produces a muscular 333 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. Only offered with a new 8-speed automatic, this engine returns 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy in rear-wheel-drive guise or 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with AWD.

Topping the ATS range is the new high-performance ATS-V, which offers a twin-turbocharged version of that 3.6-liter V6, which makes 464 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. While the ATS-V can only be had with rear-wheel drive, it’s offered with 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission choices. The manual returns 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy, while the automatic reaches 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

Standard ATS models are offered in four trim levels: a base-level model called only the ATS, followed by midlevel Luxury and Performance trims, along with a range-topping Premium model. The ATS Coupe is also offered in all four trim levels, with equipment roughly mirroring that of the sedan — though the coupe doesn’t offer the sedan’s base-level 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Finally, the new high-perfomance ATS-V can be had as a sedan or a coupe.

Base-level ATS models ($34,200 sedan; $39,000 coupe) offer automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth, satellite radio, an iPod/USB interface and an auxiliary jack for MP3 players. Premium vinyl upholstery, which looks a lot like leather, is also included. When choosing a base ATS, drivers can pick between the 2.5-liter engine and the 2.0T.

Step up to the ATS Luxury ($38,300 sedan; $42,900 coupe), and you get many more features, ranging from a remote starter to keyless access, dual power front seats with driver memory, a rearview camera and leather upholstery. The Luxury also adds Cadillac’s touchscreen CUE infotainment system to the center control stack with newly available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like the base-level ATS, luxury models offer the choice between the 2.5-liter and the 2.0T.

Next up is the ATS Performance ($44,200 sedan; $46,400 coupe), which is no longer available with the 2.5-liter engine. Instead, it adds the 3.6-liter V6 to its list of options, while the 2.0T is now standard. Other standard features include sport seats, xenon headlights, an upgraded sound system and a Driver Awareness package. The package features forward-collision alert, automatic wipers, rear-side airbags, a lane-departure warning system and rear cross-traffic alert.

Topping the ATS lineup is the Premium ($47,100 sedan; $48,600 coupe), which also comes with the 2.0T as standard and the V6 as optional. Premium models include standard navigation, 18-in alloys and a full-color head-up display projected on the windshield.

The all-new ATS-V ($61,500 sedan; $63,700 coupe) adds the twin-turbocharged V6, along with 18-in alloy wheels, a host of exterior upgrades (such as a carbon-fiber hood and more aggressive front and rear fascias), GM’s excellent Magnetic Ride Control suspension, a limited-slip differential and most of the comfort and convenience features from the ATS Performance.

All ATS models feature a wide range of options. ATS models equipped with the 2.0T or naturally aspirated V6 engines come standard with rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is also available — even on the coupe. The ATS also offers a Cold Weather package with heated seats and a heated steering wheel, as well as a Driver Awareness package — standard on Performance and Premium models — that offers several safety features.

Safety

The Cadillac ATS comes with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with an available Brembo performance upgrade and eight standard airbags (front, front-side, front-knee, full-length side-curtain). Rear thorax airbags are optional.

Depending on trim, the ATS also offers a laundry list of electronic driving aids, including radar-based forward-collision alert, automatic braking in case of driver negligence, lane-departure alert, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert. A backup camera is standard on all models except the base-level ATS.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the ATS earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. Better yet, it also earned five stars in all three tests: frontal, side and rollover. The ATS has not yet been fully crash-tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Behind the Wheel

From behind the wheel, there’s just not a bad apple in this barrel. Sure, the base engine isn’t that exciting, but every ATS was designed from the ground up to handle like a sports car. Steering response is crisp and direct, while body control is remarkably precise. The manual-transmission ATS turbo with its standard limited-slip differential is a real hoot, especially with the optional magneto-rheological dampers aboard.

But anyone can build a car that handles, right? The test of a true premium sport sedan — or coupe — is how it handles the daily grind. Happily, the ATS is absolutely in its element during normal driving, soaking up bumps with a substantial feel that even the 3 Series can’t quite match. That’s especially remarkable given that the ATS is actually a relatively lightweight car, with most models tipping the scales between 3,300 pounds to 3,500 pounds.

As for the new ATS-V, we’ve only had the chance to take a short drive. But it feels — and sounds — absolutely ferocious, providing a clear alternative to high-performance rivals such as the Mercedes C63 AMG and BMW’s M3 and M4.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 BMW 3 Series — The 3 Series still has a leg up on Cadillac in the powertrain department, and it’s also offered as a wagon, a coupe or a convertible (the latter two of which have been recently renamed to the 4 Series). But we think the two go toe-to-toe in most major areas.

2016 Lexus IS — We considered recommending the Audi A4 instead, but we think the IS sedan’s sporty mission is more in line with that of the ATS. Offered with a choice of two V6 engines, the rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive IS is similarly compact and sporty.

2016 Mercedes C-Class — The C-Class was recently rejuvenated with a new interior and fresh engines. Unlike some baby Benzes from the past, this one looks and drives like a real Mercedes.

Used Cadillac CTS — If you like the ATS’s looks, performance and interior but need more space, consider the larger CTS. Prices are higher, though, so you may have to consider a used model.

Autotrader’s Advice

We think most ATS shoppers will be happiest with the turbocharged ATS. It’s powerful, fuel-efficient and available in numerous configurations. Plus, it’s cheaper than the V6. As for trim level, that’s up to you. Our favorite is the Performance, especially with its standard Driver Awareness package — but it’s hard to go wrong with any ATS trim. Find a Cadillac ATS for sale

 

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