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2016 Cadillac ATS vs. 2016 Cadillac CTS: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2016

For many years, the Cadillac CTS was the brand's entry-level model for shoppers who didn't want to spring for a pricy full-sized luxury sedan. Then, a few years ago, the smaller ATS came along, offering even more affordable pricing and smaller dimensions than the CTS. The result is that you might be wondering about the exact differences between the 2016 Cadillac ATS and the 2016 Cadillac CTS. As a result, we're taking a closer look at both models in order to help you find out and ultimately choose the one that's best for you.

Exterior

On the outside, the ATS and the CTS offer striking similarities, touting similar design touches from almost every angle, including the sharp headlights, the bold grille, the edgy taillights and the overall profile. The only easy way to distinguish an ATS sedan from a CTS is size. At 195.5 inches in length, the CTS is a significant 13 inches longer than its ATS stablemate -- a difference that's noticeable when the two cars are parked next to one another. Of course, the ATS also offers one other distinctive exterior trait: a coupe model, with a sportier demeanor and sleeker lines than the sedan-only CTS.

Interior

Inside, the ATS and the CTS offer a lot of stylistic similarities, touting similar center control stacks, similar gauge clusters and a lot of shared switches, buttons and knobs. But the CTS looks a little more advanced than the ATS, boasting a more luxurious design with a wider center console and a slightly more stylish center control stack. Of course, the CTS is also larger. Thanks to its ever-increasing dimensions, the CTS boasts more passenger and cargo room than the smaller ATS.

Mechanicals

Both the ATS and the CTS offer a wide array of powertrains, with each boasting a whopping four engine choices.

In the ATS, base models use a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. Although that engine is exclusive to the ATS, other powertrains aren't. Optional in the ATS and standard in base-level CTS models is a 270-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, while optional in both cars is a 335-hp 3.6-liter V6. The CTS also offers a turbocharged version of that engine in the new CTS V-Sport, which cranks out 420 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque.

Both the ATS and CTS also offer a high-performance V model. The sporty ATS-V uses the CTS V-Sport's turbocharged 3.6-liter V6, though it's good for 464 hp in the high-performance ATS. Meanwhile, the raucous CTS-V offers an amazing supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that touts a muscular 640 hp.

While that can be confusing, the general gist is that the ATS tends to have a little less power than the CTS. But the models' two core engines -- the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and 3.6-liter V6 -- are identical in both vehicles.

Features & Technology

When it comes to equipment, the newer and pricier CTS certainly has a leg up over its ATS stablemate. Specifically, the CTS offers a wide array of features you just can't get in the ATS, including a 12.3-inch gauge cluster screen, rear sunshades, a 360-degree surround-view camera system, a self-parking system, adaptive magnetic suspension dampers and more. While we suspect some of these features will make it to the ATS when the small Cadillac is redesigned next time, they aren't available now, and that makes the CTS our recommendation for technophile shoppers especially interested in a luxury car.

Driving Experience

On the road, the CTS and ATS offer excellent composure -- both over bumps and around corners. When equipped with its available adaptive magnetic suspension system, the CTS especially manages to offer an impressive driving experience that somehow combines a soft, comfortable ride and excellent handling capabilities. Most CTS models don't have that system, though, and we think the average CTS feels a little heavier and larger than the nimbler ATS.

Visibility is a problem in both cars. Although we like Cadillac's recent styling, we think it lends itself to high beltlines that block clear visibility, especially to the back. Fortunately, both models offer a slew of driver aids that help things. Braking is strong, and seating comfort is excellent, though, as you might expect, the CTS offers more passenger room than the smaller ATS.

Safety

In government crash tests carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the CTS and the ATS earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The CTS didn't fare so well in tests carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), however, earning a mediocre Marginal ranking in the challenging small front-overlap crash test. The ATS has not yet been fully tested by the IIHS.

As for safety features, both models are on the forefront of modern safety technology. In addition to the usual slew of airbags and anti-lock brakes, they both offer a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert with automatic braking. Simply put, safety-conscious drivers will find just about every feature they want in both of these cars.

Conclusions

The 2016 Cadillac CTS and the 2016 Cadillac ATS are two excellent luxury models defined mostly by their size. The ATS is smaller, nimbler, more efficient and, in some cases, less powerful than the larger CTS, while the CTS offers more equipment, more room and more technology than the ATS. Given the differences in pricing (the ATS starts around $35,100, while the CTS is $47,400 with shipping), we suspect choosing between these two cars will largely come down to a decision about whether you need the extra space and additional equipment offered by the CTS. If you don't, we recommend the ATS.

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Certified 2016 Cadillac ATS Sedan
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Certified 2016 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Luxury AWD Sedan
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Used 2016 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Luxury AWD Coupe
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Cadillac ATS vs. 2016 Cadillac CTS: What's the Difference? - Autotrader