Commute/Kids/Errands + OMG = Dream Car
A dream car is a different thing to everyone, but some things are universal: an interior that makes you swoon. A comfortable, fun drive experience that makes you think I can drive this car every day for the rest of my life. Details that seem like they were made just for you.
Then, there are things you must have. For me there are only two: Four doors so I can have my people with me, and stick shift because, well, I like to drive a stick.
And last, there are things that you’ll concede because you love the car so much, sort of like ‘cheese has fat and that’s the price of eating cheese.’
Who the Cadillac ATS-V is For
- Drivers who love a thrilling drive experience
- Buyers who want to be the first with a great new car
- Buyers who want a sports sedan but need room for four
- Drivers who want to be pampered by a car’s interior
- Drivers who drive their car on a track
- Drivers who are (or would like to be) obsessed with their track performance
- Drivers who don’t mind other drivers asking about the car (this happened during my test drive. A lot.)
What it Costs
The model we drove includes some of these features standard:
- ATS-V base price: $60,695
- Luxury package, including CUE media system, navigation and articulating head lights adds $2,500
- Safety and security package (including blind spot monitors, lane keep assist and automatic high beam lights) adds $1,800
- Track performance package (including performance data recorder and carbon fiber trim) adds $5,995
- Automatic transmission adds $2,000
- Price of the Carbon Black (which includes black wheels, carbon trim details and a black grille) model we drove: $77,085
The Cadillac ATS-V engine: the source of OMG
We don’t usually spend a lot of our reviews focused on engines because they generally have one function: to get the car to and from, reliably and safely. But sometimes the engine is a huge part of the story and one that you should know more about, and this is one of those stories.
The ATS-V (‘V’ is what Cadillac uses to designate their V6 or V8 race-quality engines) has a 3.6 liter twin turbo engine that produces 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. What that means is it’s sort of like driving a jet engine: it accelerates fast and roars as it does. Add to that the option of an automatic with paddle shifters or a stick shift transmission with “no-lift” shifting (which lets you shift to the next gear without lifting off the accelerator) and it’s easy to see that this car’s natural home is on the track.
Which is where I first drove it. I had the opportunity to try out the HANS device that Cadillac brought to a track event and was so focused on the device and its implications for saving young brains from concussions, that I hopped into the ATS-V without really taking a look. I noticed two things: The 6-speed manual and the suede interior. That was enough for me to ask to drive it again.
The Monticello Motor Club’s four mile track features hills and curves that teach you what track driving is all about: the skill to keep up through curves, slaloms and hills. This evens the field for all cars; engineering and driving skill are what stand out. And the ATS-V did. We didn’t measure performance that day but among the other cars I drove on the track, it was hugely impressive. On the track the ATS-V delivered a ton of wow, the power of the engine paired with tight handling and cornering that kept it fast but right where I wanted it to be.
Don’t think you won’t drive this on the track: Cadillac includes two days of instruction at a performance training school with the purchase of this car. You get to go to race school and keep the car!
The ATS-V style: More modern muscle car than old-school luxury
The first time I drove a Cadillac I remarked to my husband, a Detroiter and de facto car guy, “Now I know who loves Cadillac: Men who love big boobs and a big butt.” He still laughs about that comment, but that’s what the brand’s style message was: Big up front, big in the back and lots to love in between.
While there are still stylistic details that pay homage to Cadillac’s design history, it’s as if the brand has been devoted to Barre classes for a while, slimmed, toned and stronger, giving the ATS-V the profile of an American muscle car.
But the classic Cadillac details remain: the tail light ‘fins,’ the carved front end and a purely pampering interior. Cadillac was always about making a promise with its exterior that its interior fulfilled.
Tech for the track: Record your performance (or, just have fun)
Inside the ATS-V there’s the tech you expect and then there’s this: a performance recorder that lets you know how you’re doing. This function is on the touch screen and has to be accessed before you start driving.
You can also monitor your performance while in motion by setting the driver in formation cluster to display the amount of engine boost used and G force you’re generating.
Tech for the drive: for when you’re NOT on the track
The driver feedback screens (below the speedometer) can also be set for more mundane things like mpg and range left on the tank, and it even has a rear seat reminder (great since this is a four-door sedan and there might sometimes be a little person in the back): Taking a cue from GMC, which developed the system, when you shut off the car at the end of a trip, you’ll get a reminder if a rear door has been opened before the start of the trip. It might also remind you not to forget your handbag.
Climate and media controls improved and easier to use
With climate, media and other controls, Cadillac has moved from all touch-sensitive controls to a mix of push and touch controls. However, the look is still much the same, a ‘V’ shaped console stacked with linear control panels. Rather than swiping your finger left or right to raise or lower the temperature, you simply push the chrome bar. Volume is still a swipe bar and radio selections (as well as climate, apps, vehicle settings and more) are found on the touch screen. All the touch sensitive controls, even those on the touch screen, give you a little vibration to let you know you’ve successfully tapped them.
A nice selection of safety features
Here’s where we come back to those compromises on a dream car: no adaptive cruise control and no all wheel drive. But there was still a ton of critical safety technology, including crash mitigation, blind spot monitors, park assist, rain sensing wipers, automatic high beams and articulating headlights (they turn the direction of the wheel to light up corners and curbs).
Technology to get your adrenaline pumping
So now you’re set with performance recording and driver feedback set up and climate and media are at your fingertips. But there are a few more features that keep you focused on the fun of driving:
- Wireless charging, which lives in a cubby behind the media screen; push the chrome bar under the screen and the panel lifts to reveal a cubby where you can charge your phone, both wirelessly and via USB (which also connects your phone to the media system); your phone is accessible via steering wheel controls and it won’t fly around the cabin while you drive
- 2USB ports and 2 12V power ports as well as a household plug (in the back seat on the back of the center console)
- 4G LTE WiFi (data plan required)
- Head up display with a variety of display selections
- Bose surround sound—because every great drive demands a great soundtrack
A dream car’s dream car: Suede, racing seats and carbon fiber
This is a Cadillac, after all, and the interior is never an afterthought. In fact, this interior might be where the designers started. Suede dashboard trim and seats (well, micro suede, which is probably more durable and easier to clean than suede) might be enough, but the steering wheel and gear shift are covered in suede, which is sublime; you never for a second forget how plush this car is and how pampered you feel.
The ATS-V also has Recaro racing seats in case you want to install a five-point harness, and the interior is trimmed with carbon fiber door panels and dashboard trim. The hood and exterior air vents are made from this lightweight material that helps with performance, but it’s so beautiful it fits right in inside the car, too.
For all this sportiness, a bit of utility, too
Here’s the rub of a performance car: where do you put your stuff? The smaller size of the ATS-V made it easy to put my handbag on the back seat and be able to reach it when getting out of the car at the grocery store. It was also easily reachable on the passenger seat or on the rear floor, which was a tight enough space that my bag didn’t go flying when making a turn.
I found the rear seat also a snug place for groceries (again, the tight-ish footwell was perfect for gallon jugs of milk). The trunk was fine for groceries, too, but with the lure of having a little fun with the highway on ramp might leave my bread in a lump of mush.
The trunk was ideal for a trip to Home Depot, though. We stopped in for a few gallons of paint and some moulding trim. The paint and accessories fit neatly in the trunk, and the rear seat armrest opened to provide a small passthrough, large enough for several 6’ sections of moulding (or skis, which is what I bet the designers were thinking of).
View from the rear seat: What the kids said
The back seat, with its tight footwell that was great for the groceries, could pose a problem with my tall daughters when getting in and out. Turns out they had no issues and were very comfortable (so was I when I sat in the back). Here’s what they said:
- No long road trips, please
- Short trips—to and from school, the mall and around town, just fine
- It’s worth the fight to sit up front
Seats in back and front are quite comfortable and on the jostle scale (ten being a minivan-like passenger experience and one being nearly thrashed about) they gave it a 7. Pretty good for a car with this much performance and designed primarily for the fun and thrill of the driver.
Music matters in this car. A lot. Our ultimate ATS-V playlist
Here’s our Spotify playlist, tailored to sound really good in this car. What would you add? Leave a comment below!
What We Loved
- The drive performance and experience—pure wow
- Suede, leather and carbon fiber interior designed to wow
- Bose sound system
- Wireless charging cubby
- Household plug
- 4G LTE WiFi
- 6 Speed manual (automatic available) in a 4 door sedan
- Carbon Black design package gives the car a decidedly badass appeal
- Two day performance driving school instruction included
What You Need to Know
- Premium fuel recommended
- 4 year/50,000 bumper to bumper warranty
- 6 year/70,000 mile power train warranty
- 3 year premium care maintenance included
- One year of OnStar basic service included (requires a contract afterward)
- 4G LTE WiFi requires data package after trial period
- Price of the car is certainly premium: $77,085 for the model we test drove
Cadillac provided the ATS-V for my test drive; opinions expressed here are all my own