2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance review: Like the sedan never was

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance

You know that feeling when you’ve been perfectly pleased with the way things have been, and then something changes…and it’s like the former never existed. That’s what we thought when we saw the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe.

We had been wholly satisfied—enthralled even—with the 2013 Cadillac ATS sedan. We liked the way it looked, the way it performed, we liked it all. As a sporty sedan it rang our bells, competing with the premier German luxury makes, BMW and Audi (3-Series and A4 respectively), with performance, handling and materials in the same league.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance

Then along comes the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe. It shares Cadillac’s Art and Science design with the sedan, but almost every external body panel of the ATS sedan is changed, even the fenders to cover the wider track, giving it a brawnier wide-shouldered look. And then there’s that roofline. It begins tapering at the B-pillar, angling over a short rear decklid ending in a modest ducktail and a forward slanting rear panel flanked by Cadillac’s vertical LED taillights. The taillights are an echo of the vertical LEDs that the front corners of the ATS Coupe, like those of the sedan.

But after seeing the Cadillac ATS Coupe, it seems impossible the ATS sedan even exists.

It’s a compliment to the sedan that the interior is mostly unchanged in the transition between four doors and two. The vertical accents from the exterior are continued inside with chrome bars flanking the center stack with a multi-information screen. There’s Cadillac’s optional CUE system—which we think works rather well, despite claims from other quarters. It’s a $1,030 option, including navigation and featuring an eight-inch touchscreen display. It’s cheaping out if you don’t get it.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance dash

The interior of the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance reflects styling influences from the exterior design. (cli8cki to enlarge)

New for 2015, a Text-to-Voice feature for incoming messages for smartphone users with Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7, providing natural language voice commands to operate the mobile devices as well as the car’s audio or in-vehicle infotainment system.

The instrument panel is large with a big central white-on-black speedometer flanked on the left by a tachometer with a smaller diameter and the right by auxiliary gauges.

Materials are first rate. Our tester, a 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance—had “carbon fiber” accents but the leather is real, all cut and sewn and French stitched. The steering wheel is contoured and wrapped in a warm soft leather that shouldn’t need heating…but in the winter, yes, we’ll take the heat. It’s standard on Performance trim level that includes sport seats with 12-way adjustment for both driver and passenger.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance back seat

The back seat of the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance back seat is neatly styled but too small for adult habitation. (click to enlarge)

Forget about putting adults in the back seat though. Leg room is nil and headroom isn’t much better. The trunk would be more comfortable, and it’s only ten cubic feet.

Models with Bose Surround Sound audio—standard on Performance trim—get active noise cancellation and “electronic sound enhancement.” Cadillac is at pains to point out that it’s not prerecoreded or synthesized sound but the engine’s own intake and exhaust amplified through the car’s speakers. It’s why our 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance sounded so good accelerating and was quiet cruising on the highway.

The coupe is available with Cadillac’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter V-6 and the 2.0-liter turbo four, though not the 2.5-liter four that’s base engine with ATS sedan. A six-speed manual is standard with the turbo four, with a six-speed automatic transmission optional but standard with the V-6. The enthusiast in us wants the stick with the bigger engine but we can’t complain too much about the automatic. Magnesium paddle shifting is standard with the autobox and it makes a good combination with the six, shifting appropriately to what’s going on, seamlessly on leisurely acceleration, and crisp and quick at full throttle.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance (click to enlarge)

The relatively light weight of the ATS Coupe combined with the 321 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque means the two-door little Caddy can scoot when requested. The six is high-winding, with its power peak at 6800 rpm and not reaching maximum torque until 4800 rpm, but the engine felt strong across the board, and entertaining. The 3.6 likes carting about a smaller car.

The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe has the same basic suspension as the ATS sedan, multi-link double-pivot MacPherson struts up front, with five-link independent rear suspension, However, the track of the ATS Coupe is wider, giving it a more stable stance than the sedan.

Our test ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance had the FE3 suspension, which combines Magnetic Ride Control, a mechanical limited-slip differential, high-capacity engine cooling system and 18-inch summer-performance tires. Three settings are available with Magnetic Ride Control, Tour, Sport and Snow/Ice. Sport has a noticeable effect on the suspension, significantly firming it up at the cost of some ride comfort. It also remaps the shifting of the automatic transmission, even in manual mode.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 3.6 Performance (click to enlarge)

Brembo high-performance brakes are standard on the ATS Coupe, and all-wheel drive is optional—though not with the Performance trim.

The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe gets the new Cadillac emblem on its grille. The shield continues, though modernized a tad, but the wreath is gone.

That’s fair enough. The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is Cadillac’s first small coupe. It puts itself up against the BMW 4-Series and Audi A-5. That’s a tough neighborhood. But what will the neighbors think when you have a Cadillac in your driveway? We don’t know. Who are your neighbors anyway? We feel you’ll be perfectly pleased and, well, forget them.

Specifications and window sticker next page.