2018 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Review: Everything You Want in a Luxury Sport Coupe
When you ask many American performance car fans to name he most exiting Cadillac coupe, the odds are good that many of them will quickly reply with the previous generation CTS-V coupe. That car was powered by a supercharged V8 that delivered 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful Caddy coupe ever, but if you look beyond raw power, the best Cadillac sports coupe of all time – or at least of the modern era – is the ATS-V coupe.
I recently spent a week driving a 2018 Cadillac ATS-V coupe and while it isn’t as quick as the previous CTS-V coupe (there is no new CTS-V coupe), it looks better and handles better, while packing plenty of power and all of the premium luxury bits that you would expect from a modern Cadillac.
Twin Turbo Fun
The 2018 Cadillac ATS-V coupe is powered by a twin turbo V6 that delivers 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque towards the rear wheels by means of a 6-speed manual transmission. There is also an optional automatic, but my test car had the third pedal and I was excited to see it. Sure, the ATS-V with the automatic might be quicker and easier to drive, but the manual transmission just plain makes a sports car more interesting and that is especially true of a luxury car. So many luxury companies have completely abandoned the manual transmission that it is great to see a company that still offers it. Best of all, the ATS-V has an incredible rev-matching system that is one of the best that I have experienced, allowing you to downshift at speed like a pro racer.
In terms of acceleration, the ATS-V obviously doesn’t pack the all-out pull that you get with the supercharged V8, but the twin turbo V6 does a great job of motivating this small Caddy. Boost lag is nonexistent, so when launching from a stop, power delivery is quick and as the engine reaches peak boost and peak power – the ATS-V puts you back in the seat hard and keeps you there as you power through the gears. The clutch is a bit touchier and less forgiving than some other performance cars I have tested recently, so if you try to pull out from a stop with too little engine speed, it isn’t hard to stall the ATS-V, but once you get a feel for the car, it is a very easy machine to pilot.
Once you are moving, banging from gear to gear is a breeze, with a shift pattern that makes it easy to find the next gear with some urgency and with the standard “no lift shift” system, you can squeeze even more performance out of the ATS-V during spirited sprints by never lifting your right foot from the throttle. All you have to do is stab the clutch, get the shifter into the next slot and let the clutch back out, with the system moderating engine speed and power delivery to improve performance. Some performance cars with a manual transmission will smoke the tires or bog down when you shift without letting off of the throttle, but the ATS-V’s high tech transmission makes lightning-quick shifts easy and effective.
Whether you are launching from the starting line on your way down the quarter mile or blasting along a twisty country road, the combination of the twin turbo V6 and the manual transmission makes the 2018 Cadillac ATS-V an absolute blast to drive hard.
Speaking of blasting along a twisty country road, there is where the ATS-V shines the brightest. With the help of the magnetic dampers, the small Caddy coupe sticks to the corners like it is on a rail, and in the rare event that you get into a corner too hard, the Brembo brakes bring down the speeds in an instant. Whether you are scooting through a series of tight turns that have the weight transferring back and forth over and over, or accelerating through a long, sweeping turn, the ATS-V responds beautifully.
It has been a number of years since I last drove the previous CTS-V coupe and I know that it packs more power, but I do believe that the ATS-V is the best-handling 2-door Cadillac that I have ever driven. In fact, I wish that my local area had more curvy roads, as I was only able to push the car so hard on public roads and around here, I was nowhere near reaching the limit of the ATS-V’s handling capabilities.
Best of all, in addition to handling like a champ, the ATS-V offers a nice, smooth ride. This is a performance model, so the ride is a bit stiffer than a luxury car that is built purely for comfort, but for a car that corners as well as this Cadillac, the ride quality is incredible. This is a car that can be comfortably driven every day in pretty much any situation while being raced on the weekends and the driver will love every second of that seat time.
Proper Modern Luxury
The most important aspect of the Cadillac ATS-V coupe is performance (in my opinion), but coming from a luxury brand, it has to offer all of the luxury amenities that you would get from a premium non-performance model. In much the same way that the ATS-V does a great job of being an exciting performance, it does just a good of a job of being a stunning luxury car. This starts on the outside with the angular styling with LED-heavy lighting, but the bulk of the luxury is between the doors.
The first thing that you notice when you open the driver’s door is the design of the performance-minded front bucket seats. The upper design gives them a race-ready look, the leather bolsters provide the premium look that you expect and the sueded centers keep the driver and passenger firmly in place during stints of spirited driving. There seats are just as comfortable as they are great-looking, making a long drive just as comfortable as a jaunt across town.
In addition to the seats, pretty much everything else inside of the ATS-V is wrapped in leather, from the dash board to the door panels to the center console. Along with the black leather, there is plenty of satin silver trim and a splash of carbon fiber running through the middle of the dash, combining the performance look with the luxury feel.
Finally, the ATS-V features the premium Cadillac infotainment system complete with the Performance Data Recorder. The “CUE” infotainment system is sometimes criticized for being hard to use, but I love the system in every test vehicle I have had and I loved it in the ATS-V. When coupled with the Bose sound system, the Cadillac infotainment package incorporates everything into the big, bright touch screen and the small panel of touch-sensitive buttons just below. Part of this system is the Performance Data Recorder, which uses a camera mounted in the windshield mount of the rear-view mirror to record the action, adding performance telemetry over the video. This is an absolutely awesome feature that should be offered in far more vehicles across all of the GM brands.
The Final Word
If you are looking for a high performance luxury coupe that makes good on the high performance and luxury aspects of the description, the Cadillac ATS-V is hard to beat. The price-as-tested of my ATS-V coupe shown here was just over $78,000, so it isn’t exactly a budget performance car, but there are few coupes sold in the US that offer the combination of power, handling and luxury that you get with the 2018 Cadillac ATS-V coupe.
If you are focused on big power and the number of doors doesn’t really matter, get the CTS-V and fall in love with the supercharged V8. If you want something smaller and more nimble, with less emphasis on raw power, the ATS-V is an incredible option in today’s luxury market.