US carmaker Cadillac is already struggling for years to gain foothold in Europe and battle German domination in the premium D, E, and F-segments. And while their underperformance was somewhat understandable five years ago, with every new model Cadillac seems to get closer to the competition. A personal favorite of mine is the Cadillac ATS-V, and therefore it seems right to spend some time talking about it. Because it certainly deserves more than it’s getting on the continent.
Cadillac positions the ATS-V as a competitor for the BMW M4, Audi RS4 (yet to be announced) and Mercedes C63 AMG. Therefore, its a premium d-segment car. The CTS(-V) operates a level higher, and the brand new CT6 is top of the line. The Americans certainly invested time and money to make their bid as good as possible; with an attractive and aggressive exterior (which I personally think is a job well done), modern interior, and sophisticated mechanics.
Engine wise, there is a biturbo V6 sporting 470 hp, which hurls the ATS from 0 to 100 in 3.9 seconds. It only stops accelerating at 304 kph. This is on par or better than the competiton. Cadillac really tried to appeal to European buyers, who prefer sophisticated and smooth engines over naturally aspirated V8s with enormous displacement. Where it still lags behind a bit, is the gearbox. The 8 speed automatic isn’t as refined and quick as the one in the BMW M4, its most important nemesis. But it compensates with very good handling, caused by direct and engaging steering and a well balanced chassis and suspension. Magnetic Ride Control is Cadillacs term for adaptive dampers, and it works great. It causes the American to keep up with the BMW, a very important feat. Where that never was the case with ‘old’ Cadillac due to sluggishness, rolling over, and unresponsive steering the Bavarian now encountered an equal.
When it comes to interior quality, the ATS-V is adequate, but not great. All modern systems are there, but it still doesnt ooze the same quality as its German counterparts. Things are better than previous years, though.
The biggest challenge for the ATS-V is not to win from its rivals in terms of performance; it already did. But the price tag is simply too steep. In the Netherlands, the car is available from 127 grand. That is more than the BMW; which means most European customers will most likely go for the M4. If GM is serious about their luxury brand selling decent numbers over here, it would be better to position the different models slightly below the competition. When an ATS-V suddenly costs 90 grand, there is a real chance BMW, Audi, and Mercedes customers want to save 10 or 20 thousand and go for the alternative option. For now, the ATS-V is only interesting for the used market, since it depreciates quickly and makes for a nice deal in a few years. A sad, and undeserved, truth.