2019 ATS-V is a Cadillac track star — but worth the admission price?

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 25, 2019


The 2019 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe.

2019 Cadillac ATS-V RWD: A Caddy with a hot-rod heart.

Price: $79,360 as tested. $61,595 for the trim level; $5,000 for the Carbon Fiber Package, which adds a lightweight hood splitter and vent, rear diffuser, spoiler, and composite rocker extensions; $2,150 for the Safety and Security Package, which adds a huge list of safety items, $1,500 for the performance data recorder. More mentioned throughout.

Marketer’s pitch: “Track capable. Road ready.”

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds likes the “excellent steering and handling capabilities” and “abundant power” but not that the “back seat and trunk are small” and the “ride might be too punishing.”

Reality: Take your Cadillac to the track? As if.

What it is: Not your Granddaddy’s Cadillac, that’s for sure. This small hot rod looks more like an Acura than any Cadillac should dare. It only comes with rear-wheel drive, which makes it tremendous for the track and for handling on the road, but is kind of limiting overall.

Another limiting factor is that it’s only a two-door coupe. Better than a two-seater, but still.

On the road: Make no mistake, the Cadillac ATS-V is all about the fun. There is not an ounce of plushness on this European sports sedan fighter. (And there wasn’t for the 2018, which is the model year tested.)

Corners can be handled with a bit of a slide, but not as much as the Alfa Romeo Giulia offers. Winding roads are equally fun, and the ATS-V just hugs the curves — the car will skid sideways into the ditch before a driver ever feels a bit of lean or roll. (I presume.)

As for Edmunds’ “punishing ride” comment, even though I am becoming soft in my old age, the ATS-V didn’t feel worse than any other track performer.

Up to speed: The 3.6-liter twin turbo V-6 definitely gets the heart racing. Sixty miles per hour comes in 3.8 seconds thanks to 464 horses, according to Cadillac.

The various drive modes available don’t seem to make that great a difference in performance, either.

Shifty: So sad that I didn’t get the 6-speed stick to test out. The 8-speed automatic in the test vehicle came at an additional cost of $2,000, but it’s actually better for the track these days. Mere mortals just can’t keep up with the speed of today’s track stars.

Shiftability comes through the lever or paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The ATS-V is plenty of fun in either mode.

Driver’s Seat: The driving position and comfort were just right. The Recaro high-performance seats ($2,300) offer plenty of grip in the sides and all around. The velvety covering will probably feel a bit toasty, especially since ventilation did not come in the test vehicle.

Friends and stuff: First off, the ATS-V is a two-door, so that means putting people in the back is just kind of cruel. Once back there, the fit is snug, although personally I enjoy the feeling of not worrying about doors opening. Now if I could just find someone to chauffeur me around. …

Cargo space is a tiny 10.3 cubic feet.

Play some tunes: The Bose Surround Sound stereo came as part of the $2,500 Luxury Package, which also included LED headlights, navigation, and split rear folding seat.

Sound from the system was impressive, about an A. Operation of the Cadillac interface has gotten a little easier over the years, but the slider volume and HVAC controls remain an unfavorite.

Play loud tunes: Those tunes you play will need to be on the loud side — the buzzy ATS-V exhaust note is always rumbling behind you, no matter which mode you’re in. It actually gets a little annoying after a while.

Looking out: The rear view has become heavily compromised in many cars these days, but the ATS seems even harder to see out of than most. Large door pillars and the location of the seat combine to make lane changes very technology dependent.

Unfortunately, the rear camera on the test model had an intermittent slowdown, like when laptop wheezes while loading internet pages.

Night shift: A little hard to see but not terrible. Interior lights are subtle lighting perfection.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 21 mpg in a heavy-footed week of driving. Feed the twin turbos only the best, please.

Where it’s built: Lansing, Mich.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the ATS (no V) reliability to be a 1 out of 5, and the same for 2016, with no reports in between.

In the end: Giulia fun, but at Cadillac prices. If you’re not on the track, it’s really far more than you need. I guess pick the dealer with the comfier chairs and better coffee in the service department, because you’ll be visiting a lot either way.