At the last Track Days event with the Motor Press Guild, factory Cadillac driver Johnn O’Connell was giving rides in the ATS-V sedan, and the list of those waiting to get a ride with him was longer than the one for people who wanted to drive the car themselves.
We only had so much time, so we had to forgo a ride-along with O’Connell and come back later after he had left, when the car would be available for journalists to drive.
We would have felt like we missed out — and all things considered, we probably did — but the ATS-V sedan was such a treat to drive that it was a reward in itself. Approach the car from any angle and it certainly looks the part of a performance sedan. Honeycomb grilles, bulging hood, big brakes, four polished exhaust tips and wide rubber. We seldom comment on aesthetics, but we think it looks better than the CTS-V. The dimensions are more compact than the CTS-V, and the whole package just looks tighter.
We were a little disappointed that the car wasn’t fitted with some iteration of GM’s ever-capable LS V8, because it would certainly fit under the hood. In its place, Cadillac installed a twin-turbo V6 that cranks out 464 horsepower at 5,850 rpm and 445 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm.
The engine itself is not new. GM has been using the 3.6-liter mill in various front- and rear-wheel-drive models for more than a decade, but this is the first time it has been fitted with a twin turbo on any GM application. So, no, it’s not a V8 and any disappointment we might have felt dissipated the moment we matted the throttle.
For performance applications, this engine is the real deal. Its 464 horsepower comes on strong and early thanks to the low rpm at which the torque peaks. Because it’s a 60-degree V6, power delivery is smooth and refined. The roar of the V8 is absent, and that’s just fine with us because the twin-turbo V6 delivers surprising acceleration. This thing is quick. GM figures indicate a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds on the way to a top speed of 189 mph.
During our lapping session on the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway, the ATS-V emerged as one of the standouts of the day, even if Johnny O’Connell wasn’t driving.
The power delivery is linear and convincing, and the magnetic ride control works well over the big bumps at Big Willow. A 51/49 front/rear weight distribution provides nice, balanced handling. Steering assist is electric, and it is light, maybe a little too light, but that lightness makes the car feel as though it isn’t as heavy as it is.
The interior trim featured carbon-fiber appliqués on the doors and dash. The center stack would have looked better if it had the same carbon-fiber accents, but it was treated with the “piano black” finish used on the regular ATS, which just doesn’t look as good. We’re also not wild about the HVAC controls, which are touch controlled, yet offer no feedback that let you know if the function you wanted to change actually changed. Maybe we weren’t familiar enough with the system but it didn’t seem intuitive initially.
Those are minor quibbles. There are a lot of things to like about the ATS-V and the brakes are of them. There isn’t a lot of big braking zones at Willow Springs, so we can’t say whether there is heat-related fade, but brake feel and power is commanding. The ATS-V comes with six-piston Brembos calipers up front and four-pot clamps in the back, and what’s nice about that is that they’re not painted racer-boy red. Instead they’re a subdued graphite gray with the elegant Cadillac script painted on them, which seems entirely appropriate for a car like this.
Like the Corvette, the ATS-V we tested comes with a performance data recorder, which shows a track map, throttle position and brake pressure, gear selected, traction circle, rpm and steering angle. You can view the data on the Cadillac User Experience screen or save it to the SD car for downloading to a laptop. Software is available from the Cosworth website.
Another handy feature for track and street use is the head-up display, which projects speed and navigation instructions on the windshield. That makes it a breeze to check your speed at corner exit at the track or find that out-of-the-way restaurant in an unfamiliar town.
Cadillac also builds an ATS-V coupe, which is more sporty, but it’s only 9 pounds lighter than the sedan’s 3,812 curb weight. If you regularly carry passengers, go for the four door.
We may never get the chance to take a ride with Johnny O’Connell again, and we have to live with that. Driving the ATS-V at Willow Springs was a treat, and it’s something we also may never get the chance to do again — but at least we got to do it once.
|3.6L V6 twin-turbocharged DI VVT|
|464 @ 5,850 rpm|
|445 @ 3,500 rpm|
|McPherson strut with dual ball joints, magnetic ride control|
|Independent, five-link with magnetic ride control|
|Tremec TR6060 six-speed|
Rear axle ratio:
|3.73:1 limited slip|