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Published: 08/07/2014 - by Bill Visnic, Senior Editor
Since its launch in 2012, the ATS sedan has earned praise for the way it caresses corners, but its styling is by no means extroverted. The lower, wider stance of the new 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe goes a long way toward elevating its looks to match its energetic dynamics.
The ATS coupe also presents a pleasing mixture of powertrains and equipment packages via two engines, automatic and manual transmissions, rear- or all-wheel drive and four levels of trim. It's a formidable addition to the lineup that can go toe to toe with any of its German rivals.
What's the Big Deal About a Two-Door ATS?
Calling the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe simply a two-door version of the ATS is selling it short. Although its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and optional 3.6-liter V6 are the same power plants available in the ATS sedan and the coupe's chassis is much the same, the sheet metal of the ATS coupe is almost all-new, with the hood and headlights essentially the only carried-over exterior parts.
Cadillac made a big effort to visually lower and widen the two-door ATS, giving it a meaty look that the sedan lacks. The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is 1.4 inches wider and an inch lower than the sedan and it's quite noticeable. Maybe even more striking is the 0.8-inch increase in track, the distance between the wheels on the same axle.
With fender flares sensuously stretched over that spread-out rubber, the ATS coupe instantly imparts the impression of being more hunkered down: not as drastically bullfrogged as its direct rival, the BMW 4 Series, mind you, but enough to alter its sedan sibling's taller stance.
Why Else Should I Want Two Fewer Doors?
In its most basic format (2.0-liter turbo engine and rear-wheel drive) the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe weighs 3,411 pounds, 38 pounds heavier than the similarly configured four-door ATS.
This is notable for two reasons. First, coupes sometimes are laughably heavier than their sedan counterparts, for reasons that are suspiciously murky to those outside of automotive engineering.
More importantly, the ATS coupe is claimed to be the lightest car in the segment. For those down to the nitty-gritty of choosing between the overtly sporty cars in this segment, the ATS coupe's light weight is a virtue worth noting.
Does the ATS Coupe Have the "Go" To Match Its Looks?
Yes, we think so.
The ATS sedan's standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine didn't even make the cut for two-door duty, so "base" power for the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers a chesty 272 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque. The torque figure, in fact, marks a hike of 13 percent over the engine's 2014 rating (the ATS sedan gets the same upgrade).
It translates to a 0-60-mph gallop of 5.6 seconds, according to Cadillac, which is enough to top the BMW 428i by a tenth of a second. And our initial test-drives affirm the 2.0-liter's exceptional midrange shove. With either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, this engine's overall power is more than adequate.
You can get your very own clutch pedal only with the 2.0-liter and rear-wheel drive. Cadillac is leaving the minuscule manual-transmission, all-wheel-drive market to the Europeans.
Cadillac offers the trusty 3.6-liter V6 as the upgrade engine for the 2015 ATS Coupe, here fronting 321 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. It, too, can drive just the coupe's rear wheels or all four wheels if you opt for the AWD system. The latter is a very flexible system that can transfer as much as 100 percent of available power to the front axle if conditions merit.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Promise?
The rear-drive, four-cylinder ATS coupe with the automatic transmission is the most fuel-efficient of the bunch. It gets EPA ratings of 21 city/30 highway mpg.
The same car with the V6 earns EPA ratings of 18 city/28 highway. Opting for AWD with the four-cylinder ATS coupe bumps the numbers down to 20 city/29 highway mpg, while the V6 AWD goes down slightly to 18 city/26 highway. The rare four-cylinder, manual-transmission rear-drive ATS coupe cuts the middle with ratings of 19 city/30 highway.
How Does It Handle for a Coupe?
The ATS sedan delivers impressive handling, and it carries over to fine effect with the new ATS coupe. Cadillac's engineers swear every gram of weight had to justify its existence in this palpably solid structure. It suffuses the ATS coupe with a profoundly confident, yet supple grip on the road. From behind the wheel, it feels as though the ATS treats corners like business partners instead of obstacles to be overcome.
Dave Leone, Cadillac's executive chief engineer, says his team devoted considerable resources to the car's electrically assisted power steering, and it shows. The steering adds effort naturally and consistently, coming as close to delivering actual "feel" as just about any electric-assist system on the market.
It also doesn't hurt that the 2015 Cadillac CTS Coupe has an almost 50/50 front/rear weight distribution that is the starting point for a balanced performance car. If that's not enough for you, there's the optional Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers and FE3 sport suspension that further improve on this car's already sharp handling.
What Kind of Technology Features Does It Offer?
The ATS coupe is one of the first production cars to have standard wireless charging capability for smartphones. The technology currently supports Powermat-branded wireless charging accessories (at the moment, almost all phones require an adapter) and future phones embedded with chips that incorporate wireless-charge hardware. The ATS coupe has a "tech cave" for all this behind a motorized panel on the center stack's faceplate. Stick your phone in there and it's connected, charging and hidden.
The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe also is at the forefront of GM's charge to imbue most of its vehicles with 4G LTE cellular connectivity. Supplied by AT&T, the connection is significantly faster than the prior OnStar link and allows the car to serve as a mobile hotspot for as many as seven Internet-connected devices. Cadillac says data plans will start for as little as $5 per month, though we doubt seven devices will get too far on what comes out of that fire hose.
Inside, the ATS coupe is impressively put together and the materials are mostly good to look at and touch. Particularly so for the $1,295 semi-aniline leather upholstery and high-line trim packages, where the wood accents spectacularly represent genuine wood, mostly because they are.
With a wheelbase and other primary dimensions little changed from the sedan, Cadillac insists rear-seat legroom (33.5 inches) is the same as in the sedan. Maybe so, but good luck back there. The sedan's skimpy trunk capacity of 10.4 cubic feet also carries over.
How Safe Is It?
There's all the expected standard equipment: stability control, back-up camera, eight airbags.
Go for the ATS Coupe Performance and Premium trims and you get access to (as standard): lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, forward-collision alert, Cadillac's inspired safety alert seat, automatic high-beam control and rain-sensing wipers.
The big guns come out with the optional Driver Assist package, which incorporates all of the above plus front and rear auto-braking, full-range adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and cross-traffic alert, automatic collision preparation, auto seatbelt tightening and a full-color head-up display.
The ATS coupe has not been crash-tested but the ATS sedan received a five-star rating in testing by NHTSA.
What Coupes Does It Compete Against?
Audi A5: Muscular, straightforward looks and Audi's impeccable interior are backed by the legendary Quattro all-wheel drive, but it's four-cylinder or nothing for this surprisingly austere model range. If you want all-wheel drive, though, the buy-in price is cheaper than Cadillac's.
BMW 4 Series: Splitting off the former 3 Series coupe into a new 4 Series line at first seemed like madness but now seems logical given the 4 Series' distinctive execution. A sturdy turbocharged four-cylinder and BMW's luscious inline six-cylinder are the highlights, while the rest closely mirrors what the ATS coupe offers. Still the most performance-oriented compact luxury coupe.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class: Standard power is a bit thin, with 1.8 liters of turbocharged four-cylinder making just 201 hp, but this entry point to the brand nonetheless remains a substantial car. Note: Sedan model is all-new for 2015, but the coupe is a carryover.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Cadillac's infused enough extra gravity into the staid ATS sedan to make the 2015 ATS Coupe visually distinctive while staying on the classy course. Coupes are about individuality, and the ATS coupe's well-finished interior and wide range of configurations makes it a car that you really can make your own.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
It doesn't offer the most all-out performance in the class, so if you're looking for pure speed, BMW's inline-6 435i ultimately has more outright rip. We also continue to have reservations about Cadillac's CUE infotainment interface, which has good intentions but often is quirky, frustrating...and distracting.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.