Used 2015 Cadillac ATS Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2015 Cadillac ATS is an enjoyable entry-level luxury sport sedan that's competitive with more established German rivals.
What's new for 2015
The Cadillac ATS sedan has become the brand's second best-selling model, and for good reason. The ATS is handsome, packs cutting-edge (if occasionally frustrating) technology and offers handling as sharp or sharper than its BMW and Audi compact luxury sport sedan rivals. The 2015 Cadillac ATS sedan comes in with a very subtle styling refresh that includes a new grille texture, a wider lower front air intake and restyled Cadillac badges. The latter grow in width and shed their wreaths for a more modern look. More notable updates are under the skin, where Wi-Fi capability and wireless charging debut and the turbocharged four-cylinder engine sees a boost in its torque output.
As such, the Cadillac ATS remains a well-regarded entry in this popular entry-level luxury brand segment. Strong points include eye-catching styling inside and out, sharp handling dynamics and, provided you avoid the base engine, spirited performance. Overall, the ATS stacks up well against its rivals from Germany and Japan. Still, Caddy's best-ever compact sedan has a few demerits that keep it from being the class leader. A big one is the CUE infotainment interface. While we like its aesthetics and large virtual buttons, it can be slow to respond to inputs and in general is difficult to use when on the move. The ATS's small backseat and trunk also make this sedan a less practical choice than others in this class.
Of course, the biggest hurdle for the 2015 Cadillac ATS is simply the quality of its competition. The BMW 3 Series continues to be our favorite thanks to its overachieving engines, spacious cabin and all-around excellent driving dynamics. Other top choices include the 2015 Audi A4, 2015 Infiniti Q50, 2015 Lexus IS 350 and all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Given the ATS's more diminutive size, checking out a compact luxury sedan like the Audi A3 would be a good idea as well. Yet even among this illustrious group the ATS is a strong contender and well worth a test-drive before you make a decision.
Trim levels & features
The 2015 Cadillac ATS is a five-passenger, compact luxury sport sedan that is offered in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Performance and Premium. There is also an ATS Coupe reviewed separately.
Standard features on the base trim include 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way power front seats with power lumbar, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar, 4G Wi-Fi capability, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a seven-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio, an iPod/USB interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional on the base ATS is the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system, bundled with a 10-speaker upgraded Bose surround-sound audio system, Bluetooth audio streaming, a rearview camera, three USB ports and HD radio.
The Luxury trim includes the CUE interface as well as front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, remote engine start (automatic-transmission models only), eight-way power front seats, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, auto-dimming rearview and driver side mirrors, Bluetooth audio streaming, the three USB ports, HD radio and wireless cell phone charging. The upgraded Bose sound system and a navigation system are optional on the Luxury.
The Performance trim (not available with the 2.5-liter engine) adds to the Luxury trim's equipment adaptive xenon headlights, LED running lights, the 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, front sport seats (with manual cushion length adjustment and power driver-side bolster adjustment), aluminum-trimmed pedals, steering wheel shift paddles, and, as on the base ATS, a fixed rear seat with a pass-through. Also included is a Driver Awareness package (automatic high-beams, automatic wipers, rear-seat side airbags, lane keeping assist and forward collision, rear cross-traffic and lane departure warning systems).
Stepping up to the Premium trim (not available with the 2.5-liter engine) adds 18-inch wheels, a navigation system, a color head-up display, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and the 60/40-split-folding rear seat. Rear-wheel-drive ATS Premium models also come with run-flat summer tires, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive suspension dampers and a limited-slip rear differential.
Many of the upper trims' standard features are optional on the lower trims. There are several option packages. The Driver Assist package (Performance and Premium only) includes the features from the Driver Awareness package and adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a collision mitigation system with brake assist (which activates in both front and rear collision situations) and the color head-up display. The Cold Weather package (all but base) includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Available only on rear-drive V6 Premium models, the Track Performance package adds an engine oil cooler and upgraded brake pads. Other options include different wheels, a sunroof and a trunk cargo organizer.
Performance & mpg
Three engines are available for the 2015 Cadillac ATS. The 2.5 models come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 202 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. All ATS engines come standard with rear-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA estimated fuel economy for the base ATS 2.5 is 25 mpg combined (21 city/33 highway).
The 2.0 Turbo models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive are optional. We've yet to test the ATS with its upgraded engine but in prior testing, a rear-drive ATS 2.0T with the automatic accelerated to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is average for the segment. We'd expect the 2015 ATS to be a smidge quicker. Equipped with the automatic, 2.0 Turbo models are estimated to return 24 mpg combined (21/30) in rear-drive configuration and 23 mpg combined (20/28) with AWD. With the manual gearbox and rear-drive, the ATS 2.0 Turbo is rated at 23 mpg combined (19/30).
The 3.6 models come with a 3.6-liter V6 that cranks out 321 hp and 274 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is optional. In Edmunds testing, a rear-drive ATS 3.6 Premium accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. This is also average for the segment. The V6 is estimated to achieve 22 mpg combined (18/28) with rear-wheel drive and 21 combined (18/26) with AWD.
Standard safety features for the 2015 Cadillac ATS include antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, active front head restraints, front-seat side and knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
There are two safety-related options packages – the Luxury's trim Safety and Security package, and the Performance and Premium's Driver Awareness package. Both include rear side airbags, a forward collision alert, lane departure warning and keeping assist system, and the Safety Alert seat that buzzes the driver seat button as an additional form of warning. The Driver Assist package (Performance and Premium only) bolsters that content with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and a collision mitigation system that will automatically apply the brakes in both low-speed forward and rearward potential collision situations: an unusual feature in this price range. A rearview camera is standard on all trims except the base model, in which case it is optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, an ATS 3.6 Premium with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet, while a 2.0T with summer tires required a bit more at 112 feet. These are average distances for summer tires. An ATS 3.6 Performance with low-rolling resistance all-season tires did it in 113 feet, which is about 10 feet shorter than average.
In government crash testing, the ATS received an overall score of five stars out of five, with five stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection.
The 2015 Cadillac ATS is an impressive all-around performer, thanks to its poised ride, sure-footed handling, quick steering and responsive brakes. The term "sport" gets used so much in automotive marketing these days that it sort of loses its meaning, but the ATS certainly fits the description of a "luxury sport sedan." Get the summer tires and sport-tuned suspension and you'll likely want to find all sorts of excuses to use your ATS for Sunday drives along twisting roads or impromptu errand runs. Out of milk? No problem, honey. I'll just take the ATS. We're less fond of the ride quality from a sport-suspension-equipped ATS, though, as its firmness can get pretty rough when driving over rough pavement.
The base 2.5-liter engine is smooth, but it delivers tepid acceleration compared with other entry-level powertrains in this class. Fortunately, both the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and 3.6-liter V6 provide the energetic thrust more in keeping with this Cadillac's athletic personality. Of these two, the V6 would be our choice, mostly because the 2.0-liter turbo gets noisy under hard acceleration and isn't as refined as the four-cylinder engines in rival sedans. Although enthusiasts may lament the lack of a manual transmission for the V6, the six-speed automatic will get the job done for most consumers. Switched to Sport mode, it knows when to hold a gear and provides on-point, rev-matched downshifts.
Inside, the 2015 Cadillac ATS boasts a variety of high-quality materials, including tasteful wood and metallic accents. The cabin feels solidly put together, but we've noted a few more fit and finish issues in the ATS than in similarly priced competitors.
The available CUE infotainment interface features large icons and operates by tapping, swiping or spreading your fingers -- making it vaguely familiar for smartphone users. Furthermore, "haptic" feedback lets you know when you've pressed a virtual button by pulsing when you touch it.
This all results in a certain wow factor, but in practice, CUE can be slow to respond (and occasionally, fail to respond at all), and some features, such as the slide bar for volume adjustment, turn out to be more trouble than conventional controls. In this class, we prefer the BMW iDrive and Mercedes-Benz COMAND interfaces (both of which use a multidirectional dial-type controller).
Up front, most drivers will find it easy to get into a comfortable driving position, and in our experience, the firm front seats provide ample support on longer drives. Oddly, the optional sport seats don't provide much more lateral support than the standard seats, even with the addition of power-adjustable bolsters.
The backseat is smaller than those of most other entry-level luxury sport sedans. It's not necessarily a deal breaker depending on what your priorities are, but know that taller adults will find headroom, shoulder room and legroom in short supply. The trunk is similarly lacking in space. In spite of its wide opening, it offers just 10.2 cubic feet of capacity, and only the Luxury and Premium trims have a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
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