Used 2016 Cadillac ATS Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2016 Cadillac ATS is an enjoyable entry-level luxury sport sedan that's competitive with more established German rivals.
What's new for 2016
Cadillac's attempts to break into the compact luxury sedan market have historically been unsuccessful. The Catera, for example, was a poorly disguised Opel Omega, while the infamous Cimarron's Chevy Cavalier roots make it an ever-popular choice for "Worst Cars Ever" lists (including our own). But the 2016 Cadillac ATS impressively distances itself from its underwhelming predecessors. Boasting crisp, angular sheet metal, an attractive cabin and excellent handling, it's America's best answer yet to the BMW 3 Series.
The angular exterior design of the 2016 ATS stands in sharp contrast to conservatively styled competitors.
The 2016 model year brings a slew of improvements to the ATS. An eight-speed automatic transmission replaces last year's six-speed unit, while the all-new 3.6-liter V6 engine adds 12 horsepower and 11 pound-feet of torque compared to the outgoing V6, along with an extra 2 mpg on the highway. On the inside, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration have been added to models equipped with the CUE infotainment system. The CUE interface also receives a more powerful processor and redesigned menus intended to make it more bearable, though the finicky touch-sensitive center stack remains a potential source of frustration on the road.
You might be less annoyed by CUE than we are, however, in which case the ATS's exceptionally athletic chassis could give it an edge over the competition. Of course, the BMW 3 Series remains the poster child for the class, providing sporty handling of its own along with diverse and stellar engine options. The recently redesigned Mercedes-Benz C-Class, meanwhile, offers an elegant cabin awash in jaw-dropping wood, soft-touch and metallic accents. The Audi A4 and Lexus IS are also attractive alternatives, and it's worth noting that all four rivals have roomier backseats and trunks. Yet even in such illustrious company, the 2016 Cadillac ATS is a strong contender that's well worth sampling before you make your decision.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Cadillac ATS is a compact luxury sport sedan offered in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Performance and Premium. The ATS Coupe is reviewed separately, as is the high-performance ATS-V.
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, a 5.7-inch driver information screen, six-way power front seats with power lumbar, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar, 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a seven-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio, two USB ports and an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional on the base ATS is the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system with voice controls, an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless cell phone charging, Bluetooth audio, Android Auto (late availability) and Apple CarPlay functionality, a rearview camera, three USB ports and HD radio. A 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system is also included when CUE is specified.
The 2016 ATS gets dual exhaust tips on the Luxury trim and above.
The Luxury trim adds the above CUE bundle as standard (minus the stereo upgrade), as well as dual exhaust tips, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview and driver side mirrors, remote engine start (automatic transmission only), eight-way power front seats, driver memory settings, leather upholstery and 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks. The 10-speaker Bose audio system is optional, and it comes bundled with a navigation system and a 110-volt power outlet. A Safety and Security package adds automatic high beams, automatic wipers and several safety technologies (see Safety section, below).
The Performance trim adds adaptive xenon headlights, LED running lights, the 10-speaker Bose audio system, front sport seats (with manual cushion length adjustment and power driver-side bolster adjustment), aluminum-trimmed pedals, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles (automatic transmission only) and the Driver Awareness package (essentially the same as the Safety and Security package). The navigation system and 110-volt power outlet are optional.
Stepping up to the Premium trim adds 18-inch wheels, the navigation system and power outlet, a color head-up display and a power-adjustable steering wheel. Rear-wheel-drive ATS Premium models also come with summer performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive suspension dampers and a limited-slip rear differential.
The navigation system is standard on the 2016 Cadillac ATS Premium and optional on the Luxury and Performance trims.
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) adds the color head-up display to the Performance trim as well as advanced safety features (see Safety section, below), while the Cold Weather package (all trims but base) includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Available only on rear-drive V6 Premium models, the Track Performance package adds a heavy-duty cooling fan and upgraded brake pads. All rear-wheel-drive models can be ordered with a V-Sport Performance Suspension Upgrade package, which adds the sport-tuned suspension from the RWD Premium trim, along with 18-inch wheels and summer tires. Other options include different wheels, a sunroof and a trunk cargo organizer.
Performance & mpg
Three engines are available for the 2016 Cadillac ATS. All ATS engines come standard with rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 2.5 models come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 202 hp and 191 pound-feet of torque. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the base ATS 2.5 is 26 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway).
The 2.0T models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is optional, as is a six-speed manual transmission (but only with rear-wheel drive). Equipped with the automatic, the ATS 2.0T returns an estimated 26 mpg combined (22 city/31 highway) in rear-drive configuration and 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway) with AWD. With the manual gearbox, the 2.0T is rated at 23 mpg combined (20 city/29 highway).
The 3.6 models come with a 3.6-liter V6 that cranks out 333 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is optional. The ATS 3.6 is rated at 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) with rear-wheel drive and 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway) with AWD.
Standard safety features for the 2016 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. A rearview camera is standard on all trims except the base model, in which case it is optional.
The Safety and Security package and the Driver Awareness package both add a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure prevention, a forward collision warning system and the Safety Alert seat that buzzes the driver seat bottom as an additional form of warning. Also included is a lane-change alert system which detects quickly approaching vehicles in adjacent lanes when the turn signal is activated.
The Driver Assist package bolsters that content with adaptive cruise control and a forward and rearward collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.
In Edmunds brake testing, an ATS 2.0T with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 112 feet, an average distance for this segment. Impressively, an ATS 3.6 stopped in 113 feet despite wearing slipperier all-season tires.
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 2016 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 find all sorts of excuses to exercise your ATS on twisting roads. We're less fond of the ride quality with the sport suspension, though, as its firmness can get pretty intense when driving over rough pavement.
The 2016 Cadillac ATS tackles corners with more confidence than many of its rivals.
The base 2.5-liter engine is well-mannered, but it delivers meager 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 energetic thrust that's more in keeping with this Cadillac's athletic personality. Of these two, the V6 would be our choice, as the 2.0T gets noisy under hard acceleration and isn't as refined or fuel-efficient as the turbo-4s in rival sedans. The V6's fuel-economy deficit is minimal, and its smoother power delivery is worth the upgrade.
Inside, the 2016 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 an attractive 8-inch touchscreen 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.
When the car is turned off, the sleek, buttonless center stack looks clean and futuristic. In practice, however, some of CUE's features, such as the slide bar for volume adjustment, turn out to be more troublesome than conventional controls. Until you get used to the system, expect to glance at the touch areas frequently any time you make a minor adjustment to the fan or radio settings. In this class, we prefer the Audi MMI, BMW iDrive and Mercedes COMAND systems, all of which use a multidirectional dial-type controller.
While the center stack offers a sleek, attractive design, the lack of knobs and buttons complicates simple tasks like adjusting the fan speed.
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, 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 10.4 cubic feet of capacity, and the base trim does not have folding rear seatbacks.
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.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.