Let’s set the record straight: The ATS-V is not a BMW M3/M4 killer. It is, however, a very serious alternative to the Bavarian sports car, and that is something Cadillac should be extremely happy about. It will make you think twice about buying an M3. (And coming from an adamant fan of BMW’s sports car, this is huge praise).
It’s surprisingly good; an epiphany of automotive clairvoyance from a company that isn’t imported. A domesticated chunk of American ingenuity and resourcefulness that makes us excited for what’s next, because whatever is next, is bound to follow the ATS-V’s nimble footsteps.
While we didn’t get the chance to test it on the street, we were able to put it through its paces at Monticello Motor Club.
1. Quality Improvements: The ATS-V isn’t just a few bolt-ons over the base ATS models; it’s a leapfrog in evolution. In performance terms, it’s like going from the Atlas to the Saturn V rocket. New engine, bigger brakes, brilliant magnetic suspension and track capable from the factory means this isn’t your ordinary ATS.
2. (Nearly) Unflappable Brakes: Co-developed with Brembo—the leader in aftermarket braking—the ATS-V’s 14.5-inch front and 13.3-rear binders were made specifically with the ATS-V in mind. They offer incredible feedback and won’t fade unless you’re hot lapping for an hour (which we did).
3. Handling is more neutral than Ireland during the War: With an almost perfect weight distribution (51/49 front to rear, respectively) our initial concerns were going to be plenty of power but grip that wasn’t as progressive as its main rivals. Man, were we wrong. The ATS-V offers gobs of feedback and gradual degradation of grip is easy to spot, especially with the standard summer only Michelin tires. The third generation of the Magnetic Ride Control on the track offered enough body roll for the tires' contact patch to follow the track and allow for feeling into the steering wheel, but was stiff enough to squash the body roll that negatively affects fast lap times.
4. It looks like nothing else in the high-performance luxury segment: Sharp, angular bodylines are masculine and thought provoking. Guaranteed you would get asked more questions about this Cadillac than any German competitor.
5. It comes with a standard manual transmission with no-lift shift: That’s right, you can shift while keeping the throttle fully pressed down. It’s really only necessary for racetracks where every hundredth of a second counts, but it’s also a really neat party trick. Plus, the Tremec TR6060 manual transmission has been used in everything from Dodge Vipers, Camaros and Corvettes, so you know it’s strong and reliable.
6. Front-mid engine (that’s supercar stuff!): The motor sits so far back in the engine bay that it helps tremendously with the balance of the car by bringing everything towards center mass. This is the same configuration used by many high end supercars such as the Ferrari 599 GTB, Lexus LFA and SLS AMG.
7. Carbon Fiber Package: Along with a standard carbon fiber hood, the Carbon Fiber Package offers functional aerodynamic improvements, but in reality it just looks really aggressive and cements the ATS-V as a performance car not to take lightly. On track, the difference is immediately felt when you’re going 140 mph around a right hand bend and you need the car to stick to the road. If you’re serious about performance, this is a must have option.
8. It’s very fast: With 464 horsepower and 445 lb.-ft of torque, the ATS-V can do the sprint to 60 mph in only 3.8 seconds—with the optional 8-speed automatic—and has a V-max (top speed) of 189 mph. It’s also easy repeatable with the standard launch control, which is available on both automatic and manual transmissions.
9. Performance Data Recorder keeps records of your hero moments: Available as an option, the Performance Data Recorder, or PDR, co-developed with Cosworth Engineering is a game fanboy’s dream. There are multiple parameters it records such as speed, lateral Gs, RPMs, steering angle, track position, and more, even recording it all on a 720p camera. However, we do think it should be standard as 1080p (come on, Cadillac)! Also, make sure you don’t turn the car off before you press stop recording...we found out the hard way.