When we tested the compact-size Cadillac ATS in 2013, we gave it a thumbs up for its agile handling and fun-to-drive character. It reminded us of a previous-generation BMW 3 Series, the car that practically wrote the sports-sedan recipe book.

Of course, it was just a matter of time before the ATS headed into the Cadillac performance skunkworks. In a world with BMW's M division and Mercedes-Benz's in-house AMG boutique, not to mention the suffix-laden performance groups of nearly every other manufacturer, we all expected an ATS-V. And when it arrived at our doorstep, we liked what we saw. And felt. And heard.

Needless to say, we’ve spent a couple of weeks enjoying the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, which we rented from GM. Refreshingly, it's available with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic, and in sedan and coupe body styles. Prices start at $61,460 for the sedan, $63,660 for the coupe. Power comes from a 3.6-liter, twin-turbo V6 rated at 464 horsepower. The sedan we sampled included the Track Performance Package and automatic, pushing the sticker price to just over $70,000.




With its punchy performance, athletic moves, and invigorating sound, the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V always left a smile on our faces, whether whipping around our track or taking a discrete prowl in the country.

If you didn’t know better, you'd swear a V8 lurked under the vented hood. The turbo V6 almost feels and sounds like a big eight, and the car launches as if shot from a cannon. Smooth, linear power flows effortlessly to the rear wheels with a deep, warm, and melodic soundtrack exiting from the dual exhaust. Selecting the Sport or Track modes enhances the aural pleasure, thanks to the “engine sound enhancement” coming into play with its more manly sound effects.

The eight-speed automatic is a triumph, passing the baton from one ratio to the next seamlessly and quickly. You can choose between Tour, Sport, and Track modes, with each upping the ante in shift ferocity and throttle response. Track mode holds you in a lower gear, yet when it anticipates corners due to hard braking, it bangs off rapid-fire downshifts. It also allows some wheel spin and the stability control becomes a less-strict nanny, allowing for some play on the track. GM claims a 3.8-second 0-60 mph sprint. Even if the time proves to be in the low-4-second range, that would put the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V in Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911 territory, let alone the BMW M3/M4 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

Handling is nimble with pinpoint road carving and practically zero body roll in corners. The electric steering is quick and transmits some actual feedback, which is rare these days. Ride motions are quick and short but no impact is too objectionable. But don't think this is a sports-sedan bully that beats you up. It’s more civil than that; it is actually pretty easy on your bones and kidneys. Even the middle-aged men among us wouldn’t mind commuting in the ATS-V as a daily driver—and that speaks volumes. Noise isolation is quite decent, yet the music from the engine isn't dulled at all.

The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V we sampled was swathed in grippy synthetic suede, including on the steering wheel and the deeply sculpted and firmly bolstered Recaro seats. One of our drivers found these optional buckets a bit restrictive, and for most people getting in and out of the low-slung sedan might take some acrobatics.

The only universal complaint centered on the frustrating CUE infotainment system, which is overly dazzling and too distracting. Rather than intuitively seeing to your needs, it assaults and overloads your senses. And like the regular ATS sedan, the backseat is pretty tight even for occasional use.

While it makes for great marketing to talk about being developed on the Nürburgring and having a racing pedigree, Cadillac realizes that credibility in high-performance sports-sedan circles comes by competing with the Germans on equal footing. That may take time and commitment . . . and there’s no guarantee it’ll happen. But the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V proves that a homegrown American can indeed play on the same strabe as the Germans and give up nothing in muscle, agility, and finesse.