Cnet: Cadillac ATS-V vs. BMW M3 vs. Mercedes-AMG C63


Staff Team
First place: Cadillac ATS-V

Put down those pitchforks, German car fans. We're not simply handing the $70,000 ATS-V the championship belt because it's the cheapest car in this test. Not even because it's got the snarliest, most distinctive, and most "of the moment" appearance. The Cadillac is taking the win because it possesses the chassis that proved most at home when the pavement took a turn for the tight and interesting, whether on public roads or at MIS.

After decades of siring offspring with real weight problems, General Motors -- and in particular, Cadillac -- has finally learned the merits of both a proper diet and of splurging to keep weight in the right places. The ATS-V weighs 3,700 pounds -- not quite as light as the M3, but definitely less rotund than the 3,935-pound Benz. What's more, it possesses a near-perfect 51/49 front-to-rear weight balance.
The Caddy is the easiest to hustle confidently down an unfamiliar road.

Couple those realities with the tidiest overall dimensions here, and you're left with the chassis that's most eager to dive into corners and the one that feels most settled in quick transitional moments. That's in part because the ATS-V has the tightest wheelbase and in part because it has the best road feel through its steering wheel and optional Recaro seats ($2,300). This, and our tester didn't even have the optional downforce-producing aero kit.

The Caddy accomplishes all this without beating up the driver, too. Credit the ATS-V's magnetic ride control suspension, which feels both quicker to adjust and in possession of a wider bandwidth between touring comfort and sporty firmness, regardless of what mode the suspension is set in.

Despite not having any MSRP-bloating carbon ceramic rotors (and having the smallest discs here), the steel brakes on our test car performed beautifully and predictably, with superior feel.

The 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6's 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque is perfectly flexible, and the direct Tremec six-speed manual is matched by a nicely weighted clutch (an eight-speed automatic is optional) and aided by a flat-shift system, which lets you keep your right foot to the floor while banging the thing into the next gear. Cadillac says 0-to-60 hits in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 189 mph, claims that feel believable.

Simply put, between its on-point suspension, slim dimensions, direct steering and willing powertrain, the Caddy is the easiest to hustle confidently down an unfamiliar road or piece of racetrack.

That tidiness of footprint does the Caddy few favors inside, however, where it offers the most cramped cabin -- particularly in the back seat. Even in dimensions where the cabin isn't the tightest, it feels it, because high beltline and fast windshield rake combine to make it somewhat claustrophobic, especially in the funereal black of our test car. None of these cars offers particularly spacious rear quarters, but the Cadillac is definitely the runt of the litter.

In fact, it's the ATS-V's cockpit that's the biggest disappointment in the whole car -- it's simply not up to the aesthetic or hardware standards of the BMW, let alone those of the Benz. Its angular presentation feels like it's trying too hard and the plastics, as well as general fit and finish, are noticeably inferior. After our years of ranting, it should surprise absolutely no one that the Caddy's CUE system is the worst infotainment experience here by a country mile. Oh, it's quicker than it used to be, but it's still slow and doesn't look as good as the Germans'. Plus, the capacitive-touch switchgear below it for certain HVAC and audio functions is utterly dreadful. Stearne pronounced the entire cabin would be "a complete miss," if it weren't for its high feature count at such a low price.

Among other things, our tester included a head-up display, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a hidden inductive phone charging, Recaro seats, the car's surprise-and-delight Performance Data Recorder System ($1,300), and a host of well-done optional active safety features. That's all for an as-delivered price of $70,405 -- over $10,000 cheaper than the Bimmer and over $20,000 less than the Merc. This, for a car that was better to drive, particularly on the track, where it offers five separate track modes for you to switch between to suit your grip levels. And your confidence.
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