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Auto review: Stylish 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe an alluring ride

Detroit Free Press
2015 Cadillac ATS coupe is an affordable sport-minded coupe with good looks and better handling.

The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe makes enthusiastic driving irresistibly easy. Its sharp handling, sticky tires and suspension beg you to take each corner just a little faster. A low-slung, forward-leaning body completes the picture of a luxury car built to go fast and look good at any speed.

The ATS coupe is 1.1 inches lower and 1.4 inches wider than the ATS sedan. Surprisingly, it's also 0.6 inch longer, but don't expect that to translate into addition passenger or luggage room. The ATS coupe is about style, not practicality.

The coupe shares most of its systems with the ATS sedan, but nearly every exterior panel is unique to the slick two-door. The coupe's wider track, lower center of gravity and revised steering all contribute to handling that seems to anticipate the driver's desires. Upgrades to the electric power steering help with a broader range of assist at different speeds.

Prices start at $37,995 for a rear-drive ATS coupe with a 272-hp 2.0-liter engine. All-wheel-drive raises the starting price to $40,445. A 321-hp 3.6-liter V6 is available for $45,145 in RWD and $47,750 with AWD. All ATS coupes have a six-speed automatic transmission.

I tested a top-of-the-line V6 rear-drive ATS coupe with the performance trim package. It stickered at $50,190. All prices exclude destination charges.

My test car had leather seats, Bose audio, navigation, Bluetooth audio and phone compatibility. Safety features included parking assist, backup camera, hill start assist, and unusually assertive lane-departure prevention. I was disappointed it lacked blind-spot alert, which eases the stress of changing lanes.

The ATS coupe competes with such cars as the Audi S5, BMW 435i, Infiniti Q60, Lexus RC 350 and Mercedes-Benz E400. The ATS' price, features and accommodations compare favorably to those cars.

The 3.6-liter V6 delivers satisfying acceleration around town and on the highway. The ATS' 5.5-second 0-60 mph time trails the Audi and BMW. It beats the new Lexus RC. Infiniti and Mercedes don't report 0-60 times for the Q60 and E400.

The ATS compensates by running fine on regular fuel for significant savings versus most of its premium-burning competitors. The EPA rated the 3.6-liter rear-drive ATS at 18 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 22 in combined driving. The combined figure beats the S5, the only all-wheel-drive car in the set. The ATS' combined rating trails the Q60 and RC 350, but EPA predicts its annual fuel bill will be lower. The BMW's 25 mpg combined rating is high enough that owners should save money in spite of using premium fuel. The EPA hasn't rated the E400's fuel consumption yet.

The ATS' fuel economy and acceleration should improve when it gets GM's new eight-speed automatic transmission, but that won't be for awhile.

The front seat provides surprising head and leg room, but not a lot of storage for phones, iPods, sunglasses and the like. My car featured a hand-stitched dash and beautiful high-gloss brown sapele wood with black highlights.

The rear seat is a head injury waiting to happen. The roof line is so low that passengers should wear a bicycle helmet and sign a waiver of liability before entering.

My car had only one 12-volt outlet, but included an optional 110-volt socket.

Cadillac's CUE flat panel controls for audio, climate, navigation and other functions would benefit from a more responsive touch screen and the addition of buttons and switches for frequently used functions like volume, tuning, temperature and fan speed.

GM's excellent voice recognition mitigates CUE's failings by encouraging spoken commands for the nav system and phone calls.

The 4G LTE data connection was easy to use and provided a strong signal for Internet connections and new features from GM's OnStar service.

Practical considerations like that matter even in a car driven by style, but the ATS coupe's looks and handling are the reasons it's a welcome addition to Cadillac's lineup.


BEHIND THE WHEEL

2015 Cadillac ATS 3.6L Prestige

Four-passenger luxury coupe

Price as tested: $50,190 (excluding destination charge)

Rating: 3 (Out of four stars)

Reasons to buy: Looks; performance; voice recognition; built-in 4G hot spot

Shortcomings: Cramped rear seat; controls; no blind spot alert; glitch in audio display

COMPETITIVE EPA FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS

(Automatic transmission, rear-drive unless otherwise noted)

2015 Cadillac ATS coupe 3.6L Performance: 18 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined. Regular gasoline.

Audi S5 Quattro AWD: 18/28/21. Premium gasoline.

BMW 435i: 22/32/25. Premium gasoline.

Infiniti Q60 IPL: 19/27/22. Premium gasoline.

Lexus RC 350: 19/28/22. Premium gasoline.

Source: http://www.fueleconomy.gov

COMPARATIVE BASE PRICES (EXCLUDING DESTINATION CHARGES)

(Automatic transmission models, rear-drive unless otherwise noted)

2015 Cadillac ATS coupe 3.6L Performance: $48,165

Audi S5 Quattro AWD: $53,900

BMW 435i: $46,100

Infiniti Q60 IPL: $53,650

Lexus RC 350: $42,790

Mercedes-Benz E400: $53,350

Source: Autotrader.com, Edmunds.com

SPECIFICATIONS AS TESTED

Engine: 3.6L 24-valve V6

Power: 321 hp @ 6,800 rpm; 275 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic


ABOUT THE WRITER

Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelan@freepress.com.

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