- Powerful turbocharged engines
- Crisp, responsive handling
- Smart exterior design
- Tiny trunk
- Snug back seat
- Loses some of the Art & Science edge
- Coupe design not as dramatic is it might have been
The 2016 Cadillac ATS meets all the benchmarks for performance, features, and driving dynamics, and it somehow emerges to market with a little more soul than most of its key rivals.
The 2016 Cadillac ATS is the real thing—a sport sedan with the sort of performance credentials and bragging rights that those shopping in this category seek, even if they're not going to exploit those capabilities on the commute.
The ATS gets Cadillac's foot in the door, so to speak, in a category where it's long aspired and then stumbled. This time, thankfully, it really doesn't need any excuses.
This year the ATS gets a new high-performance V-Series variant—powered by a twin-turbocharged V-6 making 464 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque and capable of getting to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds or a top speed of 189 mph. Realistically, the type of shopper who considers an ATS-V is quite different (and flush, perhaps), so we've done separate 2016 Cadillac ATS-V review pages.
The ATS remains offered in two body styles: a four-door sedan, and an ATS Coupe that actually boasts completely different sheet metal and is somewhat shorter.
Distilled to the core, the ATS design seems to grab the gist of Cadillac's chiseled-yet-sandblasted "Art & Science" exterior design and combine it with wider-spectrum appeal. At once, the ATS is striking and non-controversial, and with its crisp lines meeting elemental proportions in a way that reaches a broad range of people, it's almost universally handsome. Inside, the look is a little lower and more relaxed relative to last-generation Cadillacs, with warm, eye-pleasing materials punctuating a modern layout.
Three main engine choices are available in the 2015 Cadillac ATS: a base 2.5-liter inline-4; a 272-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4; and a 3.6-liter V-6. The big news for 2016, other than the "V," is that the 3.6-liter has been fully reworked and re-engineered with several fuel-saving technologies; yet it produces a higher-than-before rating of 333 hp. Additionally, the 2.0T gets engine stop-start technology this year. The base engine isn't available if you're considering the ATS Coupe. But in all cases, you can choose between a 6-speed manual and 8-speed automatic transmission, and between rear- and all-wheel drive.
ATS cabins are stunning, even when you don't option them up with the premium trims. But when you do, you get wood, leather, and metal at nearly every touchpoint, with fine detail for every design cue. In front you get great sport bucket seats, which offer a great mix of long-distance comfort and support for spirited driving, while there's actually plenty of headroom and legroom for taller drivers. The trunk is definitely on the small side, even within this class, but the back seat is as snug as you might expect here, given the rather compact exterior.
The 2016 ATS includes a full set of standard airbags, eight in total, including front knee airbags. Rear side airbags are an available extra. Available safety technology includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and a rearview camera. So far, federal crash-test ratings are in, and they're spectacularly good. With the optional Driver Awareness Package, which includes forward collision warning, the ATS earns the top IIHS "Superior" rating for front crash prevention. Additionally, Cadillac has upgraded some of the ATS's active-safety packages this year.
Base 2016 Cadillac ATS models start out simply as extremely well-equipped, comfortable sedans, but through a long and intricate series of packages and a la carte upgrades you can take this sedan or coupe well into high-tech luxury territory. This year Cadillac has added Apple CarPlay capability and has claimed to have improved performance of CUE infotainment system—one that we're not quite as delighted in as we used to be, as we've been in a few models with laggy responses and unreliable voice controls. Yet this can be a remarkably full-featured system—one with navigation; expanded media connectivity including USB, SD and Bluetooth audio streaming; wireless phone charging; and wi-fi hotspot capability.
The most efficient version of the 2016 ATS is the rear-drive base model powered by the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 8-speed automatic transmission. This combination scores 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined, according to the EPA.
The four-cylinder turbocharged ATS is not far behind when equipped with the 8-speed auto, scoring 22/31/26 mpg. With the manual transmission, the four-cylinder turbo model rates 20/29/23 mpg combined. The turbocharged 2.0-liter models with all-wheel drive return 22/30/25 mpg.