2018 Cadillac ATS-V

6.8
2018 Cadillac ATS-V

The Basics:

The 2018 Cadillac ATS-V is proof that Detroit can build a sport luxury compact car—provided you can catch up to one.

A sports car with a more practical body, the 2018 Cadillac ATS-V represents American engineering at its very best.

It more than holds its own as a direct rival to German heavyweights like the BMW M3 and M4 and the Mercedes-AMG C63, easily earning a 7.4 on our scale thanks largely to its ride-and-handling balance and its livability. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Changes for 2018 are minimal; a new paint color and some updates to the car's Cadillac User Experience infotainment system should make it a little more intuitive and quick-responding. 

The Cadillac ATS-V is based on the already zippy 2018 Cadillac ATS and, like the more pedestrian model, it's offered as a two-door coupe and a four-door sedan. But look closely and the ATS-V delivers a more distinct visual presence with its athletic and sinewy looks and its muscular domed hood. Its widened fenders and aero-oriented body kit set it apart even further. Sporty optional Recaro seats inside complete the look with a dash of function. To say the least, the ATS-V is far removed from Cadillac's last Eldorados. 

There's plenty of muscle under the ATS-V's hood to back up its looks: a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 checking in with 464 horsepower and a broadly spread 445 pound-feet of torque. All that power goes to the rear wheels via a choice of a 8-speed automatic or—enthusiasts, rejoice!—a 6-speed manual.

All-in, it's a hoot to drive, but also remarkably refined. It's a German luxury sedan done as only Detroit can do—and in so many ways, it outclasses its competition. 

With the ATS-V, Cadillac has given the fairly pedestrian ATS looks to match its power. We've given it a couple of points above average here, bringing it to an 8 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With the coupe and sedan have their own front and rear fascias, something we have come to expect from sporty models. But what's really different here is that they also have widened fenders that provide more presence. An aero-oriented body kit delivers an even more enhanced look matched by the big 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in performance rubber.

Inside, the immediately difference is the pair of Recaro thrones for front seat occupants, but look closely and you'll find unique trim bits as well. 

The 2018 Cadillac ATS-V's V-6 doesn't share much in common with any engine found in the ATS.

That's fine with us, since the ATS-V delivers blisteringly fast acceleration—and it has a chassis to match. We've rated it a few points above average for its strong V-6, its excellent transmissions, its good steering feel, and, of course, its fun-to-drive nature. That makes it a 9 out of 10 in our eyes. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Beneath its angular lines lie structural enhancements that build on the standard ATS to aid stiffness. There's a brace that runs from the shock towers to the plenum, a stiffer rocker bulkhead, upgraded subframe braces, and more underhood bracing. 

The heart of this beast its its twin-turbo, 3.6-liter V-6, rated at 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. It delivers strong acceleration from any speed, with a pleasant growl to match its 3.8-second 0-60 mph sprint. Of course, the ATS-V makes the most of its power with a balanced chassis and excellent steering feel. Its 6-speed manual is a joy to row through its gate, but the 8-speed automatic option operates almost telepathically. We're traditionalists and will stick with the, well, stick, but the automatic is hardly a compromise here. 

Underneath, the ATS-V makes use of a specially tuned sport suspension with magnetic dampers that react rapidly to road surface changes. 

A full complement of performance tech is onboard: launch control, Brembo brakes, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, and an electronic limited-slip rear differential. For those who want a little more, the Performance Package includes weight-saving (and downright cool looking) carbon fiber exterior trim plus a performance data recording system that utilizes a camera and numerous sensors to let drivers review their track experience at a later date.

The data recorder and the magnetic dampers are trickle-down tech from the Chevy Corvette, and that's all right with us. 

Building on the already luxurious interior of a well-equipped 2018 Cadillac ATS, the ATS-V adds in some nice styling upgrades for a more upmarket feel.

No, it's not especially quiet, but it is very refined for a sports sedan and coupe. We've given it points above average for its nice materials and its comfy front seats, bringing it to a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Those front seats are grippy enough in the base model, but opt for the available Recaro-branded seats and you're practically in a race car. Unlike some Recaro thrones, those in the ATS-V aren't too confining for a wide range of bodies. The back seat, on the other hand, remains just as cramped here as in the base ATS. And the problems are really compounded with the coupe, but that's what you get with two-doors. 

On the materials front, what few cheap-o plastics are fitted are a challenge to find. Our only real caveat is that black is the only interior option—and it can feel a little coal mine-like on a long drive. 

 

 

Though the 2018 Cadillac ATS-V hasn't been crash-tested, its structure and design essentially mirror the highly rated Cadillac ATS. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

That model has aced the federal government's crash test, but it has not yet been evaluated by the IIHS. A Safety and Security option package adds forward collision alert, active lane control, lane departure warnings, and automatic high beams, but automatic emergency braking isn't on the options list here. 

The 2018 Cadillac ATS-V builds on the automaker's already well-equipped ATS with a few performance-oriented features. It's not cheap, but it does undercut its German rivals and there's no silly, six-figure version for those who need ultra bragging rights. We've scored it an 8 out of 10 for its high feature count, its feature-packed infotainment system, and a few nice packages that allow users to tailor their ATS-V. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

An updated version of the brand's CUE infotainment is standard and it includes Apple CarPlay. GM's OnStar system with its 4G LTE antenna and wi-fi hotspot stand out, too. CUE isn't always as intuitive as we might like, but recent improvements have continued to make it better. Just don't compare a 2018 ATS-V to models that are a few years old. 

A number of packages are on offer, our favorite of which is the admittedly pricey Carbon Black group. It adds some classy carbon fiber styling bits, a suede steering wheel and gear lever, and Recaro seats. 

Fuel efficiency isn't a top priority for people interested in a sporty sedan, but the ATS-V isn't all that thirsty given its underhood power. 

We've rated it a 5 for its fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With the standard 6-speed manual, it is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined. Pick the 8-speed automatic and you'll find a slight change to 17/25/20 mpg. 

 

Buying Tips:

Don't discount the 8-speed automatic transmission option on the Cadillac ATS-V; it shifts far faster than a human can.

Other Choices:

  • 2018 BMW M3
  • 2018 BMW M4
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz C Class
  • 2018 Lexus RC F

Reason Why:

Cadillac is a legitimate world stage competitor these days, with the ATS-V waving the stars and stripes better than just about anything else. It offers a more raw and fun driving experience than the BMW M3 and M4, albeit without quite as much rear seat room. The Mercedes-AMG C63 offers up its own virtues, like an attractive style and a strong engine—but it doesn't deliver the ATS-V's telepathic steering. We're surprised with how much we like the aggressive Lexus RC F, but its looks aren't for everyone... and it's only offered as a cramped two-door coupe.

The Bottom Line:

A sports car with a more practical body, the 2018 Cadillac ATS-V represents American engineering at its very best.

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