BY Andrea Brands | Director, Consumer Education and Safety at…
Last week, Cadillac invited local automotive journalists to drive its brand-new ATS Coupe from Georgetown, DC to Middleburg, VA and back. Many in our group were openly bashful about pushing the capable ATS to its limits given the article our colleague had published just one day earlier. But nevertheless, we ventured out to the beautiful roads in the Virginia countryside to experience Cadillac’s latest offering.
The past few years have been important for the luxury domestic brand. Cadillac has launched five new vehicles in two years, and the ATS Coupe makes six. Beyond the products Cadillac has been introducing, the company has also been making strides in areas such as customer service, recently ranking highest among luxury brands for its dealership service experience by J.D. Power.
“Everything we’re doing is intended to expand and elevate the brand,” Hampden Tener, Cadillac Global Marketing Product Director, told an intimate group of auto media.
Sales are also looking up. In 2013, Cadillac sales were up 23 percent in North America and 30 percent globally. The new Escalade seems to be helping those figures continue to grow, according to Tener, who said the large luxury SUV has recently reclaimed its top spot.
The typical Cadillac buyer is changing, too. Tener shared that 17 percent of ATS buyers are new to Cadillac – or “conquest” sales. Twenty percent of ATS buyers are under the age of 35, a definite boost for a brand looking to build customer loyalty early on.
Cadillac is anticipating that the new ATS Coupe will account for about 15 percent of total 2015 ATS sales.
“Coupe buyers tend to be – relative to sedan buyers – a more passionate bunch,” said Tener. “[They are] more focused on personal design, expressive design, and more motivated by performance.”
The ATS is “not just an ATS with two fewer doors” Tener assured us. The hood is the only panel that’s shared between the two cars.
The 2015 ATS Coupe is one inch lower and 1.5 inches wider than its sedan predecessor. Its side-view mirrors are much leaner and sleeker, and it now comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels.
Cadillac introduces 4G LTE, new tech capabilities
Also announced as part of the program, the ATS Coupe will be the first of Cadillac’s vehicles to have 4G LTE. This new service is 100 times faster than the previous OnStar connection and it allows for up to seven devices to be connected in one vehicle. Seven seems like a lot of devices for any vehicle other than the Escalade.
AT&T is the official provider for Cadillac’s 4G service, and it’s yet another example of how the automobile is becoming as technologically important to customers as their smartphones and tablets.
The shift to tech features in our cars that mirror what’s in our hands has encouraged industries that normally would have no need to communicate to work hand-in-hand to deliver on consumers’ demands.
The 2015 ATS Coupe also comes with Apple’s Siri eyes free voice pass-through, text message alerts and wireless charging (for phones that are already capable of inductive charging). Advanced safety tech features such as Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control are helping to keep this Cadillac up to snuff with its current and anticipatory competition.
But how does it fare on the streets?
Now on to the really important stuff. Available with either a 2.0 turbo four cylinder or a 3.6 liter six cylinder, the ATS Coupe is a dream to drive.
We preferred the 2.0T, however, it was difficult to put a finger on why. Perhaps the 2.0T just felt lighter and more energetic to drive than the 3.6 version, but that is not to say that the V6 was sluggish because that’s far from true. Also, a heads up for manual transmission die-hards, the 2.0T is the only option mated with a six-speed manual gearbox.
The ATS Coupe grips the road in tight corners as well as any German competitor (in this case, it looks like GM is aiming directly at BMW’s 4 series). Virginia’s countryside had plenty of twist and turns for us to try our hand at hitting the apex and accelerating swiftly on our way out of curves.
Other aspects that make the new ATS appealing? Remote start, cap-less fueling and heads up display are all new features that can be found on this Cadillac. It’s also available in RWD and AWD combinations, depending on the selected trim level.
The ATS has a sticker price that almost anyone would find attractive. With the 2.0T starting out at $38,000 and the 3.6L topping out around $50,000, this Caddy is competitive. Although, we’d argue that the CLA AMG would still take the cake in the $50,000 bargain department. This compact coupe may have arrived just in time for the rumored Hyundai Genesis Coupe – a likely contender for this segment’s attention (read “single men in their 30’s with a more cash than they used to have”).
Will there be a V-Sport ATS Coupe?
Sources at the event all but confirmed that a V series would be coming for ATS Coupe. “[It has] been a great vehicle for the brand,” said a Cadillac representative. “[It] did well in the luxury coupe market.” The compact coupe market is a larger opportunity for the brand. That fact combined with the ATS weighing hundreds pounds less than the outgoing, larger CTS Coupe explains Cadillac’s pivot.
All in all, the 2015 ATS Coupe is a winner. It looks good, drives well and it performs as a luxury compact coupe should. We can’t wait to see how it does in sales against its stiff competition.
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