The first time I got behind the wheel of a Cadillac ATS-V was on a brutally hot summer day at Willow Springs Raceway. I vividly remember running my hands over the alcantara wrapped steering wheel, adjusting the Recaro seat, and gripping the alcantara wrapped shift knob in anticipation of being given the green light to launch. The desert air was thick with the smell of fuel and rubber, it swirled around the cabin, and mixed with the sweat that ran down my temple inside my full face helmet. It was an intense day of track driving, but the ATS-V was a willing and able companion throughout, and I walked away thoroughly impressed by the capability.
Nearly 3 years have passed since that day and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the ATS-V out in the real world, I even drove one around Europe for a week. You might imagine that I would have developed some sort of bond with the car at this point, but oddly enough, each time I get into an ATS-V it’s like I’m doing it for the first time. I run my hands over the alcantara wheel and shift knob, do my best to get a comfortable driving position dialed in and then I look around the cabin and without fail, let out a deep SIGH.
Unless you are utilizing the remarkably good chassis and powertrain at a track, or at the very least on some spectacular public roads, you will become painfully aware at Cadillac forgot to save development funds for the interior. This has been the glaring fault with the ATS-V since people first got a peek inside; how Cadillac has let this slide for the past 3 years I do not know. The bargain basement gauge cluster, the number of panels that don’t fit tightly, CUE, the fact that it is difficult for a 5’10 155lb person to get in and out of the car, these should be deal breakers.
But, they aren’t because you can have the ATS-V as a sedan with a six-speed manual. Yes, an actual American four door with 464-horsepower and 445 lb-ft torque that you can buy new in 2017 with not two, but three pedals. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only way to get the ATS-V. The sedan wears the sharp Cadillac design language much better than the coupe, which looks too skinny and too long. The four door ATS-V has a commanding presence from any angle and the new for 2017 “Carbon Black Package” only adds to the badass look.
The $7,800 option includes, you guessed it, the Carbon Fiber Package that adds a carbon fiber hood vent, large front splitter and rear diffuser, composite rocker panel extensions and a body colored spoiler that wouldn’t look out of place on a race car. Additionally you get low gloss carbon fiber interior trim that features one of the prettier weaves I’ve seen lately, Recaro front seats, the aforementioned alcantara steering wheel and shift knob, black chrome accented grille and rear fascia applique, and of course “After-Midnight” dark finish 18” inch wheels. That’s a healthy amount of stuff for $7,800, but the wheels should be 19” and if you’re going to do a black chrome grille, you really ought to do all the badges in black chrome as well.
The loaner I spent a week with was covered in a bright shade of red that Cadillac calls “Velocity Red”, but could just as easily have called “Hello Officer Red”. I’m usually not one for red vehicles unless they’re old and Italian, but combined with the Carbon Black Package, I found the red paint rather enjoyable on the ATS-V, especially with the optional Dark Gold Brembo brake calipers that it was equipped with.
People seemed to share my sentiment too, as everywhere I went the ATS-V turned heads, garnered thumbs up, and brought folks wandering across parking lots to have a closer look. There is no denying that the design language is aging well, the car looks just as fresh today as it did when it debuted. One of the best qualities that the ATS-V possesses is that there is no mistaking it for anything other than a Cadillac. On top of that, the scarcity of hot rodded sedans available with 3 pedals adds to the cool factor. If you want a car that can handle daily driver and track duties, and has a manual transmission, your options are an ATS-V or an M3.
Hard to believe that it’s even a question of which way to go, and harder still that I would say ATS-V. I own a BMW, I’m a longtime fan of the brand, but the current M3 just doesn’t do it for me. It’s much better looking than the M4, that’s for sure, but I’ll take the muscular angles and edges of the ATS-V over the doughy-ness of the M3 anyday.
Even though the interior of the M3 is much, much, nicer than that of the ATS-V, and the M3 has a better exhaust note, I’m still drawn to the Cadillac. Yeah, I’ll always be annoyed that I can barely fit my hand between the door panel and the thigh bolster to reach the seat adjustments, and the flimsy center armrest cover will constantly remind me that interior quality was an afterthought.
Those things fade away as soon as you’re rowing through the notchy gearbox, utilizing the no-lift-shift feature which allows you to keep your foot down the whole time. A gimmick, yes, but a wholly enjoyable one that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Just another example of how far Cadillac engineers went to make sure that every ounce of performance the ATS-V has to offer can be enjoyed by anyone who hops behind the wheel. Oh, and to help you get the most out of your ATS-V, Cadillac has included 2 days at the V-Performance Training center at Spring Mountain Resort near Las Vegas in the purchase price. All you need to take care of is air fare and Cadillac will handle the rest. It’s a nice attempt to help that $77,085 pill go down smoothly and having taken part in other Cadillac track day events, I imagine that it does the trick. After all, out on the track is where the ATS-V truly shines, so if you’re considering purchasing one, ponying up for the flight to Vegas is a no brainer.
Of course, you could also make mission out of it and drive your ATS-V there. Your butt will get numb, you’ll find yourself constantly cursing at CUE, and you might put a blank piece of paper over the gauge cluster and just use the heads up display to monitor your speed, but aside from that, you’ll have a blast. You might find yourself throwing caution out the window on long straightaways in the desert or admiring the car at dusk with a few new friends. You will come away with a better understanding of what’s attractive about the car, that much I can guarantee. Whether it’s enough to create a deep and lasting bond, that’s entirely up to you.
- 2017 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan “Carbon Black”
- Ext: Velocity Red
- Int: Jet Black
- Base Price $60,695
- Price As Tested $77,085
- Carbon Black Package $7,800
- Luxury Package $2,500
- Safety & Security Package $1,850
- Performance Data Recorder $1,600
- Sunroof $1,050
- Dark Gold Brembo Calipers $595
All photos and content courtest Andrew Maness, who is a creative type who is especially good with words, photography, and video. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @theroadlessdriven on Instagram.