The Phantom Gray 2017 Cadillac ATS Premium Performance model you see here has all the right stuff to be a world-class sports sedan: a solid, lightweight platform; rear-wheel drive; a high-revving 3.6-liter V-6 with 335 naturally aspirated horsepower; a snappy eight-speed automatic transmission; adaptive, adjustable magnetorheological dampers; a limited-slip differential; and staggered-width summer tires. Stir in options such as the V-Sport red-painted Brembo calipers with slotted rotors and upgraded pads, performance exhaust, a sport suspension upgrade, and an interior richer than a Parisian house of ill repute, and we’ve got ourselves a four-door Chevy Camaro V-6 in a Hugo Boss suit.
Or at least that’s what it should have been. Despite that impressive arsenal of equipment, this Cadillac turned in a rather mediocre performance. Not what we expected from a car that seemed to be just a pair of turbochargers and a brace of Recaro seats away from being an ATS-V.
Now in its fifth year of production, the ATS has evolved too little where it counts. At the time of its introduction, its Alpha rear-drive platform and optimized suspension geometry raised the standard for compact-luxury-sedan handling, and we said as much in a comparison test between the 2013 ATS and its performance bogey, the BMW 328i. Despite the Caddy’s tremendous cornering acumen—which it possesses to this day—it lost that comparison test between the turbocharged four-cylinder models. In 2013, the 3.6-liter V-6 version came in third in a three-way comparison against the BMW 335i and the Lexus IS350 F Sport. Why? Because there’s more to a luxury sports sedan than its ability to ride and handle.
For starters, there’s the powertrain. Since we first tested a 2013 ATS 3.6 sedan with its six-speed automatic transmission, both its 3.6-liter V-6 and the gearbox have been replaced. With 335 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 285 lb-ft of torque at 5300 rpm, the new 3.6-liter makes 14 hp and 10 lb-ft of torque more than did its similarly sized predecessor, and with eight speeds rather than six, the new transmission—in theory—should be able to make the most of its enhanced output. Yet, this car needed 5.6 seconds to get to 60 mph, 0.2 second behind the 2013 model. The same gap is found at the quarter-mile mark, which the eight-speed ATS hit in 14.2 seconds at 100 mph. Perhaps more worrisome: Its zero-to-60-mph time was also 0.2 second slower than the ATS 2.0T AWD we tested last year, a car that weighed nine pounds more than this one. The eight-speed, it appears, has been geared and calibrated with far more interest in fuel economy than in performance. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Steve Siler
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