It’s 10:00 AM on a Friday morning – the worst time of the day. There are six hours to go before the weekend arrives. The doughnuts are gone. Here in the GTSpirit office, I’m absently staring out the window at the glorious day outside. Frankly, I am bored out of my mind. The only two cars in the GTSpirit parking lot are a Kia Somethingorother and a Toyota Snoozefest. Sigh. If people only understood how dull it was sometimes being an automotive journalist, they’d stop begging me to trade jobs with them.
The boredom was pushing me to consider actually taking one of the two Dullsmobiles out for a drive, maybe grab an early lunch somewhere decent. Which one though? I was debating which was less hazardous to my eternal soul when a black angular blur suddenly flashed into view, braked, and gracefully pulled into our lot. Hullo. What’s this? It had an angular boxiness to it but it also had some promising muscular curvature to it too. Ah! A Cadillac ATS-V. This was a welcome arrival. I’d seen them at the auto shows of course, drooled on them a bit, flirted with the product specialist, been asked to please leave the display if I was going to drool on the displayed product and not leave the product specialists alone, and have long lusted for the opportunity to drive one. Hmmm. Maybe…. I grabbed the phone and dialed our office manager.
“Cheryl – Are we expecting anything to be delivered today?”
“Is your article done yet?” she asked.
“Almost,” I lied.
“There’s a Cadillac arriving sometime this morning, but it’s for Earl. He’s flying in special to collect it for an article.”
Of course. Earl always gets the good cars. I was about to hang up the phone when an idea struck me. An admittedly underhanded but singularly brilliant idea. “Say Cheryl, can I ask a favor of you, please?”
There was an uncomfortable silence from the other end of the phone. “What is it?” she asked cautiously.
“I’ve been downstairs looking for a file in the archives but I can’t find it. Is there any chance you could see if you could find it? It’s about, uh,” I racked my brain. “the Nissan Figaro.”
“Fine,” she sighed. “If it’ll help you finish that article.”
“You’re a peach, Cheryl. I owe you one.”
“You owe me a hell of a lot more than—“
I hung up the phone on her and headed down the hall to her reception desk. By the time I got there, she was gone. She must have already headed for the archives. I slid into the chair just as a delivery driver opened the front door.
“Hey, I’ve got a 2019 Cadillac ATS-V here for-“
“I’ll take it.”
He looked around suspiciously. “Where’s Cheryl?”
“She’s, uh, out. I’m filling in. Where do I sign for it?”
“Your name isn’t Steve, is it?”
“Well, Cheryl told me never to leave keys with a guy named Steve.”
“Well, you’re in luck. My name is Earl.”
“Ah! Perfect! You’re actually who the car is for. Sign here please.”
I swished something illegible with a pen. Possibly on the line labeled “Signature.” It was hard to tell. The print was small and in English.
“Great. Thanks. Here’s the fob,” the driver said, thrusting a shiny black fob at me. “Enjoy!”
I felt a bit guilty for lying. But only a little bit. And after following the guy outside and walking around the ATS-V, even that little bit of guilt left me. It exuded awesomeness. Long, low, and angular, with muscular bulges in the sheetmetal, the ATS-V Coupe looks like an impossibly gorgeous missile. Along the base of the deep front air dam is the most beautiful carbon fiber splitter I’ve ever laid eyes on. Every line on the front of the car looks knife-sharp, designed to cut an ATS-V-sized hole through the air. The grille looks like stainless steel fencing designed by the Trump Administration to use along the southern border. And maybe the Canadian one too. It looks like it would keep anything from getting through to the large radiator and intercoolers behind it. The bulge in the hood hinted at great power and the beautiful carbon fiber pass-through vent fins confirmed it. The sharply creased lines of the body, like the sharply creased lines on an expensive men’s suit, give it a powerful, stylish look. Perched on the trunk is the tallest, sharpest duck-tail spoiler this side of a NASCAR racer. The brake disks are enormous and massive gold Brembo calipers straddle them. No lie, the thing looks built for speed.
I unlock the door with the fob. Inside, the first thing you notice are the incredible Recaro leather and microfiber seats. They’re heavily bolstered to keep you in place and there are openings in the seat backs for racing harnesses. NOW we’re talking. They look so comfortable, I have to try them out. I just HAVE to. I slip into the driver’s seat. The bolsters aren’t difficult to get over, which is good. Oh, this feels nice! They really hug you and hold you in place nicely. Let’s see how it feels with the seat belt on. Mmmm. Better. Yeah. Close the door now. Quiet. Perfect. I like it. I look around the cabin. Lots of rich dark grey leather and chrome bezels throughout. No distractions. Dark “piano black” plastic adorned with chrome buttons dominate the center console and shifter surround.
Hey! Hold the call! Is than an honest-to-God six-speed manual shifter?! It is! On the floor is a third pedal too. Excitement began welling in my gut. That was it. My fate was sealed. I had to drive this car, all consequences be damned. Be it Earl’s furious (and righteous) anger, or Cheryl’s disapproving head-shake and frown, I was going to drive this car today. I begin adjusting my mirrors, and as I do, there comes a tapping on the window glass.
Cheryl. And she looks mad. How had she found that information on the Nissan Figaro already? I didn’t even think there was any information on the Nissan Figaro in the archives. “Steve! What are you doing? This car is for Earl. I need the keys. Right now!”
Where are the door lock buttons? Ah. CLICK.
She starts jiggling the door handle. “Steve! You need to open this door NOW. Do you hear me? NOW.”
I slowly run my finger up the smooth, rich leather on the center console and find a black-chrome button labeled “Engine Start/Stop.” My finger flinches, pushing it, holding it in while the engine whirres and rumbles to life. As it does, a part of my soul whirres and rumbles to life with it.
I look up and squint at her through the window, feigning confusion. I rev the engine a bit, and wave my hand near my ear to indicate that I can’t hear her, and shrug. Obviously communication is hopeless at this point. Also it is lunch time. I slip the shifter into first, ease on the throttle and slowly let out the clutch. The car starts rolling so I grab second and head quickly for the exit. In my rearview mirror, I see Cheryl stomp her foot and glare at me. This isn’t right. I should do the right thing. The noble thing. I rev the engine to 2000 rpms, dump the clutch, and rocket out of the parking lot and up the road.
And did I rocket! The ATS-V effortlessly launches us up to just shy of 100 mph, it’s engine sounding like a V8. Whoa! Back down, girl. Back down. This thing has some power! 464 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque, to be precise. It’s powered by a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 that doesn’t feel like any V6 from General Motors that I’ve ever driven before. It’s smooth, incredibly strong, and rev’s much higher than I expected. It begs to be revved. The turbos give its acceleration a wickedly fast feel. All that torquey power is directed through the six-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels. The differential is an electronic locking type and works with Cadillac’s StabiliTrak system to provide the fastest and safest acceleration and handling possible. So far, I’m impressed.
As I downshift and tap the brakes for the turn onto the freeway entrance ramp, I note that the car feels remarkably free of body roll. Right off the bat, I suspect it has magnetic ride-control suspension dampers, which are a big part of Cadillac’s StabiliTrak system. When I hit a large pot hole and don’t feel much, I know it does. This system is amazing. It wowed me when I drove the Corvette Z06 convertible a few years ago and again more recently when I drove a Cadillac CT6 Platinum. It’s utterly sublime. It gives you all the benefits of a good suspension without any negatives. It’s always luxurious, sporting, absorbing, and capable, no matter what you’re doing. It can adjust the firmness something like once every milli-second based on speed, handling, steering, driving mode…just incredible. What mode am I in, anyway? Down by the shifter I locate a Mode button and press it. A display appears in the instrument cluster. I switch it from “Normal” to “Sport.” That’s better. It looks like there’s also “Race” and “Eco.” We’ll try those later. Let’s spend some time in “Sport.”
I easily merge with freeway traffic and settle in. Where should I go for lunch today? I mull a few options before deciding to drive to a town almost two hours away. I should be good and hungry by the time I get there and I might even know what I want to eat by then. But for now, we drive.
I check traffic, move over into the faster lane, downshift, and nail the throttle again. The ATS-V roars and rips up the road, racing past slower traffic. It quickly adds about 30 mph to our speed in the blink of an eye. I quickly tuck back into the slower lane so as to look inconspicuous. Or as inconspicuous as a speeding black ATS-V Coupe can look, anyway. I adjust the a/c, then decide no, I want to feel the wind and really hear the engine. I drop the windows and let the wind and the noise whip around the cabin. The complete chaos of sound and buffeting surround and satisfy me. Much better. THIS is driving.
The freeway I’m on runs parallel to the shoreline of Lake Michigan though you can’t see the Big Lake. It’s full of elevation changes and sweeping curves that wind through some of the prettiest farm and orchard country in the state. The magnetic shocks keep the car completely composed while I power through sweeping curves and race up and over hills. The turbo-six provides plenty of thrust for those sections of the freeway where there are no “authorized vehicle pull-throughs” where the state police sometimes hide. At speed the car feels completely confidence-inspiring and capable of so much more, but laws are laws and I’m not about to go to jail today for speeding. I may flirt with it though. Read into that what you will. The steering is remarkably precise. It doesn’t give as much feedback as I’d like, but it does a great job of transmitting your instinctual intentions into perfect actions. It allows you to steer a scalpel-sharp line through a corner.
The transmission. Oh, man. What an incredible transmission. I prefer a good manual over an automatic any day of the week and this one doesn’t disappoint. The clutch is light and smooth, the gear shifter is slick and precise, without any notchiness. It just works, and when I find some fun backroads to really test the car’s abilities, it adds a thick layer of enjoyment that an automatic can never match. Shifting up through the gears as I wind the engine out, downshifting as I approach corners and stops, I fell in love with it.
Crossing the Michigan countryside at a (very) rapid pace, I am thoroughly enjoying how the car drives, how it responds to my inputs, the tactile feel of the steering wheel and the shifter in my hands, the pedals under my feet. They way the Recaro seats hold my body in place while my arms and legs perform the dance of driving: steering, shifting, clutching, braking, accelerating. This is one serious performer. Throttle down and it whooshes up the road, probably too fast, so I brake and it comes back down to legal speeds in the blink of an eye. The acceleration is powerfully strong. With similar power and similar suspension, the ATS-V is actually the performance equivalent of the Corvette Stingray. That’s impressive.
As I crest a hill and behold the sight of dozens of tall white wind turbines spread across the horizon like so many children’s pinwheels, I can’t help but smile. It strikes me as a playful way to disguise the very serious business of generating power. Much as the playfulness of this car disguises the very serious business of going fast.
I exit the freeway to take some photos amongst the wind turbines and discover some fun roads running through the hills of the area. I decide to engage Race Mode and see what advantages it delivers. With Race Mode engaged, the car deactivates much of it’s traction and stability control system and allows more wheelspin and slippage. This makes for an entertaining diversion in places where you can’t take full advantage of its speed. One road in particular gets me close to Lake Michigan and climbs over tall bluffs and along the changing shoreline. I plant the throttle a couple times, working through the gears, nailing the brakes when necessary, listening to that engine wind out with a fury and passion that leaves me breathless. Nothing, but NOTHING, seems to upset the balance of the ATS-V. It’s like a hungry race car devouring corners and straights without effort. I’m able to wind it out a few times before I come upon a line of cars being led by a leisurely sightseeing couple and I’m forced to come back down to earth from the high I’ve been enjoying.
I take the opportunity to check out the various features of the instrument cluster. As I scroll through the various infotainment screens, I stumble across fuel economy readouts. Not something I usually care about but the data surprises me. Fuel consumption is better than it has any right to be. I seem to be averaging around 16 mpg, even after flogging the ATS-V. For a car that’s supposed to get 17mpg in the city and 25 on the freeway, that’s pretty darn good.
Between attacking country back roads and standing in the hot sun for photography sessions, my appetite is growing. I decide to stop for ice cream, and as I eat it, I get a chance to sit and stare at the Black Missile, drinking in it’s design. It really is a sharp looking car. It’s menacing and muscular, yet refined with a bit of elegance to it. The proportions are perfect.
Had I a more lucrative job than automotive journalist, I’d like to think I’d own one of these. Seriously. I like it that much. I would drive this thing all day every day. In fact, of all the cars I’ve driven this year, I think this one is easily my favorite so far.
What does it cost? The ATS-V starts at around $64,000, which is decent. This particular car that I’m driving comes in around $75,000 and includes the track package, which is a must-have option in my opinion.
This car is so well-rounded and has so much performance. It’s a shame that Cadillac is retiring this model along with the CTS after this year. The regular ATS is a great car and the V-series car is a phenomenal machine. Progress moves us along though and I’m sure Cadillac will present us with a V-series model of the upcoming CT4 in a year or so. I sure hope so anyway. If they do and it’s as good as this car, I’ll be pleased. If it’s better, I’ll be amazed.
So if you like the ATS-V, act now. There’s no telling what the CT4 will look like and how long after it’s introduction it will take to offer a V-series version. If they do at all. Everyone that encountered the ATS-V loved it. I loved it. Do you know who else would have loved it? Earl. Earl would have loved it too. Sorry Earl.