Europe has a long and storied history with performance cars, but perhaps more so than the rest of the world, a history with performance sedans — cars that are as good for the track as they are for commuting. Performance and engineering run deep with European automakers (especially the Germans), and performance sedans and estates (or wagons, as we refer to them) have helped foster a sort of international love affair that other countries haven’t seemed to be able to replicate, though not for lack of trying.
Lexus gave it a shot with the IS F in 2008. It had the growling exhaust, naturally aspirated V8, and the rear-wheel drive demanded by the most serious of enthusiasts, but the balance possessed by the German cars — the essence that makes them more than a powerful engine shoveled inside the brands’ flagship sedans — just wasn’t there.
What makes the German cars so good is that they are the complete package. Not only are they undeniably powerful, but that power is transferred to the ground in the most effective and efficient way possible. Driving these cars is as much about the emotions experienced as it is about the hardware itself, and this has been the case for many years; no, decades.
Cadillac gave it a shot, too, in the form of the CTS-V. It used General Motors’ 6.2-liter blown V8 and produced 556 horsepower. By all means, it was a terrific performance car, but its brash, brutal, and unapologetic character is an experience miles away from the refined creamy smoothness of German muscle. But Cadillac isn’t done, and with the ATS-V, it’s gone for the jugular: BMW’s M3 and M4, as the ATS-V is available in sedan and coupe flavors.
The ATS-V will arrive next spring as a 2016 model, carrying with it the 3.6-liter twin turbo V6 that appeared in the CTS Vsport sedan. Only in this application, the engine has been tuned up by 35 more horses and now produces 455 and 445 pound-feet of torque. It’s attached to the driver’s choice of the eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. So far, we’re checking the right boxes here.
To bring the car back down, Cadillac has outfitted a track day-approved Brembo brake kit. It has Magnetic Ride Control, which delivers 40% faster damping response; a 25% increase in structural stiffness, touring, sport, and track modes; improved downforce thanks to some well-heeled aerodynamic upgrades, and various vents and ducts for cooling and more refined aerodynamic prowess.
“As the smallest and lightest V-Series ever, the ATS-V forges a great connection with the driver, with exceptional nimbleness and responsiveness,” said Cadillac Executive Chief Engineer David Leone in the company’s press statement. “It’s adaptable to the driver’s preferences, with every selectable mode developed to deliver the best performance for all types of driving scenarios, including the track.”
The sprint from zero to 60 happens in a supercar-rivaling 3.9 seconds, and the car will continue on until it reaches a ceiling of about 185 miles per hour. Its base curb weight is reportedly about 3,700 pounds, Cadillac spokesman Brain Corbett told Autoblog.
Buyers will be able to spring for an optional Carbon Fiber package, which includes such additions as a different (and presumably improved) front splitter, rear diffuser, hood vent trim, rocker extensions, and a bigger rear spoiler. If that’s not enough to satisfy, Cadillac will be offering a Track package as well, which will see the addition of the Performance Data Recorder and a low-mass battery; the floor mats and tire inflators will also be removed for the sake of saving some weight.
The ATS-V certainly has the numbers and the paper figures to readily compare or even beat the beasts from Europe and elsewhere, but in this segment, driving feel is key. While we may not hear or find out what the Caddy feels like in the flesh for a while, we can be comforted by knowing that it’s at least headed in the right direction. And really fast.