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2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe Luxury Car Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
January 23, 2015
8 min. Reading Time
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe ・  Photo by FCA Media

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe ・ Photo by FCA Media

What price personal luxury? Despite belonging to a segment that almost completely disappeared at the end of the 90s in the face of the SUV onslaught, premium coupes are once again flourishing, especially at the entry-level. The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe joins the already-established Audi S5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and BMW 4 Series (née 3 Series) two-doors as well as the equally-upstart Lexus RC in presenting the well-heeled with a sweet-looking alternative to a more staid sedan.

It’s fair to say that two-door automobiles, especially those on the smaller side like the ATS coupe, aren’t for everyone as they do sacrifice some practicality in order to make a splash with styling. Still, modern design has made a car like the all-new Cadillac very easy to live with on a daily basis, and the brand’s decision to pursue luxury over outright performance has helped the ATS coupe to achieve a respectful balance and walk its own path in a niche that has all-too-often played follow-the-Bavarian-leader.

Models and Prices

The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe offers four different trim levels to choose from. Base cars (MSRP $38,990) are restricted to the vehicle’s entry-level four-cylinder engine, but come with a respectable level of gear including dual automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, heated exterior mirrors, 18-inch rims, keyless entry and push-button start, power adjustments for the front seats, and genuine imitation leather upholstery front and rear. The ATS coupe Luxury (MSRP $42,915) introduces parking assistance, power adjustments for the front seats (which are wrapped in real leather), adaptive HID headlights, Cadillac’s CUE infotainment interface, 4G LTE wireless Internet capability, and a remote starter, while the Performance trim (MSRP $45,930) gains special wheels, a dual exhaust system, a long list of additional safety gear, and illuminated door handles. The ATS coupe Premium (MSRP $48,090) stands above them all with yet another set of 18-inch rims, a navigation system, a head-up display, and power tilt and telescoping for the steering wheel, and if you don’t opt for all-wheel drive you also get Cadillac’s magnetic ride control suspension system, a limited-slip rear differential, and stiffer springs with this particular model.

The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe that I drove for a week was a Performance model equipped with a V-6 engine, all-wheel drive, Majestic Plum Metallic paint, the summer/winter mat package, navigation, and a sunroof. The total price of my tester came to $53,020.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting


  • The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe is all-new for 2015.

Looking at the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe you’ll certainly see a lot of the sedan, which is somewhat strange given that the two models only share a few body panels (including the hood). It’s almost as though slicing off the ATS’ rear doors wasn’t enough to substantially change the imprint of the sedan’s DNA, leaving us with a coupe that’s still handsome but which fails to dazzle despite its wider track and more aggressive posture. I don’t intend to slag the Cadillac’s pleasing lines, as the car has very few unattractive angles, but for some luxury buyers standing out from the pack is an important consideration. The ATS coupe prefers to fall in line with charm and grace rather than follow in the footsteps of its more in-your-face CTS coupe predecessor.

The interior of the Cadillac ATS coupe is almost entirely lifted from its sedan counterpart, and in this case that’s less ambiguously a point in the car’s favor. Nearly every surface in my tester was coated in leather, or at the very least something that felt like leather, and the use of wood on the dash (outlined in chrome) gave the Cadillac a visual texture that is often missing from modern BMW and Mercedes-Benz cabins. The obsidian of the ATS coupe’s center stack makes an impression as well, although that initial appeal may eventually curdle into resignation and resentment depending on how your interactions with the car’s CUE interface pan out.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Comfort and Cargo

  • The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe offers a smaller trunk than the sedan.
  • Rear seating is reduced from three to two, and there’s less room to stretch out in almost every measure.

My time with the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe coincided with my yearly pilgrimage to the Detroit auto show, which provided me with over 1,300 miles of highway motoring perfect for sampling the car’s front left seat. I am happy to report that the ten hours of driving in each direction left me no worse for wear at the end of my journey, as Cadillac has properly engineered a quiet, calm, and comfortable cabin within which to enjoy an extended road trip.

I traveled light so I wasn't inconvenienced by the mere 10.4 cubic feet of cargo space offered by the car’s somewhat small trunk, although its shallow nature made it look like transporting larger items would be out of the question. The only other real knock against the ATS coupe is how hard it is to get into the back seat. I’m far from an NBA center, but contorting myself to access the Cadillac’s rear quarters was a definitely challenge. Exiting is fraught with even more peril, as the front seatbelt extends across the door opening like a waiting snare – and one that caught the feet of several friends on their way out of the snug accommodations. There is no dignified way to leave the back seat of the Cadillac ATS coupe, and if you’re over six feet tall, no dignified way to ride in the rear, either.

The real question is: how many ATS coupe buyers will actually use these additional two seating positions for anything other than hauling groceries or duffel bags? I’m going to place my bet on ‘not very many,’ because if practicality was a priority then luxury coupe buyers would instead be dropping sizable coin on a big SUV. If you need them in a pinch, they’re there.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Features and Controls

  • The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe does not introduce any new features or controls compared to the ATS sedan.

Perhaps no other infotainment interface has attracted the same level of vitriol as Cadillac’s CUE, a system which assembles the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe’s most important vehicle functions under its touchscreen-and-capacitive-touch-panel roof. Cadillac’s mistake in pushing the somewhat-flawed CUE on buyers is the inability to opt out: all but the base model ATS coupe comes with CUE as standard equipment, and aside from steering wheel buttons there’s no other way to interact with the car’s center stack – and hence, the majority of its features – other than by touch.

Sliding your finger across a touch panel to raise or lower the volume rather than simply twirling a dial is inconvenient at best, but thankfully the audio controls on the car’s steering wheel can stand in here without issue. Where it gets trickier is navigating the touchscreen itself, for although I loved the way CUE detects the presence of my hand nearby and then displays additional menu options, I didn't enjoy the repeated attempts to get the screen to register my touch selections. Then there’s the navigation system, which not only makes it difficult to parse address information but also displays the ATS coupe’s location icon in a flat grey color that blends perfectly against the same grey used to illustrate nearby buildings on the map.

Balancing out these negative aspects of CUE is the thoroughly-excellent gauge cluster display, which splits a small LCD panel into three distinct, and configurable, information displays. It’s relatively simple to customize the trio to offer up almost any info from the CUE’s center stack that you could want, including satellite radio channel information, upcoming navigation instructions, or data concerning engine and tire inflation status. You can even make it so all three display your current speed, which in combination with the analog speedometer above and the optional head-up display gives you a total of five velocity readouts and completely invalidates any excuses you might have offered to the local constabulary.

Another bright spot in the Cadillac ATS coupe is its 4G LTE Wi-Fi Internet router. More of a boon to passengers than driver – unless you are an Internet radio fiend – the system provided my test vehicle with a strong data signal that offered fast and reliable web browsing and music streaming.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Safety and Ratings

  • The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe does not gain any additional safety equipment compared to the ATS sedan.

All versions of the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe come with seat-mounted side airbags, dual knee airbags, dual forward airbags, side curtain airbags front and rear, and electronic traction control and stability control. In terms of active gear, the ATS coupe provides a panoply of available features, many of which are available in package form or come standard with certain trim levels.

My tester was equipped with the Driver Awareness package, which included a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic detection, and seat-mounted side airbags in the rear. My car also offered a lane keeping feature that automatically steered the ATS coupe back between the lines when I drifted over on one side or the other without activating my turn signal, as well as GM’s excellent Safety Alert Seat that vibrated the driver’s bucket to let me know what direction a potential threat was approaching from. Full adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and automatic braking at low and high speeds to mitigate or avoid collisions are also available with the car.

The ATS coupe has been awarded five out of five possible stars for overall crash safety from the NHTSA, but it has yet to be tested by the IIHS.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Engines and Fuel Economy

  • The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe loses the ATS sedan’s base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine.

The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe matches its sedan counterpart’s drivetrain options in all ways but one: you can’t equip the car with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder unit as you can with the four-door. This is a welcome deletion, for it means that the ATS’ 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder is now the standard engine by default. Rated at 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the turbo can be matched with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission (save for all-wheel drive models, which are auto-only).

The ATS coupe I drove to Detroit and back again was outfitted with Cadillac’s optional 321 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. Also capable of producing 275 lb-ft of torque, a six-speed autobox is mandatory with this motor regardless of whether all-wheel drive is specified (as it was with my car). Of the two engines, the turbocharged four-cylinder is marginally more frugal (21-mpg city / 30-mpg highway versus 18-mpg city / 30-mpg highway for the V-6). I saw 21-mpg in combined driving during brutally cold winter weather.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Driving Impressions

The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe is a highway warrior of the highest pedigree. The thousand-plus miles that I covered from behind the wheel of the two-door Cadillac called to mind not an entry-level premium car but rather a full-fledged premium cruiser, with a heft to its steering and the ability to dampen less choice sections of pavement that one typically only experiences in a much larger car. And yet when pushed around the ATS coupe refused to wallow, hedge, or understeer to any significant degree, a nod to its status as one of the lightest players in its class as well as to the care taken by Cadillac engineers to balance comfort with responsive handling and generally good road feel.

The 3.6-liter V-6 outfitted to my test vehicle also happened to be my preferred option as compared to the more frenetic nature of the 2.0-liter turbo unit. It’s important from an enthusiast perspective that the four-cylinder features a manual transmission – an increasingly rare instance of driver involvement in the premium segment – but the smoother, more confident character of the V-6 imparted a maturity that I appreciated in the Cadillac. The car’s six-speed automatic transmission is competent enough when left to its own devices, although the paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel don’t offer the kind of quick shifting required to truly enhance the overall experience. Its all-wheel drive system also tackled the snow, sleet, and ice I encountered during my travels without a hiccup, imparting an extra sheen of security to its performance.

The two-door ATS is certainly a pleasure to drive, but it would be a stretch to attach the ‘sport coupe’ label to the vehicle. It’s true that when the Cadillac is set to ‘Sport’ mode, even with all-wheel drive, it’s easy to rotate the car on its axis using the throttle and well-timed steering inputs, and there’s enough feedback from the chassis for back roads to qualify as enjoyable when experienced at speed, but the ATS coupe never really coaxes you into flogging it any harder than is absolutely necessary. It’s more of a left-brain drive than a passion play, which is not a criticism. In fact, it’s refreshing: much as the redesigned Mercedes-Benz C-Class has moved away from the marketing-driven sports-themed hype that still clings to the BMW 3 and 4 Series, so do the ATS sedan and coupe carve out their own identity focused on lightweight design, a characteristic that lends itself well to developing pleasing driving dynamics within a luxury bubble.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Final Thoughts

The 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe is more than just the latest in a long line of personal luxury models that have crowded the brand’s showrooms in years past; it also happens to be the kind of car that would have been impossible for Cadillac to build even five years ago. To produce a credible compact premium car, regardless of the number of doors, on an all-new platform is the automotive equivalent of a mission to Mars, and yet the ATS coupe manages to stand tall in the face of established, well-loved rivals with generations of credibility in the segment. It’s certainly going to take some time for Cadillac to achieve the same level of respect from a target market that’s been conditioned since birth to hum the German national anthem when shopping for an automobile, but with a car this good, success seems inevitable.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Pros and Cons


  • Attractive, yet subdued styling.
  • Available manual transmission.
  • Choice between two powerful engines.
  • Optional all-wheel drive.
  • Well-executed interior.
  • Comfortable ride that doesn’t sacrifice handling.
  • Lightweight design.
  • Affordably priced compared to competitors.


  • Small, difficult-to-access rear seat.
  • CUE system can be frustrating to use.
  • Not as extroverted as past Cadillac coupes in terms of style.
  • No manual option for V-6 model.

GM Canada supplied the vehicle for this review

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting


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