2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0T Manual: Around the Block
Does a stick shift always make a car better?
Like BMW, Cadillac is one of very few luxury automakers to still offer a manual transmission in its stable -- a relic kept alive courtesy of passionate enthusiasts. Being proud members of that group, we were surprised to learn that sometimes, a manual does not always make a sports car better.
Row-your-own 2015 Cadillac ATS models are all rear-wheel drive, mated to a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. One of the only choices you'll have is whether you want it in sedan or coupe form. The six-speed manual is a Tremec unit that GM uses exclusively in the ATS.
The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe feels every bit as quick with a stick as with the torque-converter automatic, with 272 hp and 295 lb-ft pushing it from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. Cadillac has improved the shift action since the manual was introduced for the launch of the ATS sedan, so we have no trouble moving through the gears and squeezing Caddy's turbo-four to its peak horsepower at 5,500 rpm. The smooth throws pair with a nicely weighted clutch that's predictable at the engagement point.
On the flip side, there isn't much in the way of positive feedback when you engage each gear. The pedal box also does not lend itself to heel-toe downshifts, lacking the friendly, driver-conscious setup that makes pushing the limits in a manual so invigorating. Those shortcomings make the manual feel inconsistent with the sporting characteristics that otherwise make the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe a triumph: light weight, tight suspension, and fantastic steering. If an automaker is going to include a stick in a sports car these days, it has to make the driver really feel something, or else the better-performing automatics become the obvious victors. No doubt the rev-matching six-speed that will be standard on the upcoming ATS-V was earmarked from the get-go, and our guess is it will feel right at home in that more hardcore sports car. Here on this ATS coupe, the manual seems added to appease the enthusiasts, when it should be serving them.
Hell, we like stick shifts as much as anyone, but it's not because it makes us feel like we can sit at the cool-kids lunch table of enthusiasts. A manual is fun because it gives you a feeling of connection and participation. Instead of the conduit that makes you an integral part of the driving experience, this stick feels like enough of an afterthought to actually distance you from that elusive sense of involvement. It's not worse than the automatic. The manual just doesn't make the ATS coupe more of a sports car than it already is.
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0T Manual Specifications
- On Sale: Now
- Price: $38,990/$46,960 (base/as tested)
- Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4 turbo/272 hp @ 5,500, 295 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,600 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Layout: 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine RWD coupe
- EPA Mileage: 19/30 mpg (city/highway)
- L x W x H: 183.6 x 72.5 x 54.8 in
- Wheelbase: 109.3 in
- Weight: 3,411 lb
- Wheels: 18 x 8 in (front), 18 x 9 in (rear)
- Tires: 225/40R-18 (front), 255/35R-18 (rear)
- Cargo Capacity: 10.4 cu ft