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2016 Cadillac ATS-V: Outmuscling the M3?

Can the all-new ATS-V beat BMW’s best?

Todd LassawriterAndrew TrahanphotographerThe Manufacturerphotographer

Cadillac V-Series cars have come exclusively with V-8 engines—until now. You're looking at the all-new 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, which has a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6. Worry not: With 455 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque, the ATS-V, available as both a sedan and coupe, will outmuscle its key rivals, BMW's M3 and M4.

The goal, of course, is to do more than beat BMW only on the dyno. "One thing we've tried to do is improve efficiency and responsiveness," said ATS global product manager Ken Kornas. "Inertia is really the key to doing that." V engineers fitted the engine with titanium connecting rods, used titanium-aluminide pinwheels in the turbochargers, and put other hefty parts back on the shelf in favor of lighter replacements, all in the pursuit of
lower weight.

The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V will be available with an eight-speed automatic transmission or a rev-matching six-speed manual. Cadillac says the ATS-V, equipped with either gearbox, will go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds on its way to a top speed north of 180 mph. "We've upgraded virtually every component in the vehicle," Kornas said. He promises superb ride-and-handing balance, the kind that made BMW's reputation. Standard magnetorheological dampers and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential are a good start.

There's a bolder, sportier look to match the car's boosted performance. Flared fenders accommodate a 1.6-inch-wider front track, and an optional carbon package includes a deeper front splitter, a taller rear lip spoiler, and hood vents, all made out of carbon fiber.

Unlike the towering tailfins on old Cadillacs, these styling elements serve clear functions. "You can't mix and match with the standard splitter or the standard spoiler; it'll throw the whole lift-balance off," exterior design chief Bob Boniface said. "These were really, really tuned in the wind tunnel. The carbon-fiber splitter and rear spoiler lend a significant amount of lift reduction. Top speed won't be quite as high because the carbon-fiber lip spoiler creates drag, but the cornering speeds are a lot higher."

The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V goes on sale in summer 2015. Pricing will be competitive with its BMW counterparts, but will performance? As much as we don't want to, we'll have to wait to find out.­

Some other notable features on the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V:

  • Hood vents promote cooling and improve aerodynamics.
  • Curb weight is roughly 3,800 pounds, about 200 pounds more than the M3/M4.
  • Lightweight, 18-inch forged aluminum wheels help lower rotating mass.
  • Heat exchangers draw hot air out of the engine compartment and reduce lift.
  • Brembo brakes are optional.
  • An 8-gigabyte SD card stores information from the optional performance recorder, which syncs vehicle telemetry and dynamics data with GoPro-like video.
  • Bolder look: Optional Recaro seats come in all black, black/saffron (pictured), or black/light gray color schemes.

Keep reading for more on new CEO Johan de Nysschen's plans for Cadillac.

De Nysschen's Vision

Cadillac Is Moving Its Headquarters to New York's Soho. Big Deal.
That move pales in importance next to Cadillac's decision to operate as its own business unit and report financial results independently of General Motors.

A big deal for Cadillac? Yes, but it's nothing groundbreaking for Cadillac's new president, Johan de Nysschen, who has been on the business side of Audi, which is under the same corporate umbrella but separate from Volkswagen, and Infiniti, which has a similar relationship with Nissan.

Operating as an independent unit gives de Nysschen time to rebuild a thin lineup and re-establish Cadillac in global markets, with a focus on expanding in China and Europe. "Consumers of premium goods, whether they be watches or high-end pens or handbags or automobiles, they tend to be internationally mobile," he said. "So it's important that they experience the brand consistently around the world."

The first car coming out of this new Cadillac will be the CT6. It will look like a four-door version of Cadillac's sexy Elmiraj concept car and sit between the CTS (to become CT4 or CT5) and a larger, Mercedes S-Class-size sedan coming later in the decade. It makes its debut at the New York auto show this spring and goes on sale in the fall.

Other new entries on de Nysschen's wish list include one or two sports cars aimed at the Mercedes-Benz SL- and SLK-Class; a crossover smaller than the SRX and a larger, three-row crossover; and a second-generation plug-in electric hybrid.

We'll see if de Nysschen's considerable ambition and skill are enough to restore Cadillac, at long last, to global prominence. That'll require more than just a move into the heart of trendy SoHo.