2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe Luxury 2.0T Manual

By Arison Knapp on June 3, 2015


2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe Luxury 2.0T Manual Review

by Arison Knapp



There has been a power shift at Cadillac. You can feel the change from upper management to the cars and even to the new PR staff names to be found at the redone 2015 full-featured media site. General Motor’s repositioning of brands took first-class crafting over time. Currently Cadillac conveys clear demarcations between the mainstream and their fine cuisine. Their passenger car development team has fired out hot products like a rocket in the last couple years with missile lock on Germany and Japan.

The current concept car-esque CTS coupe, up-classed the third generation CTS sedan, the first generation ATS sedan and now the all-new 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe are prime examples of General Motors firepower. The entire gasoline Cadillac passenger car lineup now employs sporting rear-wheel drive platforms, high-tech racecar suspension and traditional vertical-orientation styling with jet-fighter fin lamps. These are just a few key factors in the brand’s resurgence. It’s delivering a fresh small batch, halo brand image and feel which is why I chose the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe as the ride to review.


The latest in fashion from the Cadillac portfolio is the front-engine, rear-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive Cadillac ATS coupe. It encapsulates all of the new brand ideologies in an athletic two-door four-passenger version. Competing in the driver-oriented, highly desirable compact luxury coupe segment the ATS two-door will start at an MSRP $37,995.00.

It’ll spar on track with similarly equipped and priced coupes like the BMW 4-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti Q60 and Lexus RC350. Cadillac heats up the segment with ceremonious American styling, legendary for decorating US Presidents, while featuring the latest technology powering wheels and cabin infotainment alike.

Custom order your next Cadillac ATS coupe right from the Lansing, Michigan assembly plant online or from your local dealer tomorrow. Start your order with a choice of ten exterior paint colors including a new Crystal White Tricoat, five interior arrangements featuring a Morello Red Leather package, four trim collections each with more technology and safety, three 18 inch wheel sets, two gasoline engines and two transmissions.

Body and Exterior

Applying the same high-strength steel “strong safety cage” unibody chassis and wheelbase from the ATS sedan; the coupe is reconstructed lower, longer, wider and more agile than the four-door. Plus it is more torsion-ally rigid and structurally stiffer than the current CTS coupe.


The two-door gains a more strapping stance and better handling over the sedan by widening the front track by almost an inch and stretching the rear track by an inch as well. The short front overhang contributes to its sharp handling. Its muscular rear end provides great stability, power transfer and weight to offset the front engine. Achieving an almost perfect 50/50 (51/49) weight distribution translates into balanced and predictable road character.  Very level and close to no body roll in and out of tight corners.

At 183.6 inches long it is close in length to the compact luxury coupe competition though one of the widest in the segment at 72.5 inches. The lightest too, right above 3,400 lbs. These optimizations between balance and lightweight converts into a supremely stable vehicle with a killer power-to-weight ratio. These fascinating figures are true characteristics of Cadillac’s unique vehicles with high-end mechanicals and masculine designs.

The entire ATS coupe exterior was redesigned with the exception of a shared hood on the sedan. Harder raking, sleeker swept back angular A and C pillars are just some of the accentuating styling cues that express the coupes increased spirited driving capability and lower center of gravity than the sedan. The ATS coupe’s C-pillar isn’t as bold or pronounced as the CTS coupe or ELR. However I do think the thinner c-pillar on the ATS provides better visibility, brighter with the door-less rear cabin attaining an appealing slender figure.

Engines and Transmissions

Our test vehicle was built with the first engine option, an animated turbocharged two liter inline four-cylinder (2.0T) engine spinning out a robust 272 HP and range-topping 295 lb.-ft. of TQ. On FuelEconomy.gov the EPA provides the best MPG rating of 21 city, 30 highway and right under a 500 mile range when built as a RWD automatic transmission configuration. Not as fuel-efficient as it could have been but the demographic on these compact luxury coupes won’t put that little fact in between them and this vehicle.

The other power plant choice is a roaring powerful naturally aspirated V-shaped 3.6 liter six-cylinder engine. Producing a husky 321 HP and 275 lb.-ft. of torque.  The V6 can grab as low as 5.6 seconds to 60 MPH with towing cap of a half ton. The V6 gets a MPG rating of 18 city, 28 highway. We weren’t able to test this package in the coupe yet, but we can imagine just how brawny it must be as the turbo four was an excitingly quick and smooth specimen. I imagine reliability might be better on this low-stressed big V6 engine for those 20 year car owners.

Both engines offer some of the latest tech in internal combustion advancements. Features ranging from forced-air induction turbo charging, direct fuel injection and dual cam variable valve timing. As an efficiency enthusiast I would have hoped to see an engine Stop/Start function for better fuel economy or long-range diesel model but I can see major future success for this model and will evolve in time.

The standard equipment Hydra-Matic 6-Speed Automatic Transmission with paddle shifters will provide the best fuel economy and quickest shifts. However if you have a passion for ultimate control the ATS is offered as a traditional three-pedal 6-Speed Manual Transmission by Tremec which we had the pleasure of testing. The manual transmission is only available on the rear-wheel drive 2.0T models in any of the four trim lines. It’s a no-cost option and couples mechanical limited-slip differential with the choice, optional to automatic models. The clutch was nicely defined with what I would say was a medium pedal throw to the floor and shifting was slick, easy, more natural and smooth acting than muscling the shifter of a Camaro.

Driving the manual transmission was a breeze from a complete stop using the Hill Assist, engaging the clutch and then whipping the turbo up to speed. It was giddy and gracious proving its sports car driveline quickly down the road. With such reactive and responsive direct feeling manual power, I felt like having an electronic emergency/parking brake lever was not in line with the model’s innate sporty design. A hand brake would be a bit odd in an upper class Cadillac nowadays anyways, less time with my hand clutching the hand brake and more time controlling the car with the ever so lush thick leather steering wheel. Or optional race-ready grippy suede steering wheel packaged with a suede shift boot and knob.

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Steering and Suspension

The most impressive attribute of the ATS coupe is its nimble handling through its responsive steering system and high-tech suspension. The ZF rack-mounted electric, power-assisted variable effort steering system felt clear and easy to read where I was placing the car through a corner regarding how many degrees I was turning the steering wheel to the driving wheels. It was very accurate and confidence building. Though the feedback felt a little more muted and “luxurious” than I’d prefer, some might like less road imperfections felt. Through the steering wheel doesn’t report much, through the body the suspension and tires sure do. Just like its European counterparts this rigid ride with soft attributes is a harmony of luxury and sport.

Touching the tarmac up front is a set 225/40R18 sized tires and wider 255/35R18 in the rear. Three types of 18 inch wheel are available with four-corners of fully independent suspension. Suspension architecture includes; MacPherson-type with dual lower ball joints and direct-acting stabilizer bar up front mated to a five-point multi-link rear design.

The base model ‘Standard’ trim applies great handling with twin-tube passive dampers. The up model trim collections; Luxury, Performance and Premium use a sophisticated in-house developed, third generation electronic magnetic ride control suspension system. Built and designed close to a decade ago in Michigan, the active suspension system uses unique sensors and highly controllable damper liquid to offer a ride superior to traditional shock absorber. It offers more traction, more engagement with the road. It’s tunable from inside the cabin. If you wish, change driving modes, select a soft touring ride or to a weekend-ready harsh racetrack ride. Also effecting throttle and steering response with more exhaust tones if you’re in the high-performance setting.


Safety leads in the ATS with head lighting and brakes. In the ATS’ ‘Standard’ trim are a pair of traditional halogen bulbs but optional and fitted to all upper trims are the far and wide-reaching, dazzling High-Intensity lighting system. They’ll be highlighted by pinstriped jewelry-style LEDs. Vertically wrapping LED tail lights are stock. Yielding a sensational night signature the LEDs extend through the door handles further accentuating its formal attire offering better night positioning for safety and adds a strong silhouette in the dark.

The coupe will come with a better braking system than the sedan and quite competitive in its segment. Supplied with four-wheel disc brakes the front pair is a set of hard-grabbing Brembo brakes using a four-piston caliper with a 12.6 inch brake rotor followed by a smaller single-piston rear caliper still keeping a big 12.4 inch rotor. Braking feels a bit harsh at first with such a shallow pedal throw but it was easily learned and very sufficient with not much dive alerting others of your actions. Great body control in our magnetic ride, 2 liter turbo, manual transmission, rear-wheel drive ATS coupe.

The ATS coupe comes with a nice set of electronic stability and crash management programs, standard active safety programs included are ABS with brake assist, stability control and traction control. Covering you in-cabin is a set of eight airbags and GM’s OnStar crash response alert program. Cadillac offers a plethora of optional programs to fully create a mild-autonomous driving car. Optional safety is where the ATS glows brighter than the competition with available Safety Alert Seat, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, RainSense Wipers, Side Blind Zone Alert, IntelliBeam Headlights, Lane Change Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Auto Seat Belt Tensioning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Auto Collision Prep and Auto front and rear braking. NHSTA’s Safercar.gov gives a five-star rating for every crash test for the ATS coupe resulting a perfect car the ultimate in two-door safety.

Comfort and Infotainment

Entering the ATS is simply a luxury. Using the EZ key Passive entry and push button start the driver is able to focus on creating a nice driving atmosphere instead of the lock and ignition routine of so many cars. As you nestle into the standard 6-way front power adjustable leatherette seating or premium available leather, you’ll notice the soft to touch interior paneling with high-class cross-stitching and how comfy the front bucket seats are. Rear seats have almost identical rear legroom as the sedan and it leads in the segment. Although the rear hip room has been tightened up it’s still welcoming for small adults and good-sized children. New for this year is optional mobile convenience with the availability of AT&T 4G LTE and wireless inductive mobile phone and device charging station while you drive.

Gripping the leather sports-type steering wheel you’ll able to personalize the ATS’ infotainment with steering-wheel equipped buttons. Instrument Panel is based on luxury cars with a huge speedometer in the middle where pure sports cars have a big tachometer in the middle not a speedo. But all in all the engine and manual gearbox were reporting enough through the pedal and cabin that I could shift without looking at the tachometer. The optional full color head-ups display will help out that problem of not seeing the tachometer too by displaying right on the windshield.


The ATS coupe comes with a 4.2 inch infotainment screen stock but if you opt for the navigation system you’ll receive the actively advancing Cadillac Cue infotainment system featuring an 8 inch high-definition screen with a 12-speaker noise canceling Bose surround sound system. I have seen many dealers, journalists and close family confused with the Cue system but recent updates have made the inner workings of the software friendlier and more capable like the new voice-to-text feature.

Dealers Now Taking Orders 2016 Cadillac ATS-V

Love the ATS but want more of a track battle-axe.  So go to your dealer today and start ordering the peak in Cadillac performance, the 2016 ATS V-Series. Delivery begins summer 2016. The 455 HP twin-turbo V6 will propel the ATS-V to 60 MPG in 3.9 seconds. Stay tuned for the future review.


Why This Ride?

– Manual Transmission RWD Availability

– Sexy and Ceremonious American Styling

– Thoroughbred sports car mechanicals

– Formal LED DRLs

Photos by Arison Knapp

Arison’s story began in rapidly evolving Seattle, Washington in the 1980’s. From a young age he gained his automotive experience working in the family business; our nation’s first and oldest personal automotive consulting and buyer’s service, AutoAdvisor Inc. Throughout working as a research car consultant he built a foundation of learning people and how cars can fit with their lives. That is his strong suit, the human to car interface. Over the last decade he harnessed his voice contributing to small print and national online news outlets reviewing cars. Today, his automotive passion has sprung into the love of all things involving motion from shoes to drones. He is an active member of the Motor Press Guild and is ready to share his expertise with WhyThisRide.

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