$34,595 - $62,895

2017 Cadillac ATS Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Cadillac ATS was new.


Performance: 8.4

The turbocharged four-cylinder engine that comes standard in the 2017 Cadillac ATS is more powerful than many rival four-cylinders. Or, you can get the available V6 – and the extra power that comes with it – without having to sacrifice fuel efficiency. But if it's real power that you're after, go for the high-performance ATS-V, which has a twin-turbo V6 that delivers authoritative acceleration and a blistering top speed.

No matter which engine you choose, you'll love driving the ATS on curvy roads. It has incredible athleticism and sharp steering, contributing to the ATS' fun-to-drive feel. Accurate steering and strong brakes add to the confidence you'll feel behind the wheel. The only drawback is the ride quality, which suffers if the pavement quality drops off.

  • "With its lively steering, nimble handling and attractively creased sheet metal, the 2017 ATS is going to appeal to you if you're searching for a small luxury sedan with a healthy dose of performance and attitude." -- Edmunds
  • "I wasn't expecting to enjoy this 3.6-liter-powered coupe as much as I did, but it really surprised me. The driving experience was where this car really thrives." -- Autoweek (2016)
  • "This is an honest-to-goodness performance sedan that will give any rival 4-door a run for its money." -- Autotrader (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The base engine in the ATS is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 272 horsepower. That's more powerful than the turbo-fours found in most class rivals, including the Audi A4, BMW 4 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The four-cylinder has a satisfying amount of power, but it doesn't feel that refined, especially at higher RPMs.

Lead-footed drivers may want the available 3.6-liter V6. It produces 335 horsepower and energetic acceleration. The V6 also features active fuel management, which deactivates two cylinders when they're not necessary in order to improve gas mileage.

Coupe models come with your choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic. Sedan models are only offered with the automatic. The automatic may be the way to go no matter what body style you choose, as the manual doesn't shift all that smoothly.

According to EPA estimates, the base four-cylinder engine with manual transmission earns 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Those numbers actually improve slightly with the V6 engine with automatic transmission, as the highway fuel economy bumps up to 30 mpg, while the city mileage stays the same. With either engine, fuel economy numbers are a bit low for the class.

The high-performance ATS-V features a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 464 horsepower and delivers the kind of forceful acceleration you want while you're blowing past slowpokes on the interstate. According to Cadillac, the ATS-V goes from zero to 60 mph in a scant 3.8 seconds and has a top speed of 189 mph.

  • The base 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder delivers a satisfying amount of forward thrust, though its refinement and noise level under hard acceleration leave something to be desired. Its fuel-efficiency benefit over the V6 isn't tremendous, either. And although it's nice to have the option of a manual transmission, the ATS' isn't our favorite. Shifts aren't as smooth as they could be, and the shifter doesn't feel particularly impressive in your hand." -- Edmunds
  • "There's a lot to like in the ‘go’ department with the ATS-V's 464-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 that can propel an automatic-equipped ATS-V to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, a tick faster than the M3/M4's times with automatic transmission. The Cadillac's turbocharged V-6 is an extremely responsive, potent engine that's well-suited to the 3,700-pound ATS-V." -- Cars.com (2016)
  • " A V6-powered ATS has ample power, but it's up against a tough alternative within its own lineup: the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. That smaller engine has terrific balance of power and efficiency." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)

Handling and Braking

The ATS aims to be a fun-to-drive car, and it delivers. With standard rear-wheel drive, the ATS provides outstanding agility and precise handling around turns. You can further improve its athleticism by adding all-wheel drive, which gives you better road grip and sets you up to more aggressively tackle corners. If all-wheel drive isn't enough, you may also want to add Magnetic Ride Control. It allows you to adjust the ATS' suspension to provide a smoother ride or sportier performance.

Some drivers will undoubtedly want to tune the suspension for a smoother ride. It's not that the ATS has a rough ride in general, but it does suffer considerably over uneven pavement. That's about the only negative, however. The ATS has sharp steering, and it comes standard with Brembo brakes, so you'll have plenty of stopping power in case you get carried away while enjoying the ATS' abilities.

  • It's the handling poise that really puts the cherry on the ATS sundae, though. This is an impressive all-around driver's car, with [nimbleness] and precision in equal measure. Its quick steering has actual feel, and the brakes are responsive and inspire confidence. In this respect, Cadillac has out-BMW'd BMW." -- Edmunds
  • "Of all the performance goodies on the ATS-V, the braking system stood out as extremely capable of slowing the car down from high speeds confidently lap after lap without degradation." -- Cars.com (2016)
  • "Thanks to the Magnetic Ride Control dampers that adjust quicker and with more bandwidth than traditional adaptive shocks, a single compression and rebound quells every body movement." -- Car and Driver (2016)

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