I like my cars to have big V8 engines, rear wheel drive and a stick shift. There’s nothing in the world like an old SS454 Chevelle, Boss 429 Mustang, Hemi Cuda or a 427 Corvette roadster. Cars were loud and dangerous in the olden days before cable TV, when seat-belts weren’t a thing. It’s the way things were and we liked it, we loved it. The problem is, many people are looking at these old 60’s and 70’s muscle cars through rose-colored bi-focals. This may come as a shock, but most of the storied muscle cars of the past were slow, compared to what’s available today. The aforementioned Boss 429 sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars now, but it came from the factory rated at a measly 375hp (which was a total lie because it had closer to 450 horsepower). Even with that giant engine, the Boss 9 only managed 0-60 in a lazy 7 seconds, ran the quarter-mile in about 14 seconds and had a top speed of around 120mph. Not very impressive by today’s standards. In fact that’s a bit slower than the last 4 cylinder Mustang I rented.
But here it is, sixteen years after the Y2K scare, gas is expensive and, apparently, it’s against the law if you forget to wear a seat-belt now. Technology has advanced beyond even my wildest dreams and computers, coupled with witchcraft, have made seemingly impossible things become the norm. I’m sure that all of this technology has helped one American car company, that has been around since 1902, develop a fantastic 3.6 liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that makes 464 horsepower of boosted goodness! The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V is very impressive on paper, packing 445 ft. lbs of torque with all of that horsepower. It’s been hard for me to admit that I like a car that goes against what was beaten in to me as a child: “There is no replacement for displacement.” I’m here to tell you, and let past me know, that there is indeed a replacement and it’s the new Cadillac ATS-V. This car won me over and I’ll even say that it’s one of the most impressive vehicles that I’ve ever driven. I really love that this version of the V was built to compete with the BMW M3/M4 and it does just that, with an added bonus. The V prohibits you from looking like an average jerk who drives a German car because everyone else at work does, too.
The ATS-V is rear wheel drive, like God intended, and it’s almost perfectly balanced with 51% of the weight in the front and 49% in the rear. The V I drove also came with the optional Recaro seats, which are far better than the ones in the older and larger CTS-V. My shiny, Red Obsession Tintcoat car came equipped with the same fabulous 8-speed automatic transmission that is also found in the new Corvette C7. The combination of this particular automatic transmission, turbocharged engine, adjustable magnetic ride suspension and sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires makes for a very quick car that goes where you point it. If it weren’t for the electronic nanny that limits the speed to 155mph, this car would be capable of over 180mph. I think Cadillac is brilliant because they have taken notice of the changes people make to their cars with aftermarket parts and have begun to include them on the cars that are sitting in the showroom. The subtle black trim around the windows is not something you have to order from a company in Texas anymore, the car comes from the factory with quad exhaust and it’s loaded with performance goodies, like a vented carbon fiber hood and red Brembo brakes that have more pistons than the engine. The adjustable heads-up display is cool and this is the first Cadillac I’ve ever seen that comes with HD radio built-in to the Bose sound system. Sure, you have to deal with the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) navigation system, but once you get used to it, it’s not bad. I still prefer GM’s tried and true MyLink system that is in my Chevy SS though. The ATS-V will also wirelessly charge some cellphones, but my giant iPhone 6S Plus didn’t fit in to the secret compartment where you can hide your phone from yourself. In all fairness to the car, my phone barely fits in my purse. The thing that really sells me on any car is the interior and the inside of this Cadillac is a nice place to be. The materials are high quality and the look and feel are in line with what you would expect from a car in this price range. Visibility is pretty good in the coupe and it’s easy to drive in traffic. The hardest part about driving this car is the constant temptation to put your foot in it and feel the boost propel you to the legal speed limit before you can say, “Is that a cop?”
During my week driving the ATS-V, I got compliments at the gas station, thumbs up in traffic, it drew a crowd at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and an older guy in Sarasota wanted to race me at a stoplight. I’m far too mature to engage in such shenanigans, but I admit that I thought about it. Sometimes, knowing that your car is faster is enough. I didn’t have a chance to take it to the racetrack but a little bird told me that it will go from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, run the quarter-mile in the low 12 second range and I believe it. The car is quick, has gobs of power and weighs in at a very light 3,600lbs. The ATS-V will give Eurocars a real run for their money. Cadillac has built a real winner and it even looks good with four doors for grownups.
The 2016 ATS-V starts at $62,665 with the standard 6-speed stick. As tested with the optional 8-speed automatic transmission, Recaro seats, Luxury Package, Performance Data Recorder, 18″ wheels, red Brembo six-piston brakes, heads-up display and the safety/security package, the sticker price is $75,775.
Erica Habedank| WTOG-CW44/CBS Tampa Bay