The first 1,000 miles in my new twin turbo Cadillac ATS V

I was fortunate enough to pick up my new 2016 Cadillac ATS V coupe and the question every V8 driving, big cube loving client and friend has been asking me about this little twin turbo V6...  "How do you like it, is it fast?"  The short and easy answer... I LOVE IT!  But, I am the type of guy that bonds with his car over the first big trip/experience and finally the initial car detail when I get it back to learn every nook and cranny.  Only after I completed this did I feel like I was in a place to write my review of the new ATS V for an online forum for ATS V owners.   You are going to get a first hand account from an engineer/gear-head shop owner that does nothing but fast cars.  My current gen-2 CTS V has a 1,600hp power plant and my C7 Corvette is on the cover of a popular magazine this month with a 1,000hp 427/nitrous combo, so believe me when I say my expectations are high!  

As a long time Cadillac enthusiast, I have loved the edgy lines and strong LS motors they began putting into the Cadillac CTS Vs starting in 2004 and my first would be in 2007.  In 2010, I would pick up the second generation 556hp CTS V sedan with a supercharged LSA power-plant.  The refinement continued from the first generation models with a more luxurious cabin, softer ride, and expected further advancements in electronics.  From there my company, Weapon X Motorsports developed a lot of parts for the second generation CTS Vs and over the past 5 years, we've proudly taken part in a majority of the CTS V builds out there in one form or another.  So, I was first in line to order the new platform on the ATS V.  I've had a lot of experience in the past with twin turbo V6 power plants when I first started back in 2000 and I couldn't wait to get going on this one!

The Deal - I ordered mine from the largest volume Cadillac dealership, over 1,000 miles away to get my hands on it as soon as possible and have a good journey home to break it in before I find out just how far these little turbos can carry the power.  The journey began in early February when I reached out to Jay Lane of Sewell Cadillac in Dallas and we finalized my order on February 11th.  I put almost all options on the car with the optional carbon fiber aero package, Recaro seats with Saffron inserts, the new 8 speed automatic transmission that I'd become a fan of from my Corvette experience, NAV/PDR to record my sessions, sunroof etc.  About the only thing I didn't get was dark wheels and colored calipers since I always do something custom with those anyway.  Jay has been a long time friend/client of mine and was very easy to work with, keeping me informed as the status changed.  The car ended up being built June 18th, but was held up for over 8 weeks in Detroit due to a couple of minor issues.  Despite my eagerness with their delayed release, Jay gave me a shout every Friday to let me know what he'd heard - that's top notch service right there!  The weekend of my daughter's first birthday, I got the call from Jay saying it was in and I was on a plane on August 26th, just two days later.  I was so eager the night before and on the way to the airport that morning, I just couldn't wait to see it in person.  Jay picked me up from the airport in it and off we went to the dealership.  
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A few signatures, Jay's in nice depth demo of the features, and I was out of there in style!  

Outside the ATS V I immediately fell in love with the lines on the exterior and I'm a sedan kind of guy but ordered the coupe for something different.  Although I'd stared at the pictures online for months, there's nothing like seeing it firsthand.  Despite the sharp prominent edges, the sweeping curves around the front and back are tough to grasp in 2D and the massive splitter on the front really makes the car look like it's ready for track war.  The way the multi-level splitter fades into the lower center grill really adds a lot to the front end.  The lights all the way around are LED, so no more yellow DRLs, which is a good thing too - all of my V2 brethren know that pain.  The elongated roof lines stretch seamlessly into the quarter panel and then ramp back up the spoiler giving the car a great profile.  The rocker air foils although shaped nicely are a little disappointing that for $5,000 CFZ package, they're only painted composite and not carbon fiber like the splitter, hood vent, and diffuser.  The rear bumper comes out more to a point like the outgoing gen-2 CTS V coupes and I'd always been a fan of that versus the flatter sedan/wagon rear ends.  Lastly, the factory diffuser and dual exhaust is a nice touch too.  I'd say overall, the Cadillac design team really took a good look at what was popular in the V2 aftermarket and did some factory options like that.  The only downside is of course, factory pricing on it.

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There are only a few minor changes I would've liked to see from the factory with respect to the outside.  There are no fog lights (a complaint shared by my C7 Corvette) and I've always been a fan of them for not just functionality, but also aesthetics.  Secondly, the ride height/fender gap is never going to go away on an American production car, so that's a moot point, but the 18" wheels coupled with it, leaves a lot to be desired, making the car look smaller than it is.  They did 19/20s on the similarly sized C7 Corvette Z51 and Z06 and it really helps the car's sporty look.  As a custom wheel guru, I've already put 19/20s on it and it really negates the "small car" look, plus I got some more meat under there for traction with 255/295s and although the offset is about perfect, I could have fit x10.5s with 305s on the rear of the coupe.  Another issue will probably be rock chips behind both the front and rear wheels.  Like most late model cars, the body tapers in at the bottom, so while the top of the tire is tucked the bottom actually is out of the body line which will leave the sides of the car exposed.  The C7 Corvette has the problem and as a result, offer small body colored splash guards to protect this a little more.  Luckily, my gripes are minimal and easily addressed in the aftermarket.

In the cockpit of the ATS VI was impressed when I got in the ATS V at the airport, despite a lot of the negative reviews I'd read about the interior.  The negativity was evidently the usual drivel of the euro-fanboy writers that continually degraded the rank of this car in the shootout/comparisons for something trivial.  I found it to be very luxurious and purposefully laid out. The transition from suede to leather was a nice compliment to the carbon fiber dash inserts and the opted Saffron inserts and Recaro seats really set it off.  The CUE cluster down the center console was clean and easily readable from either side as well and although I always like the control of a volume knob, I found myself liking the easy swipe for volume left and right.  Furthermore, I liked having a lot of controls on the steering wheel.  I can adjust the proximity monitor, turn the traction control off, change the station, turn up the radio, and bang the gears with the paddle shifters, all while doing a power slide through a turn!  hehe  I will say the paddle shifters are a little far down from the edge of the wheel; however, making it a little bit of a reach for the average guy. 

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Once in the driver's seat, I quickly found my sweet spot in the 16 way adjustable Recaros as I prepared to make the 1,000+ mile trek back to Cincinnati, OH from Dallas, TX.  I found the road noise to be almost non-existent in the well sound deadened coupe, allowing me to focus on the sounds of the engine and exhaust.  These sounds are "real" too, not enhanced from the speakers.  That feature belongs with ebay's electric intake turbos, fake blow off valves, and in the thought process of "there are no winners", and "every kid gets a trophy".  Like Ricky Bobby said, "If you're not first you're last!"  The stereo is good though and I could rock out when I wanted.  

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Over the long haul back, I did find the longing for a different, more informative gauge cluster.  The C7 Corvette's dash is all LED in the center and you can select between a variety of displays, while the ATS V's LED is a smaller rectangle under the speedometer.  If you're in aggressive driving, you're going to need more on the screen than just RPMs, MPH, and two other of your choice i.e. boost, oil pressure, etc.  The cluster was shaped properly though and easily within view inside the upper arch of the steering wheel.  

There were a few other downers for me with the interior.  The first was the small sunroof as I was accustomed to in the gen-2 CTS V was a front and rear sunroof allowing a lot of light in the car.  I'm definitely a sunroof/natural light kind of guy and even the ATS V coupe's roof was large enough for a dual pane option.  Also, while the little pop up windscreen is nice at about 50-60MPH, by the time you're around 75MPH, it becomes very loud.  It was easily quieted by squeezing it downward at higher speeds and by doing so still calmed the air over the sunroof.  

Lastly, the lack of cooled seats displeases me.  The previous gen-2 CTS V Recaros had cooled seats, but for some reason, Cadillac has gone away from the cooled seats on the ATS V entirely, and with the Recaro option on my inbound CTS V gen-3 as well, thus I opted for the regular seats on that one.

Photos - As I left Sewell in smoke, I stopped at the Flight Musem and did took a few quick shots.  For more pics visit:

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Performance - The ATS V was made for the fast lane!  As I got onto US-30 heading towards my Memphis midway point, I gave the pedal a little love and the quiet motor sprang to life!  I was tossed back into the 16 way adjustable Recaros and I could feel my grin peeling back to my ears.  Although you could've blamed the g's, it was simply the eager surprise of the acceleration from the 464hp LF4 motor, which is said to have a 0-60 in 3.8 seconds.  It's so nimble and just seems to beg for more as you're easily maneuvering through traffic and I could definitely feel the weight difference from my beloved gen-2 CTS V.  When air is moving through the engine and the turbos are spooling, they build up boost very quickly compared to my twin-charged cars of the past too.  I will say that I do notice the split second for the turbos to deliver since I'm so used to the instant torque of the positive displacement supercharger of the LSA engine, but once they're churning, the car is pulling hard!  The 8 speed automatic transmission really does help keep the engine in the sweet spot causing the little 3,700lb car to pull hard well into triple digits, despite the drag causing splitter and spoiler package.  I'm looking forward to see what our intake, downpipes, and some tuning will do to this.  I've already pulled the file and sent it off to HP Tuners to register to operating system to get started!

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy of a "daily driver" this car is too.  The car feels very firmly planted on the roads and hard into the turns, despite being able to overpower the rear end (as expected) if you have the nannies off.  The steering wheel ratio is about perfect to me, the wheel turns effortlessly, but with just enough resistance for a predictable outcome and I don't find myself having going hand over hand to get the car around easy turns, unlike it's competitors.  The stopping force in a car this light is very impressive, especially from the initial bite!  The brakes are basically a carryover from the gen-2 CTS V, which is actually a great thing.  Those brakes were real performers on a car that was over 700lbs heavier, so they have a very easy job ahead of them on the lighter sibling.  While there will be weight savings and better performance in the aftermarket, these are an absolutely great starting point for us.  The calipers have the V logo on them and the large front and rear rotors peak nicely out from behind the little 18" wheels.  

The more technology advances, the more gadgets we get in these cars too.  The car has Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport, and Track Modes and there are easy up/down Mode buttons behind the gear selector to get you into the appropriate setting, which also adjusts the valves on the exhaust.  As expected, the track mode puts you in the most aggressive settings for your driver demand tables with the accelerator, the transmission shifting, magnetic ride control, and lastly you can access the computer assisted Performance Traction Management (PTM).  PTM includes wet (handling on), dry (handling on), sport (handling on), sport (handling off), and race.  Launch control is also present on the LF4 powered ATS Vs.  This allows the driver to brake, floor it, and the car will launch at a set RPM.  I spent a large amount of time in the Track/Race mode on my way back.  :)

While it's probably taboo to talk about MPG in the performance section, I do have to say that while I usually pay no attention to gas mileage, I did monitor this on the way back. Even with my average speeds of 75+ MPH, being somewhat heavy on the pedal after my 500 mile oil change, and having the drag increasing splitter/spoiler package, I was shocked to see it still averaged over 25MPG on the highway.  It's only rated at 23MPG.  For someone looking for a performer that's also gas friendly, this is a good sign.  Alas, mine will be going down when I switch it over to E85 next week.

V-Power for V power!  
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Sound - While the car is quiet inside, Cadillac went a little too far for me in quieting the engine and exhaust.  I love the daily driveability but I really want more when I'm playing around.  Even in track mode under wide open acceleration, there is no turbo sound due to the baffling, no blow-off valves as the air is recirculated (like most factory setups), and even the exhaust in track mode is too muffled for me.  I would like to hear some louder high revving from that 3.6L V6 twin turbo motor.  I realize it's a Cadillac, but I feel the market demographic they targeted with this will want to hear a little more as well.  

Ride Quality - The ATS V coupe is easy to get in and out of the driver seat and despite the aggressive front splitter, there is ample ground clearance at over 6 inches at the lowest point on the splitter.  Once in motion, the car is solid and planted; however, what came with that is spring stiffness - even in touring mode where the lightest MRC setting is at play.  It is not a harsh ride by any means, but being a little lighter, I do feel the bumps a little more with this car than expected.  It doesn't seem like there is a great difference between the touring and track settings in this regard, noticeable but not vast.  Luckily, a finely tuned progressive spring is in the works at the moment to help soften this up top; while, improving handling down low.  

The proximity monitor is a nice touch too, although it did surprise me a couple of times in traffic by vibrating the seat when I was coming up on a car quickly.  It also has a nice feature of lane wandering protection to where it also alerts you and actually tries to veer you back into your lane if it detects you trying to change without signaling.  That feature takes some getting used to as apparently I don't always use my signal when changing lanes if I'm not in traffic.  All in all, the ATS V really made the haul surprisingly easy I thought to myself, as I pulled into Memphis, TN for my overnight. 

Attention Getter - As I pulled into the Westin by Behle Street, it was about 10PM and the Valet came running out to see what I had brought him.  He was ranting and raving about the car as he hadn't seen one yet and began taking pictures of it.  Even the cab driver behind me got out of his car to walk around it.  I always wondered if the ATS line being fairly new, had a large following yet with people recognizing it as it's own and not a CTS.  When I first got the gen-2 CTS V, although guys "in the know" recognized it as a silverback gorilla in a tuxedo, until it built more of a reputation, the masses only saw it as a 4 door Caddy.  Make no mistake, it seems the ATS buzz is already alive and well!  

The attention continued the next day when I dropped by Bud Davis Cadillac to get a 500 mile oil change to remove any metal debris from the fresh little TT motor.  I pulled the car into the staging bay and there were instantly about 10 employees standing around it from the salesmen to the techs.  A few of them had seen/driven one at COTA; however, like Sewell, it was the first they'd seen out in the wild. Jeff Weakley and his crew took good care of me getting the motor a fresh 7 quarts of oil and off I went!  

Even though my Valentine One kept me well informed tied into the iPhone app on my way back, ol' Smokey did manage to catch me on the way home.  Even he liked the new ATS V as we had a chat about it and what I was doing and although I was going a little too fast, even he let me off with just a warning and off I went on my merry way once more.  


Final Thoughts - GO GET ONE!  Overall, even after tolling a thousand miles in Cadillac's new little super luxury car over a 24 hour period, I was not tired pulling back into Cincinnati.  So, the ride as a whole is pretty close to perfect!  The ATS V's twin turbo V6 is a powerful starting platform for those of us whom are addicted to speed and making things go faster.  While there are a few minor things that could indeed be better, overall, Cadillac did not disappoint with the release of their more compact V series car.  After all, if it is good enough for the FIA GT3 class to keep take some top spots already.  With a few tweaks to get rid of some mass production compliance compromises, and freeing up those turbos to breath heavier, it will be a real contender for any would be street, track or drag strip racer.  You'll soon see the follow ups to what we've been working on fort his all year.  Stay tuned!

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 As it sits today with 19/20" brushed brass wheels and tinted windows. 

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