On the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

They start with the platform that gave rise to the award-winning ATS Sedan, then created a stylish, striking compact coupe that’s targeted at European competitors.

Coupes, as a category, are lesscompelling than they once might have been, before everyone became fixated on designs that want to make everything a utility vehicle whether utility is required or not, whether the vehicle actually provides utility or not.

But in the premium segment—where, yes, utilities are outselling sedans in many cases, as the wealthier apparently like higher H-points like the rest of us—there is still an opportunity for coupes to have a run, especially when those vehicles are built on a platform that has already been developed for a sedan.

“This is the third car from the performance rear-drive architecture,” says David Masch, chief engineer, Cadillac ATS. He’s talking about the 2015 ATS Coupe. The other two are the ATS Sedan and the 2014 CTS Sedan.

And the compact Coupe could, according to Jim Vurpillat, director, Cadillac Global Marketing, break through the single-digit percentages that are not uncommon vis-à-vis the sales of the sedan version of a given car. The fact that it has a starting price—including $995 destination—of $38,990 probably will help those numbers.

The base vehicle has a 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It produces 272 hp @ 5,500 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm. One vehicle that Cadillac compares that to is the BMW 428i, which also has a 2.0-liter turbo. The performance numbers of the BMW engine are 240 hp and 255 lb-ft, which are comparatively lower than the ATS Coupe, and the base price, not including destination, is $40,600. Which is one reason why Vurpillat and his colleagues are positive about the potential for the ATS Coupe in the market.

While on the subject of the powertrain, know this:

• The 2.0-liter turbo has a cast aluminum block and head. The maximum engine speed is 7,000 rpm. Premium fuel is recommended but not required. Its fuel economy numbers are 21 city, 31 highway.

• The 2.0-liter can be mated to a Tremec TR3160 fully synchronized six-speed manual with single overdrive or a Hydra-Matic 6L45 six-speed, electronically controlled automatic with a torque converter clutch.

• The 2.0-liter is available as a rear-drive or all-wheel drive vehicle

• There is also a 3.6-liter V6 with direct injection and variable valve timing.

• The V6 has an aluminum block and heads. The maximum engine speed is 7,200 rpm. It can run on regular unleaded or E85. Its fuel economy numbers are 18 city, 28 highway.

• The V6 produces 321 hp @ 6,800 rpm and 275 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm.

• The V6 is available only in a rear-drive configuration.

One of the things that Masch emphasizes about the ATS Coupe is that it—like all of the recently developed Cadillacs (as in the aforementioned ATS Sedan and the CTS Sedan)—is highly mass efficient. 

And the mass is nicely balanced, at 51% front, 49% rear.The base curb weight of the car is 3,418 lb.

“How did we get that light weight?” Masch asks . . . then answers that it is essentially achieved through the implementation of a combination of materials and engineering.

As in:

• Steel. They used mild steel for the outer panels, because that allowed them to achieve, Masch says, the “crisp lines and drama on the surfaces of the car.” (More about the design in a moment.) They used high-strength, low-alloy (HSLA) steel and bake-hardenable steels in areas where they needed durability. And they used advanced high-strength, ultra-high strength, and press-hardened steels in areas where occupant safety and crash-energy management are required.

• Aluminum. “We used a lot of aluminum, especially in the front of the car,” Masch says, speaking mainly of the suspension (which is a MacPherson-type with dual lower ball joints, twin-tube struts, and a direct-acting stabilizer bar; aluminum is used for such components as the knuckles and suspension arms). An aluminum transmission cross member is used. (And speaking of the suspension, in the back, which is an independent five-link design, Masch says that in order to help balance the weight, ferrous materials, such as thin-gauged steel sections, are used.)

• Magnesium. The engine mount brackets.Following on what was achieved with the ATS Sedan and CTS Sedan, Masch says that there is extensive use of structural adhesives for the CTS Coupe. In all, 116 meters (or 380.6 ft). “It helps provide a solid feel,” Masch says of using the bonding on the flanges along with spot welds. He notes that compared to the CTS Coupe, there is 42% greater static torsional stiffness and a 28% improvement in dynamic modes, as well.

While the materials deployment and suspension setup—as well as the standard ZF belt-driven, rack-mounted, electric steering gear and optional Magnetic Ride Control—are all about improving the ride and handling, there is also the issue of how the car looks.

Brian Smith, Cadillac exterior design manager, who worked on both the 2013 ATS Sedan and the 2014 CTS Sedan, says, “We got to start with a sedan with great rear-wheel-drive proportions and are able to make it more dramatic.”

The car has the same 109.3-in. wheel-base as the sedan, but the other dimensions are different:

Length: 183.6 in 182.8 in.

Height: 54.8 in. 55.9 in.

Width: 72.5 in. 71.1 in.

Track (f/r) 60.3/61.7 in. 59.5/60.9 in.

And while on the subject of different, the only exterior sheet metal panel that is shared by both ATS variants is the hood.

Speaking of the lower roofline, Smith candidly admits, “This is less about passenger volume and more about achieving sporty coupe character.” So the front/rear headroom for the Coupe are 37.6/35.1 in. while in the Sedan they are 38.6/36.9 in., which goes to show that in some regards you have to suffer for style. A hugely notable difference is found in the EPA Passenger Volume Coupe Sedan measure, which is 83.9-ft for the Sedan. That said, and 90.9-ft3 however, the lower decklid around back notwithstanding, both vehicles have the same trunk volume, 10.4-ft3

The wider track is achieved with wheel offsets, which Smith says allowed designers to put more shape in the Coupe’s wheel design, taking advantage of the depth provided.

“The front of the car has the most obvious difference: a bigger, bolder grille with nicely sculpted elements,” Smith says, noting that it is the first use of the new Cadillac crest which is lower and wider, just as the ATS Coupe is low and wide. The Cadillac egg-crate grille is implied rather than mechanically generated. “We are trying to introduce a little more richness and sculpture with some of the textures,” Smith says.

There is the now-signature vertical Cadillac lighting both in the front and back. Not only does the ATS Coupe share the same platform as the CTS Sedan, the new car also borrows the side view mirrors from the CTS.

Being a coupe, there is a fast windshield and roofline. The door glass is frameless, befitting a coupe. This also allows us to put the brightwork on the body and to play with its line weight. When it is tied to a door, the construction section of the door frame dictates the width of the brightwork. We are able to sculpt it more, move from thick to thin.”

Also along the side, there is a lowered belt line over the rear wheel, and the “signature Cadillac sail panel”—a.k.a., the C-pillar—“is rendered differently, slimmer, and faster, providing a little more airiness.” It also enhances rear visibility.

“This is a very dynamic, elegant and sporty coupe,” Smith concludes.

And he’s right.