Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins
Welcome to Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, TX where greatness in the form of high velocity takes place incessantly. I am happy to announce that my 5th appearance at COTA was with the new 2016 Cadillac ATS-V. The Formula 1 track not only hosts the United States only Grand Prix race in October, but also plays host to a cadre of automotive media drives from performance curators like AMGs and M vehicles which I last drove on the 3.41-mile racetrack. Does Cadillac’s V-Series belong amongst this niche group of high rollers? Absolutely!
During a brief visit to the artsy and eclectic Capitol of Texas I was able to evaluate both the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V’s polite mannerisms on normal, pedestrian roads and simultaneously watch it unleash the beast, which equates to the high-output 3.6-liter Twin Turbo V6 with 464-horsepower and 445 lb.-ft. of torque. Paired with either a 6-speed manual with Active Rev Matching, No-Lift Shift and Launch Control or the 8-speed automatic paddle-shifting transmission featuring Launch Control and Performance Algorithm Shift (my choice), the dual-purpose luxury performer strengthens Cadillac’s credentials with a 3.9-second 0 to 60 mph time and a top speed of 189 mph. With ten years of V-Series experience under its belt Cadillac’s designers and engineers instilled the latest V package with elevated and expanded capabilities. Of course success on the track ultimately defines your consumer position over time and increases brand confidence and sales.
“The ATS-V feels like it was machined from billet steel,” said Tony Roma, chief engineer. “Along with supporting the higher performance capability of the car, the enhanced structure conveys confidence to the driver through a greater feeling of solidity and sharper, more precise responsiveness.”
To begin the wet and damp Austin day my drive partner Dan Neil and I jumped in a $73,730 ($61,460 base including $995 destination) Red Obsession Tintcoat ($995) ATS-V Sedan with a Jet Black interior highlighted by ultra-sporty Recaro racing seats ($2,300), carbon fiber trim, a Bose surround sounds system with Active Noise Cancellation, wireless charging, embedded Wi-Fi and the 8” Cadillac CUE multimedia system (included in the $2,500 Luxury Package). Not one of my favorite features, I prefer central controller infotainment centers over touchscreen haptic systems. Also, recent research shows that consumers are actually more focused on preventative safety technology over entertainment. I concur and place myself in the same boat. With that, our vehicle’s $1,850 Safety and Security Package put a big, fat smile on my face. To name a few it is laced with Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Change Alert, Lane Keep Assist and a Safety Alert Seat which vibrates when a maneuver is made without using the turn signals.
Driving around town was pleasant and relaxing. You can say the ATS-V has the qualities of both a sprinter and a long distance runner. This is partly due to the configurable drive selector with touring, sport and track modes and a 5-mode Performance Traction Management system with Launch Control. Touring mode is best compared to the marathoner while track mode is equated to the aggression and speed, but fluidness of a 100-meter competitor. The hand-crafted multi-material cabin with micro-suede seats and trim on the instrument panel and doors is also warm, charming and indicative of longer drives. The last thing you want is an ultra-sport machine that is uncomfortable after just ten miles of driving.
When we arrived to COTA the grounds were still a bit moist from an early morning rain, but very manageable. The 20-turn, counterclockwise circuit sits atop 1,500 acres of hills not far from downtown Austin. Thankfully I had the course nearly memorized from multiple visits. This strategic advantage allowed me to pay more attention to the V rather than worrying about COTA’s chicane, which by the way is the fastest and most exciting set of turns I’ve experienced at any track to date. The thrilling 133-foot hill coming out of the backstretch is equally exhilarating. In theory the ATS-V was aesthetically designed and intellectually engineered for these moments. Every element was implemented for improved cooling performance, improved aero or increased downforce. For example there is 50% more grille area on the V than the base ATS to serve as air outlets to cool down those ponies. The carbon fiber hood is embedded with air extractors which help reduce lift, cool the engine and manage the vehicle’s airflow. On the front fenders are carbon fiber gurney lips to help deflect air around the Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires, which ultimately help reduce aerodynamic drag. The rear of the V is emphasized with a spoiler that is 30 millimeters taller to keep the Cadillac planted at high speeds and a carbon fiber rear diffuser assists with channeling air and houses the quad exhaust tips. Not as audibly fierce as a Jaguar F-Type R or Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale, I would like to see adjustments so the ATS-V’s exhaust notes match its titillating power. Cadillac believes in the dynamics of RWD and the ATS-V’s electronic limited-slip rear differential with varying torque bias for high-speed cornering. Both RWD and AWD offer strategic advantages. If you enjoy the natural power of RWD the ATS-V is the choice. But if you live here in Maryland and would like to drive your performance car in the winter then an AWD with snow tires is optimal. Lastly, the $900 forged aluminum 18” rims are stylish, but a V-Series wheel package should be sinister!
After a few warm-up laps we let the Vs loose like greyhounds and immediately I could feel the 25% stiffer chassis and 4-Mode Magnetic Ride Control go to work, especially through the aforementioned chicane. I was much more comfortable with the 8-speed over the manual on the track. It felt faster and lessons the tension since so many variables are put into play when performing on COTA’s grand stage. The steering was pinpoint and accurate while the Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brake package allowed me to head into turns with more confidence and a bit more speed than intended. The $425 full-color Head-Up Display was absolutely needed to keep me informed of gear shifts as well as RPMs, because missing a key shift is the difference between leading the pack or trailing it.
“As the smallest and lightest V-Series ever, the ATS-V forges a great connection with the driver, with exceptional nimbleness and responsiveness,” said David Leone, Cadillac Executive Chief Engineer. “It’s adaptable to the driver’s preferences, with every selectable mode developed to deliver the best performance for all types of driving scenarios, including the track.” I agree with Dave 100%, and so does the onboard Performance Data Recorder which will not tell a lie since it has the capability of recording your greatest and lowest track moments in HD. So make sure you are ready to rock before hitting record!