TEST DRIVE: Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

As a millennial growing up in the ’90s, there were car brands you associated with your grandparents. Oldsmobile, Buick, Lincoln and Cadillac were some of the most luxurious cars on the market, but ones you wouldn’t necessarily have as posters plastered on your bedroom walls.

While exotics from Ferrari and Lamborghini and even American muscle from Ford, Chevy and Dodge were the favorites for many young automotive enthusiasts in America, the trend in the last ten years has changed significantly.

In 2004, Cadillac set out to change its image of being a company just for those on Social Security by launching a high-performance division called V-Series.

From the ground-pounding CTS-V to the near-$100,000 XLR-V and the STS-V Sedan, the American automaker has carved out a solid niche in its fight to take on the European mights of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi in the luxury performance coupe market.

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Cadillac’s latest model, the ATS-V, proves to do just that, not only in performance and comfort, but also its showroom relevance to what it races on the track.

Our week-long road test with the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe was filled with interesting moments, both on the streets and off the beaten path, in what was certainly an attention-grabbing car.

Upon first glance, you could almost mistake the Velocity Red-colored road-going machine for its GT3 counterpart, the ATS-V.R, which Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper pilot in Pirelli World Challenge.

It features the same 3.6-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine, which produces 464 horsepower and 445 foot-pounds of torque on the road.

While it’s the highest-output V6 engine in the segment and the first turbocharged V-Series model, the drivetrain feels right at home in the chassis, which has been stiffened by 25 percent for higher cornering loads.

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

On our road trip from Newark to Watkins Glen for the Fourth of July weekend IMSA event, which mostly consisted of highways, you could almost sometimes forget you were at the wheel of a high-performance, rear-wheel drive coupe.

But when it came to letting it loose on the country roads surrounding the iconic track in upstate New York, the ATS-V is a whole different animal.

With 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 189 mph, the Caddy is on par with the similarly priced BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63, but both cars are electronically limited to 155 mph, per German regulations.

The eight-speed automatic paddle-shift transmission, as equipped on this car, performed flawlessly, although the optional six-speed manual would likely be better suited for those looking to feel more connected to the car and road.

Even in touring mode, the ATS-V had plenty of grunt, and when switched to sport, took on a new level. Cadillac claims the equipped Brembo brakes have been developed for track-day performance, and felt solid in our tests, on public roads.

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

The only issue during our trip was the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) display system, which was glitchy and difficult to work with, especially in setting navigation points. It was no comparison to BMW’s iDrive, which features a handy center-console mounted controller.

However, the disappointment in the entertainment system is made up in the looks department, with the ATS-V, particularly in Velocity Red, being an eye-catcher, nearly everywhere we went. From the gas station to Watkins Glen National Park and the track itself, I never remember getting so many compliments from a press car before.

The ATS-V Coupe, however, will set you back a pretty penny if you opt for the full monty.

There’s more than $15,000 in options alone, including a $5,000 carbon fiber package, added to the base $62,665 model. Why spend nearly $80,000 for this car, where you’d be able to get a base-level Corvette Z06 for the same price?

But if money is no object, and your heart is set on a luxury performance coupe, then the ATS-V Coupe should definitely be considered, even when stacked up against the established German models in this segment.

And after getting to experience a V-Series car for the first time, my preconception about the brand has changed. If I was still 12 years old, I know one of those posters would be a Cadillac.

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

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