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If I am buying an ATS, I’ll go straight for the V-Series coupé, thanks. I like two doors and ludicrous amounts of power — the last ATS I tested with a 3.7-litre V6 wasn’t exactly slow, but who could turn down a 6.2-litre supercharged V8? Certainly not me. And I prefer the smaller body style more than a saloon; the latter is burdened with the added responsibility of being able to easily accommodate people in them. People are annoying. I drive alone with the music stored on my USB for company, but when presented with this doorier 2017 ATS packing a new turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, an opportunity arose to see if this would be a case of four-doors good, two-doors bad... However, I couldn’t find anybody that needed a lift anywhere — so, I cranked up the volume.
Alone with the most-powerful turbo-four compact luxury saloon in its class (it’s more potent than the similarly engined offerings from BMW and Merc...), I had a whale of a time. 272 horses under my right foot and 400Nm of torque shooting the Caddie forwards with blistering pace at will sure induced a wide grin. The V6 and supercharged V8 were a distant memory; this one was proving lots of fun, but it wasn’t just down to the responsive motor. To be honest, a very large percentage of it was; with it delivering 90 per cent of its peak torque from 2,100rpm and supported by 18psi of boost, the Caddie proved exhilarating to drive — but with a driver-focused cabin packed with technology complementing the stylish and edgy exterior, there wasn’t much to really dislike here. But then I turned around and noticed the space — rather, lack of — in the second row. Was a good job I didn’t ask any six-footers if they needed to be dropped off as knee-room sure looked to be at a premium. And, as our tester was the base variant, there might not have been much in terms of fancy trim (no Alcantara anywhere; that ATS coupé Premium Luxury was smothered with the stuff...), nor did it have a sunroof or reversing camera — but it did have Brembo front brakes, a performance-tuned ZF steering and a snappy eight-speed automatic as standard. You know, the things that actually matter to drivers. With a lightweight architecture, it was a thrill to chuck from left to right and still have it display its excellent road manners and keep roll to a minimum. The finely tuned chassis kept things in order (the wide front and rear tracks really helped in this regard) and with a near 50:50 weight distribution it proved a very well-balanced car with good agility and driver feedback. And with it packing direct injection and dual overhead camshafts with continuously variable valve timing, this isn’t just a peppy motor; with it also getting stop-start technology, it’s frugal too and sips back a claimed 7.58 litres per 100km on the highway.
There are quite a few tight-handling, medium size sporty saloons out there to choose from. You’ve got the 3 Series (which has more rear seat room than the ATS), then there’s the C-Class (which has arguably the best cabin in the segment). Throw in the likes of the A4, XE and IS and that’s a tough group in anyone’s book, but the fact that the Caddie shines in this brilliant bunch says it all. It’s able to distinguish itself in such fine company and though it may have debuted back in 2013 and is still in its first generation, it is right up there with the best. From the lively steering, nimble handling and attractive sheet metal, it has a lot going for it — and now, with a smaller turbocharged engine, it’s more efficient but still just as enjoyable to drive. So it just gets better and better for the ATS. However, downsizing just isn’t for me and as I said, if I were to buy one, I’d want mine with the biggest motor Cadillac offers, for no reason other than smoky burnouts and a rumbly exhaust note. Although those sorts of shenanigans aren’t very ‘Cadillac’ — a brand that personifies refinement and luxury — it’s that beast of a car that I’m more attracted to over this one. But that’s just me. Remember, I’m weird. My only friend is my USB...