Cadillac (NYSE:GM) seems to have found a winning formula with the entry-level ATS, the brand’s smallest and most affordable sedan. With a starting price of $33,095, the ATS presents a formidable foe to the likes of the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4, and the Mercedes-Benz C Class. While the European companies aren’t resting on their laurels, Cadillac isn’t either — in fact, it’s hoping to play with that formula to make the ATS more of a household name.
Cadillac recently unveiled the ATS Coupe, which is more or less exactly what it sounds like: The company sheared two doors off the original model and kept the car simple and elegant, allowing the design language of straight lines and clean sheet metal to do most of the talking. The coupe will also be the first Caddy to wear the new badge, which ditches the framing wreath.
However, General Motors’ global brand chief, Bob Ferguson, said to Automotive News that GM is “absolutely” considering at least one variant in addition to the coupe, as well as a V-series high-performance model, which is expected to be introduced later this year. Ferguson said the possibilities of both a convertible and a wagon are being looked at.
“You’ve made the investment. You’ve built a brand within a brand,”Ferguson said of the ATS to Automotive News. ”If you have a winner, you should exploit that and offer variations.”
The choice to diversify the ATS nameplate makes it more competitive against its European rivals, which have — for the most part — defined the small luxury sedan market. Mercedes offers a coupe version of its C Class, BMW has the 4 Series, and Audi has the A5.
As expected, its rivals aren’t cheap. The Mercedes starts at a lofty $38,000, the A5 starts at $39,000, and the 4 Series begins at $40,500. With the ATS weighing in at about $33,000 in sedan form, its likely that the Coupe will command at least $35,000 or more, if the pricing ladder seen from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes is applied to Cadillac.
Further, a higher-performance version would be a welcome and arguably needed addition to the Cadillac family. As the brand is finding out, its reputation as a sleepy, geriatric favorite is the hardest to dispel. The CTS-V has helped in some ways, but Cadillac is doing battle with the Germans, where performance engineering and high-performance cars are as much a part of their DNA as the leather seats are.
Further, the European nameplates have proven that variety — both in body style and in powertrains — isn’t necessarily damaging to a brand’s integrity. Cadillac has historically been rather afraid to play with fire, but if the new performance models and the ELR suggest anything, it’s that Cadillac is becoming more adventurous with its engineering decisions.
Under the assumption that Cadillac would be gunning for the likes of the S4 or the BMW 335i, we would expect a performance version of the ATS to be running from 300 to 350 horsepower, which is already provided from the 3.6-liter V6 (321 horsepower). A halo ATS model, which would go up against the M3 and the Mercedes C63 AMG, should be in excess of 420 or so horsepower, simply to meet the others on same field, to say nothing of surpassing them.
As far as a convertible or wagon version goes, it’s likely that neither would present something wholly unexpected. Regardless, it’s an exciting time for Cadillac and an equally exciting time for the European automakers who finally have a viable threat from America. As buyers, there has perhaps never been a better time to be shopping for a performance sedan.