Cadillac has quietly become America's fastest growing luxury brand, with a range of new sports sedans to compete with the usual German suspects. General Motors added to that lineup Tuesday with the debut of the 2015 ATS coupe at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The compact coupe is a first for General Motors' luxury division and will compete with the likes of BMW's 4-Series, along with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe, the Audi A5, the all-new Lexus RC Coupe and the Infiniti Q60.
"The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is a natural step in the brand's progression," said Uwe Ellinghaus, head of Cadillac's global marketing. "The new car is for a new generation of drivers extending our target groups."
In 2013, the first full year the four-door ATS sedan was on sale, the car outsold more established competitors, including the Lexus IS, Audi A4 and Infiniti Q50.
It was a big reason why Cadillac sales last year grew 22% to more than 182,000 vehicles. The brand now outsells rivals such as Audi and Acura and trails only Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus in the crowded luxury segment of the market.
"Cadillac is in it to win," said Jake Fisher, automotive test director for Consumer Reports. "They are producing vehicles that have better driving dynamics than the Germans, and the interior qualities are top notch. They are among the best you can get."
General Motors is upbeat about the Cadillac brand.
"We believe we have a global opportunity with Cadillac," said Alan Batey, who becomes president of GM's North American operations this week.
GM is targeting the Middle East, China and Russia as growth markets for the luxury nameplate.
If there's a place where the brand still lags, it's in electronics and infotainment, Fisher said. Cadillac's Cue system is clumsy to use, he said.
"It is a shame, because they are building these wonderful driving vehicles with sumptuous interiors," Fisher said, "but saddling them with these infotainment systems that don't work very well."
By adding a coupe variant to the Cadillac lineup, the brand hopes to lure in a younger, more engaged driver. The ATS Coupe shares a platform and wheelbase with the sedan, though the new model's front and rear track are slightly wider. The new coupe also wears unique sheet metal on its roof, doors, rear fenders and trunk lid.
The coupe makes sense in part because the back seat on the four-door ATS is already so small. "The rear seat is an occasional penalty box, so you might as well go all in and get the coupe," Fisher said.
Mechanically, the ATS Coupe is nearly identical to the sedan. Two engines will be offered. The base will be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that matches the sedan's 272 horsepower but bumps torque up to 295 pound-feet from 260 pound-feet. The increased torque gives the coupe a 5.6-second zero-to-60 mph time, about 0.4 seconds faster than the sedan.
Cadillac will also have a 3.6-liter six-cylinder that produces 321 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.
Like all good sport compacts, the Coupe will have a 50-50 weight distribution, ensuring that the strong driving dynamics from the sedan carry over into this model.
For the hot shoes among the ATS Coupe audience, Cadillac will offer optional performance features, such as an adaptive sport suspension, a mechanical limited-slip differential, better engine cooling and summer tires.