There has been some talk floating around lately of the Cadillac ATS-V being not only better than the BMW M3, but the car BMW should have made the M3 be in the first place. It’s been said that the ATS-V is more of an M3 than the current M3. This is interesting, as the ATS-V is very similar to the M3, in terms of design and performance, so maybe it’s true. But maybe it’s not.
The current F80 BMW M3 has been criticized for being too brutish and numb, not like the precision and tactile instruments that
previous M3s were.
In some ways, these critics have a point. The current M3 is the most powerful and torquiest of the bunch, having a much broader and more aggressive powerband than any M3 before it. It’s also bigger, faster and turbocharged. So, in many ways, the M3 has grown up and become a bit more brutish. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a brute.
The Cadillac ATS-V has been said to be more of a precision instrument than the M3. Yet, that’s an odd statement, as the ATS-V has almost an identical engine setup, more power, is faster to 60 mph, its powerband is far more sudden due to the increased turbo lag over the M3 and it’s heavier. So I wouldn’t necessarily call the ATS-V the Mohammed Ali to the M3’s Mike Tyson.
Now, maybe the M3 doesn’t have the tactility and feedback of the E46 M3 or the screaming and charismatic V8 of the E92. But it’s still one hell of a sharp instrument. Watch any video of a proper driver taking the M3 around a track and you can see immediately that any driver worth his salt can work the M3 like a laser-guided weapon specifically designed for attacking apexes. Calling the M3 something of a German Muscle Car is incredibly far from the truth.
The ATS-V’s twin-turbocharged V6’s powerband comes in like a sledgehammer, as the lag in the beginning belies the true ferocity of the engine. So when the boost comes on, the power delivery kicks thrusts you back like an ACME rocket. Sure, it’s handling is sharp and the suspension is very good. But is the M3’s handling is sloppy or suspension wooden? Absolutely not. In fact, the M3 is one of the hottest performing cars on the road.
I have no doubt that the ATS-V is a fantastic car and is probably equally as good as the M3. It may even be the more engaging car, as the Germans have gone more toward cold-hearted tactility over heart racing fun these past few years. But the ATS-V isn’t more of an M3 than the M3 is. BMW knows what the M3 needs to be, the ATS-V is just a different interpretation of it. If the BMW M3 is Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, the ATS-V is Emmitt Smith of Dancing With The Stars. Equally as impressive and talented, just in different manner.