Building a Performance Reputation

Building a Performance Reputation

Three-Pedal Performance Machine

Car and Driver / John Pearly Huffman / June 2016

The manual-transmission 2016 ATS-V sedan is Cadillac’s three-pedal performance machine. With 464 horsepower from its 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, this is one of the world’s great delivery systems.

The stir-it-yourself transmission in this ATS-V sedan is no mystery box. It’s the TREMEC TR-6060 six-speed, an evolution of the T-56 that has been used in various Camaros, Vipers, and Mustangs for almost a quarter-century. All the demons were chased out of this gearbox decades ago, and it has been refined to the point that its shifts are intuitive.

Cadillac has optimized the TR-6060 by adding both active rev-matching logic and no-lift shifting. The rev-matching feature blips the throttle when it anticipates a downshift to make the shift change smoother, while the no-lift feature facilitates upshifts without making the driver lay off the go juice. Both technologies work well, keeping the engine in the meatiest part of its torque production.

A pair of switches, located aft of the shifter, control the three modes in which the ATS-V will operate: Touring, Sport, and Track.

In Touring mode, the engine idles almost silently and rises into a slight vibrating contralto as it runs through the gears. It’s never loud, but there is an engaging resonant note to the exhaust. The ride is compliant without being mushy, and the steering is easygoing. In Sport and Track modes, the steering takes deliberate effort, the suspension stiffens significantly, and the exhaust is louder and more vivid but still falls well short of our aural expectations (both the C63’s bombastic V-8 and the M3/M4’s ripping inline-six are far better). Sport mode is fun. Track mode makes the ATS-V feel as if it’s in hot pursuit of a Trans-Am title.

Most ATS-Vs will be delivered with the eight-speed automatic. But while the manual has two fewer gears, it uses an aggressive 3.73:1 final-drive ratio compared with the automatic’s set of 2.85:1 gears. Both fifth and sixth in the manual are overdrive ratios, but second, third, and fourth (a direct 1:1 ratio) thrive with this short gearset—not so much in absolute performance but in being almost ludicrously entertaining.

The manual transmission creates a more direct connection between driver and car. You can feel torque surging up through the shifter in your hand, and you know the precise moment when the clutch engages through the pedal as your toes rise with it. This is high-level mechanical intimacy.

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