By on July 8, 2021

Today’s edition of B/D/B is a little different than the norm. Usually, we ask you to choose from competing cars from three different marques all on sale in the same year.

This time we’re asking you to pick a Buy from among three different two-door Cadillacs, all of which cost about the same in 2021.

Through recent research, I’ve noticed something very interesting: In The Current Year, the XLR, CTS, ATS, and ELR (that’s every two-door model Cadillac has produced since 2004) all command the same money on the used market. Their pricing is aligned at around $21,000 to $24,000 (excluding V variants). That’s fairly unusual given their different ages, power, and overall missions. Today we look at the three most traditional options of those four (not in V guise), and leave out the ELR because it sucked.

XLR

Oldest car first. The quite expensive XLR was available for model years 2004 through 2009. The only Corvette-based Cadillac ever, XLR was produced at the Bowling Green, Kentucky factory alongside the C6 Corvette (and for a short while alongside the C5). Standard XLR versions used the 4.6-liter Northstar, which in theory had all its issues worked out by this implementation. The XLR-V was much more expensive and used a supercharged 4.4-liter version of the Northstar. Standard XLRs used a five-speed GM automatic from the STS and BMW X5, while the V used a six-speed auto shared with Escalade. XLR was a rear-drive luxury roadster, its experience limited to two passengers. Its party piece was a German-designed fully automatic folding metal roof. Cadillac planned to move between five and seven thousand per year, and never managed it.

CTS

The second-generation CTS was produced for model years 2008 through 2014. Available in sedan, wagon, and coupe formats, the latter was the final and most striking version introduced. From 2011 to 2014 the standard coupe and V coupe were offered, with V soldiering on alone as a wind-down model in 2015. Standard on CTS coupe was GM’s 3.6-liter direct-injection V6, a 6.2-liter Corvette V8 was reserved for V. Rear-drive was standard, and all-wheel drive optional. The coupe was also available in five-speed automatic or six-speed manual guises.

ATS

The single-generation ATS was available from 2013 to 2019, with the coupe variant offered from 2015 onward. The smallest car here, ATS was wider than its sedan brother. Base power on the ATS coupe arrived from a 2.0-liter inline-four, with turbocharging and 272 horsepower. Up-level power was from the same 3.6-liter mill as found in the CTS above (321 horses). Transmissions had six speeds whether manual or automatic to start, though the automatic was replaced from 2016 onward with an eight-speed. ATS lived on through 2019 before its replacement by the present-day CT4 (an updated ATS), which is not available as a coupe.

Three Cadillacs, two doors each, all commanding around the same money. Which one gets your Buy?

[Images: Cadillac]

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30 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Three Two-door Cadillacs, One Price Point...”


  • avatar
    Syke

    Buy – XLR. Even though it comes automatic only.

    Drive – CTS. A very nice coupe for it’s day.

    Burn – ATS. Burn is too strong a term. Try “I’m completely indifferent to it.”

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Tough call for me – I like all three of these.

    Buy: XLR. Come on…who can resist a ‘Vette Caddy? Plus, there are plenty of creampuff examples out there. Bonus: it’s becoming somewhat collectible.

    Drive: ATS. I happen to be one of six ATS fans out there. Anyway, this is better looking than the CTS, and the chassis is first rate. Skip the six and go with the turbo four – it feels far lighter on its’ feet.

    Burn: CTS. Good car, but something’s gotta burn.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      SCHOCKED to read another commenter likes this generation of arts and science, as I do. Agreed on the order. yes to 274 hp turbo-four with stick… but in a four door, no matter how compromised.

      Now about that instrument cluster…. (channeling you know who)

      • 0 avatar
        parkave231

        Here’s another! I much prefer my 2014 CTS to the prior — but still good — version. The ATS looks sharp too, and the grille refresh with the wreathless logo looks much, much better than it does on the CTS.

        Ditto on the turbo 4 — no complaints here.

        Never was a fan of the huge rear on the CTS coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The thing about the ATS is that unless you *have* to get a coupe or you’re a member of the Manual Transmission Mafia then the Alpha CTS or current CT5-V seem much better to me.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Buy: XLR. Come on…who can resist a ‘Vette Caddy? Plus, there are plenty of creampuff examples out there. Bonus: it’s becoming somewhat collectible.”

      Way too expensive, buy the SC430 instead or just find an actual C6.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Alpha chassis FTW! Enjoyed our 2013 ATS with 90,000 miles.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy: ATS. A full-whack ATS V6 coupe wasn’t too bad but GM wanted all the money for it when new and now a few years later it is kind of slow.

    Drive: XLR. Might be fun. I’d still rather just have a C6 convertible.

    Burn: CTS The a$$ on that thing is excessive. And the door handles are annoying.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I kinda like the ELR for its rarity. Buy I’ll play, based on looks only.
    Buy ATS: nice proportions. way late to the market though
    Drive CTS: always disliked the rear hind quarters
    Burn XLR: its just dumb

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    This is tough. I like all three cars and am the present owner of a 2005 Deville. I love the ride, handling is decent for a base barge. But I hate working on the damm thing due to a big engine in a tiny space.

    First off I would take any of them in V Trim Spec

    BUY: CTS – THis is a toss-up between the CTS and the ATS. I’ll take the CTS because I like the angular lines short of the ugly grill

    DRIVE: ATS – V6 and Manual transmission, please!

    BURN: XLR – I don’t want to but I need the seating and I can only imagine problems with the folding hard top

  • avatar
    redapple

    German Shepard dog pooh
    v
    Irish Setter Dog pooh
    v
    Collie Dog pooh.

    Hum: Let me think

  • avatar
    Crashdaddy430

    Buy the CTS because it still looks good including that huge a$$ and in my opinion this was the pinnacle of art & science design language.

    Drive the ATS since I admittedly never driven one but seems like the alpha platform is bmw 90s reborn in the most unexpected of places.

    Burn the XLR because I worked at a Cadilliac dealer and saw a lot of these and was disappointed every time I got inside one, V or regular. It looked so cool on the outside but the interior let it down as per GM etiquette dictates.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Buy: ATS, as a livable daily with a comfortable interior and a stick
    Drive: XLR; I’ve always wanted one for the styling, but have little use for a two-seater
    Burn: CTS by default

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I owned a CTS Wagon and my sister owned an ATS Coupe. Take that for what it’s worth.

    Buy: XLR. It is becoming collectible and despite the “common wisdom” about the Northstar, the latter versions were solid, very good engines. I had one in my ‘06 STS and it was everything a Cadillace engine should be. Plus, it’s a convertible.

    Drive: The ATS. I’ve driven a number of them and either the V6 or the four are good choices. The ATS was more of a drivers car than the contemporary product from BMW. Not for me because I kept banging my head on the door opening getting in and out but, aside from that, a good car. Get one with the electronic dash if you are one of those people who are offended by the base gauges.

    Burn: The CTS Coupe, again because something has to fit this category. My specific reasons have to do with my CTS wagon experience. The thing was a looker, as is the coupe. People always commented on it. But the steering was a bit vague and the suspension (despite being sport trim) was too soft. Coming off the Northstar STS with magnetic ride, it felt like a letdown.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Oh this is a hard one. I’m not a HUGE fan of any of them, but I have always wanted to drive them all.

    So, for me:
    Buy: XLR for it’s quirkiness, mystique, and because most people have no idea that Caddy made a “Corvette”. It’s destined to appreciate in value with merit, unlike the Allante (personal opinion).

    Drive: ATS because, like someone else commented above, I feel like this was Cadillac’s way of channeling their inner 80’s/90’s BMW and that’s a magical thing for an American manufacturer. Plus, something about the exhaust on it just appeals to my eye. Maybe its the nearly center mounted single exit exhaust on the 2.0T and 2.5NA (available as base engine 2013-2016).

    Burn: CTS because this car, in this generation has always had awkward proportions to me. The only saving grace is the shape of the greenhouse. The V pulled it off better, but the 3.6 version with it’s chrome grille, small wheels, and brightwork just didn’t work for me. Plus, thems the rules. One’s gotta be turned to cinder.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    Buy: CTS. Have one in my garage, love the looks of the coupe.

    Drive: XLR. It’s a covertible.

    Burn: ATS. Son had one and he constantly fought with the CUE system.

    • 0 avatar
      sckid213

      +1 to your list. To add to the Buy CTS:

      I also have a CTS in the garage (though a sedan). I’m open to replacing but it has been very reliable overall and still great to drive…still feels “analog” in all the best ways. I am a bit OCD and always keep her shining and people can’t believe it’s a 2008. And that’s the first-model-year during the trough of the ’08 recession and GM’s BK.

      Still reliable! ::shrug::

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    ATS would probably be superior to the CTS, but of course we had to play RenCen’s favorite game of “who *doesn’t* get an LS V8”. Thus CTS over ATS unless equal crappy drivetrain than ATS over CTS because the CTS coupe styling is horrid – I really can’t believe multiple managers greenlit it.

    Anecdotally based on pre-plandemic wholesale, the NOrthSTARrt must actually work in the XLR or they would have sunk like stones due to blown engines as the older K and G bodies did/have. Believe me I researched XLR engine swaps because I figured you’d have to do so, but no that really wasn’t happening much if at all. Way to go GM, only what twelve (?) model years before you made an engine which debuted in 1993 actually work correctly from the factory.

    Buy: CTS-V coupe
    Drive: XLR
    Burn: ATS

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I think I’d rather have that ’91 Eldorado from a few weeks ago over these three and then I can spend the price difference on other beloved hobbies.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      The Northstar, once the head studs issues were sorted is a fine engine. The supercharged version, on paper, might scare people but the design of the split block locates and supports the crank so well that the engine has no issue with the boost. Northstars rarely need bottom end work.

  • avatar
    Socrates77

    All junk, just like other chevy’s. With crap plastics all over the place. Cadillac can’t make luxury cars because the investors want the bean counters to design the cars. It was pathetic when they tried to pass piano black plastic as a luxury like wood or aluminum.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The CTS coupe was the most swashbuckling car of the era, nothing else came close.

    A 5.3 V8 would’ve made it perfect. Nice even without the ability to set the Nurburgerking ring on fire.

    It’s big butt is just an illusion. Otherwise you have big quarter-windows and huge tail lights that would ruin the look.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: CTS- The Art and science design styling still holds up. Considering they’re pre bankruptcy GM the quality and reliability is quite good.

    Drive: XLR- What the Allante should have been. The N* is debugged. As par for GM when they finally get it right they discontinue the model.

    Burn: ATS- Nice platform. The turbo 4 and manual are a fine power train but the interior and dashboard are lacking. Could have been a worthy C-class coupe or 2-series competitor.

  • avatar
    07NodnarB

    This is an easy one for me because at the present moment I am in the market for and attempting to find MY used low-mileage ATS coupe with the 2.0T.

    Buy: ATS
    Burn: the one with that damn northstar because them issues will never be worked out, not for real…
    Drive: CTS

  • avatar
    renewingmind

    Buy: XLR – good looking car and will have panache for a long time
    Drive: ATS – the chassis on this car is wonderful to drive. Responsive and tight, a joy in the twisties. The stick completes the experience.
    Burn: CTS – a big bag ful of meh

  • avatar
    Farhad

    Buy: XLR, it’s beautiful and of a gone era.

    Drive: CTS, I’ve always loved it.

    Burn: ATS, isn’t it just a Chevy Cobalt Coupe?!

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