This article is part of the GM Authority Wish List series for the Cadillac ATS — a collection of changes, updates, and modifications we’d like to see made to the current family of compact luxury vehicles, as well as to its CT# replacement. The purpose of the Wish List is very simple: to create awareness of the issues we have found with the vehicles so that Cadillac can address them in the future, whether via a refresh or a next-generation model, all in an effort to make the best luxury cars on the market, bar none.
The GM Authority staff has collectively spent a significant amount of time with the ATS, both as drivers and as passengers, in both Sedan and Coupe body styles, with all four engines, all five trim levels, and with various degrees of features and equipment. In other words, this wish list is not the result of a knee-jerk reaction after a day or two with the car. It’s the result of living with the cars, sometimes for several months. In fact, our own founder happens to own an ATS (2015 2.0T Premium, six-speed manual).
We should note that at times, the Wish List series might appear like nitpicking, as it will point out the smallest features, characteristics, or components. If it seems that way, it’s for a reason, since we believe that the devil is in the details, especially when it comes to prestige luxury vehicles. As such, we honestly believe that addressing these issues will improve the product, grow the brand, and — ultimately — lead to an uptick in Cadillac sales. And as journalists who also happen to be GM and Cadillac enthusiasts, few things would make us happier. If nothing else, it would result in a Cadillac we’d be proud to buy, to own, and to show off to anyone willing to look and listen.
Keeping in mind that this wish list is by no means in order, here is the seventh item on our list: a roof-rack attachment system.
Here’s the problem: no Cadillac sedan or coupe can currently be equipped with a roof-rack system… at least not in a clean, elegant, or logical fashion that doesn’t damage the vehicle’s roof.
If, after reading that, you are completely and utterly surprised about why anyone would want to put a roof rack on a luxury car such as the ATS, then you should humor us by trying to answer this question:
How would you go about transporting four people plus their ski/snowboard equipment from Denver to Breckenridge for a weekend of downhill fun in an ATS Sedan (or ATS Coupe)?
Currently, the answer is, you can’t. Not without:
- Installing an aftermarket roof rack that scratches the roof of your ATS, or
- Installing an aftermarket roof rack by drilling into the ATS’ roof
The problem with the first solution is that aftermarket roof racks that “hug” the side of the roof and run into the tops of the door jams make it look like a spiteful neighbor took a handful of coarse sandpaper to your nice new Caddy once you take the rack off.
So the preliminary problem persists: you simply can’t shove all that equipment into the trunk — there just isn’t enough space. Opening up the rear pass-through helps, but only for a pair of skis. And since you’re transporting yourself (the driver) and three passengers, folding one of the 60/40-split rear seats is also not an option.
So what do you end up doing? You end up riding with your neighbor in his BMW 335i. The car has a roof rack, on which sits a nice ski and snowboard attachment. It can also hold a generously-sized cargo box that not only is capable of holding the aforementioned gear, but can probably also put another
person body in there… if you really wanted to. And it even has a nice BMW roundel logo on it.
A Real Predicament
All in all, the real problem is that there is not a good, refined, or otherwise half-decent way to install a roof rack on a Cadillac sedan or coupe.
By comparison, BMW and Mercedes-Benz sedans and coupes have a very simple and easy-to-use solution for mounting roof racks… on which you can then mount bike carriers, cargo boxes, kayak holders, and a plethora of other valuable goodies for those interested in living an active lifestyle.
To note, Audi also offers a roof rack management system in its vehicles, but it’s not as refined or “clean” as that employed by BMW and Mercedes.
(Not Really) A Niche
“But how many people actually want to put a roof rack on their luxury sedan or coupe?”, or “Why would anyone want to put a roof rack on a luxury car?”, you may ask. And ask you should. We won’t pretend to have any facts or figures about demand for such an item, but we will bring up the following empirical evidence to light:
- Visit an “active” area of the world where skiing, biking, or kayaking is popular, and you will see a significant amount of luxury sedan and coupes with roof racks. The overwhelming majority of these will be BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Audis.
- For the average owners of new BMWs, Audis, and Benzes, their vehicles are their only cars. In other words, they don’t have another car or truck in the garage that they use for “activities”. They want to use their luxury car as their only vehicle, and it needs to be flexible enough for work and for play. After all, they payed good money for them.
- Yours truly is an active skier and beginner mountain biker. And the above scenario is the problem I ran into last year, which inspired me to write this piece.
So, is putting a roof rack on a luxury sedan or coupe a limited use-case scenario. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It depends on who you ask. But BMW, Audi, and Mercedes offer roof rack attachment systems for a reason. Cadillac should, too.
Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer a very convenient system for attaching roof racks onto their vehicles. Every sedan and coupe produced by either automaker today offers “flip-up” panels within the roof gutters. There are a total of four — one at each corner of the roof. These panels are finished in body-color paint and are therefore imperceptible when closed.
Flipping open a panel reveals two items:
- A female grommet that receives the male “foot” of a roof rack, and
- A female bolt pattern into which the roof rack’s lockable male bolt will fit
The ingenious part of this setup is that when the base carrier bars are installed, they do not touch the paint of the vehicle, eliminating the possibility of the paint getting scraped or scratched, since the base carrier bars sit in their own spots inside the flip-up panels. These base carrier bars can then take on various carrier attachments, such as for bikes, skis, snowboards, cargo boxes, and more.
The entire solution is very clean and convenient that is right at home on a luxury vehicle. It’s a detail that shows true attention to detail of the product. And, more importantly, it very elegantly expands the storage and equipment-carrying capacity of a vehicle.
We should note that only sedans, coupes, and wagons are in need of this system, since crossovers already have longitudinally-placed roof rails that allow the installation of base carrier bars.
What we wish for: that Cadillac introduce an elegant and convenient roof rack attachment system for its sedans and coupes (and any future wagons) that does not result in scratched paint or drilling into the vehicle, like today’s aftermarket roof racks require.
Why we wish for it: for multiple reasons, including:
- Practicality: expands vehicle storage and cargo-carrying capacity
- Value: a must-have for some luxury car buyers
- Elegance: eliminates the need to drill into a vehicle’s roof to install a roof rack while bypassing roof racks from the aftermarket, most of which scratch the paint in the areas where they install
- Competition: Cadillac’s foremost competitors offer a system. By not doing the same, Cadillac is at a competitive disadvantage.
- Revenue opportunity: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi all sell “official” roof rack accessories (like base carrier bars), allowing them and their dealers to profit by selling them. Cadillac can do the same… because few things are better than accessories developed, produced, and branded by the OEM.
Who to look to for examples: BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Though Audi also has a roof rack attachment system, it is not as elegant or convenient as those from BMW and Mercedes since it can scratch the vehicle’s paint.