2013 Cadillac ATS
by John Davis
The 2013 Cadillac ATS is the brand’s first compact luxury-sport sedan and their first car that is sized right to do battle with the BMW 3 Series and other smaller European performance sedans.
While we’ve heard claims of sport sedan parity from Detroit brands before, the engineers behind the ATS have taken all the necessary steps to meet their off-shore competition head on. We sure had a blast sliding the expertly balanced ATS around Atlanta Motorsports Park during the press launch. The ATS gives the kind of feedback that reassures that you’re in total control. It’s definitely a driver’s car.
The ATS is also not a one-size-fits-all effort when it comes to engines. There are three choices, including a V6. Our favorite however is the Performance model’s 2.0-liter turbo with its 272-horsepower. That’s 30 more than the 328i. It provides both good acceleration and a highway fuel economy rating of over 30 miles per gallon. The 2.0 Turbo links to either a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift, or a nicely weighted 6-speed manual. We think think a manual tranny is a requirement for true sport sedan status. All-wheel-drive is available on all but base and luxury models with the V6.
Length and wheelbase also put ATS right amongst the competition, but at 3,400-pounds it’s lighter than most rivals. The front suspension starts as typical MacPherson strut, but replaces the usual wishbone with twin ball joints and lower control links. The rear is an all-new 5-link design. The optional FE3 Performance Suspension adds a limited slip rear differential and driver adjustable Magnetic Ride Control.
As for appearances, Cadillac’s sharp edged Art and Science design theme is still very much present in the exterior styling, although it has been softened a bit and sheet metal comes tightly wrapped.
Inside, there is also an ultra-modern yet familiar Cadillac look. The Performance model features sporty aluminum trim, though wood is available elsewhere in the lineup. Cadillac’s new CUE proximity touch interface is also standard in all but the base car, as is the best voice recognition system we tried yet.
Overall ATS interior dimensions are similar to the BMW 3 Series. That means a fairly intimate front cabin but with plenty of legroom. The rear seat in the ATS is, however, a little tight even for a sport sedan, and the trunk is even tighter.
Our first street driving impressions of the ATS are that it is very composed and stable. The 2.0-liter turbo has plenty of guts with little turbo lag; yet it remains smooth and quiet.
Cadillac has hit the compact sport sedan bulls-eye with the 2013 ATS. The ATS is also further evidence of just how drastically the brand has transformed its car lineup in a matter of months. Let’s hope that they keep the effort going and that Cadillac will once again takes its place among the world’s greatest car brands.
For more of our exclusive road test of the 2013 Cadillac ATS, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3202 which begins airing on September 15, 2012. Click for a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable channel.