2013 Cadillac ATS

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Date Posted: May 5, 2013
By Zack Spencer

The Cadillac ATS is winning awards for its dynamic ride and powerful engines and for good reason.

The Cadillac ATS is a breath of fresh air for the General Motors, a company suffering rather lackluster sales of late. The ATS was recently named the North American Car of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show, and it won its category at the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada's annual Car of the Year Awards. So what's all the fuss about? General Motors decided that they wanted to produce a car that could take on anything the German imports can deliver and do it with a level of flair only Cadillac can deliver. The longtime benchmark in the compact luxury sedan segment is the BMW 3 Series and when you compare this ATS to the BMW 3 Series they match up very closely on many levels.

The ATS is roughly the same length and width as the BMW but differs in one key area; the wheelbase is shorter, providing less room on the inside.

Styling is all-American with a bold front grille and LED accent lights that run vertically, as apposed to the horizontal trend we have come to see from most manufacturers. One area that BMW has perfected is the stance of their all wheel drive cars. They are able to achieve a hunkered down look, where this ATS sits higher off its wheels, making the ATS looks rather awkward when equipped with all wheel drive, the rear wheel model doesn't suffer with this problem.

With a starting price of $35,195, the ATS is within a few dollars of the $35,900 320i BMW but comes with a level of interior finish that is refreshing. The centre console has no rotary dials or conventional buttons, rather a touch-sensitive panel that provides a slight vibration once a task has been achieved. The large centre-mounted screen has a rich graphics interface that is one of the best on the market today. The model that will be most appealing to many buyers is the $43,938 Performance trim, seen here. It comes with standard leather seating instead of leatherette on the two entry-level trim levels, plus a higher end Bose stereo.

The front seats are supportive, if not firm, which is something many German cars are known for. The back seat is rather tight, with limited legroom and headroom for passengers up to 6 feet tall. The BMW 3 Series has grown over the years and the current model is much roomer than the back seat of this ATS. The good news is that an all-new, larger CTS is due to arrive soon at Cadillac dealers.

The one area that makes this ATS a strong contender for anyone's money is the power, ride and handling this first rate sedan provides. On the power front, the ATS has more power than the equivalent BMW models. The standard engine is an all-new direct injection 4-cylinder with a surprising 202hp, compared to 181hp from the BMW 320i. The volume seller will be the Performance model with a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder and 272hp. This engine is also the standard engine in the top Premium trim. Power from this power plant is refreshing and puts the equivalent BMW, at 241hp, at a disadvantage. The sound is a muted rasp, not an annoying buzz, typical of many small turbocharged units. A 321hp, the 3.6L V6 is offered on the top model but the reality is that the smaller and more efficient 2.0L turbo does a fantastic job and should be the choice for most buyers.

The ride is firm with first-rate feedback to the driver, plus the steering is crisp and sure-footed. This is the one area that is a pleasant surprise. Cadillac has more of the ''classic'' European feel than many of the German sedans. BMW, Audi and Mercedes sedans are getting softer and larger where this ATS feels smaller, more planted and firmer. The one area that is disappointing is the use of hard feeling and rather noisy run-flat tires on all but the base model.

All wheel drive can be chosen on all trim levels, however the standard 4-cylinder engine cannot be matched to the AWD system, buyers need to walk up to the turbocharged engine in the base trim to get AWD.

What Cadillac has been able to cultivate is a nice balance of interior amenities, American styling and advanced engineering that produces top of class handling, dynamics and power. What the ATS does not have over the German competition is heritage and a track record for developing this type of car. They will need to win over one buyer at a time but I can predict this new ATS will win over many buyers who would have never considered a Cadillac in the past. GM has a winner on their hands, lets hope they can follow up with more of the same.




Power: 2.5L 4-cylinder, 2.0L turbocharged engine or 3.6L V6

Economy: 9.9L/6.3L/100km (city/highway with turbo model)

Sticker price: $35,195-$48,225

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