2013 Cadillac ATS: Name could stand for ‘American 3 Series’
ATS isn’t simply a car Cadillac wants to offer. It’s a car Cadillac needs to offer.
Globally, the biggest category in the luxury field is the compact performance segment, and Caddy simply hasn’t been a player. Until now.
Eight inches shorter and 500 pounds lighter than its CTS showroom mate, ATS is virtually all new; only its available V-6 is off the shelf. Everything else is consciously designed to target one car: BMW’s 3. Heck, ATS could be an acronym for “American Three Series.”
Available in four trim levels, this rear-driver can be had with one of three engines: a 2.5-liter, 202-hp four; a 2.0-liter, 272-hp turbo four; or a 3.6-liter, 321-hp V-6. Each comes with a six-speed automatic but, in the finest European tradition, the turbo and six, which also offer an all-wheel drive option, are compatible with a six-speed manual.
We drove the 2.5, the least lively of the lot, and found its acceleration just barely delivers on the promise made by its marvelous chassis. Our car’s zero-to-60 sprint of just under 8 seconds was OK, but the turbo and V-6 do it in the 5’s.
Still, our car delivered an athletically firm ride, marvelous handling, urgent braking and a great exhaust note. This is a fabulous sedan to drive.
In the cabin, the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment interface is a mixed bag.
On the cool side, clutter on its touch screen is minimized as various control icons are routinely hidden. Then, in nifty “proximity” technology, they suddenly appear when the screen recognizes an approaching hand. It’s also intuitive, functioning much like a smartphone, with pinch and expand and touch and drag, not to mention voice recognition. All very cool.
On the downside, the buttonless centerstack takes some getting used to. I frequently longed for a simple knob to tune the radio or adjust volume. And the CD player was in the glove box, fer cryin’ out loud!
Front-seat room is fine. In back, head room is adequate, but leg room is dependent on the kindness of front passengers and rear-door openings are small.
Styling is great, with seemingly liquid headlights, a three-character-line profile and, out back, Cadillac’s trademark vertical taillights and a sharply drawn, high-mounted center brake light that doubles as a spoiler.
Unlike Caddys of the past, this sport sedan is the genuine article. It eschews landau roofs and opera lamps in favor of slick styling and athletic performance.
Germans, take note: the Yanks have landed in your territory.