Cadillac has a new compact car. It is called the ATS and it is almost enough to forgive the luxury division at GM for that horrible first foray into the compact segment dubbed Cimarron, the turtle-like Chevy Citation knock-off of the 80s. Almost.
ATS arrives as an all-new, lightweight entry luxury sedan in rear-wheel drive architecture offering a trio of powertrain options – two four-cylinder models and a V-6.
The tester that arrived in our driveway was the middle model complete with a peppy turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four boasting 272hp and 260 lb. ft. of torque and dressed in the premium collection package. All engines are backed by six-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmissions with tap-shift control and the turbo cars can be outfitted with a manual gearbox.
Cadillac introduced the ATS last year and since that time this car has racked up some very prestigious awards including North American Car of the Year, Urban Car of the Year, Esquire Car of the Year, Popular Mechanics honoree, Best Engines honoree (2.0L Turbo) and Motor Press Guild Vehicle of the Year just to name a few.
So is this the car that will best the BMW 3-Series from its lofty perch? Not this time, but it is a very worthy contender and should be a very good seller (leaser) for GM.
Styling is a bit reminiscent of the mid-size CTS sedan but in this smaller package appears tighter and more attractive. ATS is one of those cars that pictures do not do it justice – it has to be appreciated in person to get the full multi-dimensional effect of what designers have done here.
The car is very well-mannered on the road, with a responsive chassis and outstanding steering response. Judged merely on its road experience, I give top nods to Cadillac over the European competition. That said, while I enjoyed the attitude of the turbo engine my enthusiasm fell a bit short while waiting for the engine to respond to my demands and the audible notes inside the cabin were a bit of a disappointment as well. At least we had a great audio system we could crank up to drown out the groaning motor.
The 2013 ATS arrives with one of my favorite new features in a vehicle – that being the safety alert driver seat as well as front and rear automatic brakes and a host of other state-of-the-art safety technologies.
The Achilles heel for the ATS is the first-generation CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment technology that I panned in the XTS review. I have high hopes for this system in future generations once it “gets up to speed” with where society is as a whole.
Cadillac achieved a 50/50 front-to-rear weight ratio balance in the ATS. It is also one of the lightest vehicles in its class, weighing in at under 3,400 lbs., and it is available in all-wheel drive and features the driver-adjustable FE3 sport suspension to dial the vehicle in to driving conditions.
Pricing for the rear-drive turbocharged Premium package ATS begins at $44,895 with this one arriving with a final sticker of $49,610 after the addition of the driver assist and cold weather packages. Fuel economy for the 2.0T engine is 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
Cadillac has a hit on its hands with the ATS and the debutant has been very well received. A few tweaks to this freshman may well find the ATS as the most popular kid in its class and may finally make us forget about what’s-his-name.