Prying satisfied customers out of their Audi A4s, BMW 328s, and Mercedes-Benz C350s might seem tougher than establishing democracy in Afghanistan, but conquest sales will have to play a huge role in the success of the new Cadillac ATS. The brand desperately needs a successful entry luxury car because that’s the bestselling segment in the premium-car world. And since Cadillac has been moving in a sporting direction, it’s taking on these European sedans rather than targeting real-estate-agent buggies like the Lexus ES or Lincoln MKZ.
|2013 Cadillac ATS|
Off to a Good Start
We went into deep detail on the ATS earlier this year and were impressed with its design and engineering. Based on the brand-new Alpha platform, the 2013 ATS features a front-engine, rear-drive layout; four-wheel independent suspension; the latest ZF electric power steering; and four-wheel disc brakes. Motivation comes from a choice of three engines, with an available manual transmission, and optional all-wheel drive. It’s all wrapped in modern and attractive sheetmetal styled with a softer take on Cadillac’s Art and Science design philosophy. The whole shebang is 8.5 inches shorter than the CTS. We got a chance to drive it last month, and now we can finally tell you about it.
|2013 Cadillac ATS front three quarter|
From behind the wheel, the ATS makes an excellent first impression, with a good driving position combined with superb sightlines delivered in part by reasonably thin A-pillars. Models with sport seats have adjustable thigh support as well as adjustable side bolsters. You can choose from among seven interior color and finish schemes, including ones with aluminum trim and genuine carbon fiber. The ambience feels stylish and rich, and we were immediately able to find a comfortable driving position.
|2013 Cadillac ATS review front angle|
Good visibility extends to the information displayed to the driver, although the tachometer is tucked a bit far to the left on the instrument cluster and can fall out of your vision when driving hard. A head-up display is available, and there are three customizable windows below the central speedometer that can be configured using a large toggle switch on the right steering-wheel spoke; the control can be manipulated easily without looking down at it. Another toggle on the left spoke operates the cruise control.
|2013 Cadillac ATS Concept Ca|
The 8.0-inch LCD touch screen for the new CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system looks great and remains highly visible even when hit by direct sunlight. It has a number of clever features, such as a function that only brings up additional buttons when a proximity sensor detects your hand nearby. This allows the screen to stay uncluttered most of the time. You can change the map scale by squeezing or spreading your fingers as you do on a smartphone, and the nav system can pull contact addresses directly from a paired phone. We appreciate not having to manually enter an address that already exists in a connected device.
Overreaching Engine Lineup
|2013 Cadillac ATS Interior|
We first drove an ATS with the base engine, a 202-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder with direct injection. It’s basically a slightly updated version of Chevy’s workhorse engine and is available only with a six-speed automatic and rear drive. This engine won’t generate envy among any Audi or BMW owners. It delivers no better than adequate performance (claimed 0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds, which we think is about right on the nose), and it feels slower than it is—the transmission resists downshifting as you toe the throttle. The big four-cylinder is fairly loud at high revs. Were we in charge at Cadillac, we would have introduced the ATS without this engine and then slipped it into the lineup several months down the road if a less expensive entry-level model were deemed necessary.