2013 Cadillac ATS
Base price: $33,095 – $55,005
As tested: $47,325
MPG: 19 city/28 highway (3.6-liter)
- Convincing alternative to German brands
- Excellent driving dynamics
- CUE infotainment interface
- Base engine’s a dud
- Tight back seat, small trunk
- Optional packages add up quickly
By Jim Prueter
Cadillac’s all-new luxury sport-sedan, the ATS, has put the BMW 3 Series squarely in its crosshairs and is eager to go head to head with the likes of big German luxury-car companies including Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Facing a steep decline in worldwide automotive relevance and loss of cachet, Cadillac needed a credible entry-level car to snag luxury buyers who are the most brand loyal and move up to more expensive models over time.
The ATS arrives in four versions: Standard, Luxury, Performance, and Premium, all loaded with the expected niceties. There’s a choice of three engines and two transmissions, a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. Skip the base 2.5-liter and opt for either the 2.0-liter turbocharged 272-horsepower 4-cylinder or the 321-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6. We found the 2.0-liter with the extremely smooth automatic transmission to be just right for this vehicle.
After a weekend behind the wheel of the ATS, we found it seductively attractive, with head-turning styling and a sumptuous interior. On twisty canyon roads, it felt like its German contemporaries — well balanced, confident, and powerful, thanks to rear-wheel drive. The steering is precise, and the brakes are fierce. Exiting the car, we had to check the emblem fixed on the trunk lid to be sure it had a wreath and crest and not a blue and white propeller.
All trim levels come with Cadillac’s all-new infotainment system known as CUE (Cadillac User Experience). It’s one of the best systems available, complete with an 8-inch touch screen and connectivity options, including Bluetooth, a USB jack, or an SD card reader. The screen is easy to navigate and the hard controls on the center stack below the screen only require the driver to touch a raised bar to activate a control. It took just a few minutes to learn the system and even less time to connect an iPhone.
It also has a voice recognition system that worked very well, easily recognizing commands and allowing me to make phone calls without ever taking my hands off of the wheel. The system is so good, we would expect other manufacturers to copy it.
The ATS is not only the best Cadillac ever, it’s easily the best General Motors car we’ve driven in years. German brand auto dealers are going to have to make their message to car shoppers a little more sophisticated and convincing, especially since the ATS starts at just $33,990, undercutting the German brands by thousands of dollars.