Light, powerful and efficient, the 2013 Cadillac ATS sport sedan is a breakthrough for America's premier luxury brand. Lavishly equipped and attractively priced, it raises Cadillac to a new level.
Prices for the 2013 ATS start at $33,095 for a rear-wheel drive model with a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
I found the most interesting and enjoyable engine of the three offered to be the turbocharged 272-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It's available with a six-speed manual or automatic.
Prices start at $34,900 for a rear-drive model and $36,900 for AWD. The most powerful engine is a 321-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. It only comes with the six-speed automatic and starts at $41,195 for rear-drive and $43,195 with AWD. I tested a very well-equipped ATS with the 2.0-liter turbo, AWD and the automatic transmission. It stickered at $50,810. All prices exclude destination charges.
The ATS competes with sport sedans like the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS 350, Lincoln MKZ and Mercedes-Benz C-class. The new Cadillac's price, fuel economy and performance stack up well against comparably equipped models.
The AWD ATS's EPA fuel economy rating of 20 m.p.g. in the city, 30 on the highway and 24 combined matches the A4, BMW 328i and 335 and beats the C300, G37 and IS350. While the ATS's EPA rating matches the Audi and BMW, the EPA rated the Cadillac using regular fuel, making it less expensive to operate than the premium-burning Germans. The Lincoln MKZ tops the ATS's combined rating by 1 m.p.g. Like the Caddy, it runs fine on regular.
The ATS weighs a couple of hundred pounds less than its competitors. It's the first GM car to benefit from a new emphasis on weight reduction that pays off in exhilarating performance and good fuel economy.
The turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter engine delivers power quickly and smoothly. The automatic transmission is fast and precise. Its sport setting provides more aggressive gearshifts that are ideal for enthusiastic driving on twisting hillside roads.
The electric power steering carves turns and provides excellent feedback and on-center feel. The suspension hugs curves and keeps the car stable in quick maneuvers.
The interior is smaller than that of most competitors, but has plenty of front-seat room and adequate rear accommodation. The interior is attractive, with soft materials and smooth shapes. Storage cubbies abound, but fewer, larger bins for phones, iPods, glasses, etc. might be more useful.
Cadillac is promoting CUE, its system of controls for audio, phone, climate and navigation. CUE works pretty well, thanks to excellent voice recognition that lets you speak normally rather than learning specific commands.
A touch screen and smooth panel in the center stack replace dials and buttons for audio and climate. They work well, courtesy of a nifty haptic feedback system that makes the smooth surface throb slightly when you touch a control. The panels' sensitivity could use some improvement, but CUE almost certainly beats Ford and Lincoln's button- and dial-free control panels.
Haptic feedback also figures prominently in several effective safety features. The bottom cushion of the driver's seat jostles you subtly for a number of warnings, including lane-departure alert, front and rear obstacles when parking and potential front collisions. I was amazed at how intuitive and easy to understand the warnings were.
The ATS's styling is lean and athletic. Vertical LEDs in the headlights and taillights make it immediately recognizable at night. In the daytime, the shape is a bit too similar to the larger CTS for my taste. That should change when a new, bigger CTS hits the market in a year or so.
The ATS marks a significant phase in Cadillac's renaissance. The first CTS helped re-establish Caddy as a first-rate luxury brand a decade ago by offering a car the size of a BMW 5-series for the price of a smaller 3-series. BMW could've been forgiven for telling Cadillac to pick on somebody its own size. With the 3-series-sized ATS, Cadillac finally is, and it does very well indeed.
More Details: 2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T Premium
All-wheel drive five-passenger sport sedan
Price as tested: $50,810 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: * * * * (out of four stars)
Reasons to buy: Performance, features, style, value