Cadillac ATS ready to take on BMW
People love to give me their two cents about cars. It comes with the territory.
At a wedding not long ago, the bride's brother cornered me and asked if I had driven the ATS yet. He was simply agog.
Before I could answer "soon," the wide-grinned young man proceeded to tell me he'd taken it for a test drive and that he absolutely had to have one. "You're gonna love_ it," he said.
Two weeks later the ATS landed in my driveway. I'll give him this: He wasn't wrong.
An all-new model from Cadillac this year, the ATS is sort of a slim, trim and slightly spunkier version of the CTS. But it is not born of the CTS; it has all its own underpinnings.
The ATS was built to look the BMW 3-Series squarely in the face.
Some at Cadillac thought the CTS would do just that, but it turned out that it was slightly too big and heavy to compete with those dynamics.
The ATS, however, is nearly identical in dimensions to the BMW. A mirror image, if you will, of the popular Bimmer 3. And that should be just a little concern for the folks at BMW.
Let's bypass the ATS base engine here, a 2.5-liter that leads the pack, barely, in economy but trails in performance. The next level up, however, the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, is considerably more game. It puts out 70 more horses and nearly 70 more pound-feet of torque for an accommodating midrange burst.
Fuel economy is nearly the same, too, with an EPA-rated 22 mpg city, 32 highway. The 2.0 also is the only version that offers a manual gearbox.
For more muscle and louder growl, the top-out 321-horsepower V-6 is the way to go. The 3.6-liter accelerates strongly, getting to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. That's keeping good company with the V-6 powered BMW 3-Series. And it sounds good as the revs climb up the tach.
Mileage, of course, suffers several mpgs from the other engines and with the available all-wheel drive. That's something to think about.
You should also know that the manual is not available with the V-6, for some odd reason. But switch to Sport mode, and you may find you didn't really need it in the first place. Shifts happen just when you would have hit the clutch to do it yourself, and downshifts are right on time, too.
The ATS's suspension, featuring its Magnetic Ride Control, is firm enough for spirited performance in the Sport mode, yet handles the nastier side streets or construction-laden highway with finesse when you switch to Tour.
Steering is light-weighted and enhanced with a small wheel. Sporty Brembo brakes, available in all but the base, get the job done firmly and without fade.
Hop inside and find a roomy front with good visibility. Materials have an elegant feel and look, with wood and metallic trim. But there's not much exciting about the instrument cluster.
Seats are comfortable and sporty-looking, and there is adequate headroom and legroom. Powered bolsters keep you in snugly. The rear seat is a bit more confining. Not much room for the knees – or feet, for that matter – especially if anyone of size is up front. And it's a tight fit even getting back there with a small rear-door opening.
The trunk access is easy, though, with a nice, wide opening.
Trouble is, there's less room there – 10.2 cubic feet – compared to most of the competitors. But you'll find it sufficient for the groceries or the golf clubs.
The real highlight inside could be the available CUE infotainment system, featuring an 8-inch touch screen that offers sharp graphics.
Reach for it and large icons appear, at your service. Then it's much like an iPad, allowing you to zoom with a pinch and scroll up and down the map by dragging your finger up the screen.
There is a drawback if you wear polarized sunglasses: they hamper your vision of the screen. It's why pilots can't wear polarized glasses, either; can't see the controls as well.
Also, I found some of the button functions are in too close to the cruise control and found myself tapping them by accident. Maybe it was just my big, clumsy fingers.
Beyond the ABS, traction and stability control, the ATS has front-seat side and knee air bags plus full-length side-curtain air bags. OnStar is standard here, offering roadside assistance and automatic crash notification.
Optional safety features can be found in Cadillac's Driver Awareness package, offering traffic alerts and lane-departure warning.
The Driver Assistance package adds blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control which keeps an eye on the car in front of you and slows down the ATS if you get too close.
The ATS comes in four trim levels and, if you don't demand all the gadgets, you can be happy with the base: cruise control, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate, six-way power seats with lumbar adjustment, tilt/telescoping wheel and OnStar with 7-speaker Bose sound system.
The Luxury version adds sweeter functions like driver memory, park assist, rear-view camera and the CUE infotainment system. The Performance trim adds dual exhausts, xenon headlights, front sport seats and the Driver Awareness package.
Finally, the Premium includes 18-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension, navigation and color head-up display.
So, while I don't recommend listening to anything the bride's brother has to say after a couple of wedding toasts, I do admit he was still thinking rather clearly. The ATS is a fun, competitive driver, and it's ready to tackle nearly anything that spunky class-leader BMW has to dish out.
2013 CADILLAC ATS:
–Base price: $33,095
–Price as tested, including destination charge: $47,985
(c)2013 The Miami Herald
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