2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 3.6LPosted on November 13th, 2012
Compact luxury sedan with world-class performance
By Nina Russin
In 1999, Cadillac turned the automotive world on its ears by unveiling the Evoq concept. The two-passenger show car, produced as the XLR, ushered in a new generation of performance which is as powerful today as it was fourteen years ago. Each subsequent model: the CTS, SRX and CTS-V, has expanded upon the idea of world cars created with a distinctly American lexicon.
The ATS is the newest member of Cadillac’s sport sedan family. Power comes from a choice of 2.5-liter, two-liter turbo or direct-injection V-6 engines. The turbocharged car is available with a manual gearbox, while other models come exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. The driver can use the gearshift lever to select gears manually.
The compact sport sedan features new suspension technology, high-performance exhaust, Brembo brakes and available all-wheel drive. Buyers can upgrade from standard seventeen-inch wheels with run-flat tires to 18-inch rims. Engineers stretched the sedan’s wheelbase to 109.3 inches and widened the track to maximize its stability at speed.
The ATS is the first Cadillac available with CUE: an infotainment system which integrates HVAQ, navigation and audio controls, plus information from up to ten Bluetooth-enabled smart phones on a single touchscreen. Safety systems such as lane departure warning use haptic feedback, which is less distracting than audible alarms.
Base price for the V-6 luxury grade with all-wheel drive is $43,195, excluding the $895 destination charge. CUE adds navigation, Bose surround-sound system and a CD player ($1295). A cold weather package which includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel costs $600, bringing the price as tested to $45,985.
Test drive in southern Arizona
This week, I drove the all-wheel drive ATS on a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona as well as shorter trips on surface streets and highways in both cities. It did not take long behind the wheel to see how far Cadillac engineers have progressed. Although the ATS lacks the pavement-crushing torque of the CTS-V, it is by far the best balanced and most nimble Cadillac sedan this writer has ever driven.
Performance gains are rarely the result of magic bullets. In the case of the ATS, engineers made important changes throughout the chassis, including weight reduction, underbody aerodynamics, the automaker’s first five-link rear suspension and a multi-link double-pivot MacPherson strut suspension.
Magnetic ride control utilizes a rheostatic fluid which changes viscosity according to driving conditions, to make suspension damping adjustments instantaneously. The same technology is used in current Corvette models.
An electric power steering system saves weight under the hood and reduces internal pumping losses for better gas mileage. The downside of EPS is typically soft on-center response, but the ZF unit in the ATS is as sensitive as a traditional hydraulic unit.
All-wheel drive gives the ATS four-season capability by sending engine power to the wheels with the best traction. The downside is that it adds weight to the chassis and reduces fuel economy by two miles-per-gallon as compared to the rear-wheel drive model. Average gas mileage according to the EPA is 21 mpg.
Visibility to the front and sides of the car is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes, or when merging onto the highway. The optional rearview camera eliminates blind spots in the back corners and behind the rear glass. It also makes it easier for the driver to monitor cross-traffic when surrounded by high-profile vehicles in a parking lot.
Inside, the ATS seats up to four passengers. The car’s tall floor tunnel and position of the center console virtually eliminates legroom in the center second-row position. Legroom in back is modest due to the sedan’s compact dimensions.
Keyless entry and start allows the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. The driver can also start the car remotely, to get the heater running on cold mornings.
Both front seating positions get power controls including power lumbar. Seat position memory on the driver’s seat makes it easier for multiple family members to share the car.
For some reason, the lumbar support didn’t work as well for me as competitive systems. I found myself moving back and forth in the seat in order to get the support under the right part of my back.
Standard dual-zone climate controls keep both front seat occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
The optional CUE system is intuitive and seamless to operate. The touchscreen works as well as those on high-end personal computers, with easy-to-read graphics. Navigation graphics are some of the best I have ever seen. An information screen enables the driver to customize weather and traffic alerts. Traffic alerts include an audible warning with the option of additional details on the center stack screen.
A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the passenger compartment, and houses the CD player. Additional storage is located at the base of the center stack, a center console bin and the doors which have both map pockets and bottle holders.
The trunk is large enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage, golf bags or groceries. A cubby on the right side of the cargo floor holds small items in place. There is also a pass-through for loading in skis. The sedan’s large wheel wells impact trunk width, making it less spacious than some competitive models.
The Cadillac ATS comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control, daytime running lamps, hill hold and start assist, and the rearview camera.
Standard OnStar automatically notifies the police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision, and can also assist in stolen vehicle location.
Cadillac builds the ATS at its Lansing, Michigan assembly plant.
Like: A sport sedan with exceptional balance, power and performance. Available all-wheel drive makes the ATS a four-season vehicle.
Dislike: Lack of legroom in the second row.
Model: ATS WD 3.6L Luxury Collection
Base price: $43,195
As tested: $45,985
Horsepower: 321 Hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 275 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 18/26 mpg city/highway
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