Review: 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0L Turbo

Cadillac's latest compact sedan, the ATS, aims to directly compete with the 3-series BMW. Photo: Duane Pemberton

WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2013 - The 2013 ATS takes direct aim at BMW’s 3-series sedan in both size and performance – Cadillac has not cut any corners in its assault on that market. The great thing about the ATS is that it plays off of the traditional Cadillac design cues but ratchets things up a bit with some modern touches. It’s quite clear that they were targeting a younger audience with this car and I think in many ways, they’ve succeeded. BMW has so dominated the compact performance sedan for so many decades now and it has largely gone unchallenged – the ATS looks to be a deal changer for Cadillac.

First off, the front fascia looks sharp – and even though I haven’t historically been a fan of the “Cadillac edginess” – I have to admit, this car has a nice combination of aggressiveness and elegance up-front. And those nice body lines continue all the way through to the back-end – even the dual exhaust pipes scream “performance”.

There are three different engine configurations available for the ATS:

  • 2.5L 4 cylinder (202hp/190ft-lb) naturally aspirated
  • 2.0L Turbo-charged 4-cylinder (272hp/260ft-lb) 
  • 3.6L V6 (321hp/274ft-lb) naturally aspirated

Rear wheel drive is standard for all three variations and there’s an optional all wheel drive available for the 2.0L Turbo and V6 models.

My test model had the Turbo-4 with rear wheel drive and was all kinds of fun to drive, rarely felt under-powered and had no problems getting up to the given speed limits. Having said that, however, it doesn’t make much sense to me why most people wouldn’t simply plunk down the extra $1800.00 dollars and go for the V6 option. You gain much more power and only drop a few points in the MPG rating – 20/30 for the 2.0L Turbo and 18/26 on the V6.

On the transmission side, there is an option 6-speed manual that is available for the 2.0L Turbo and V6 models but the default is what Cadillac calls a “Hyrda-Matic” 6-speed automatic with no paddle shifters. It does have a manual shift-mode, however, which does let you easily tap into the next available gear for up-shifting or down-shifting.

Once inside, the driver is rewarded with good visibility all the way around, a comfortable, 8-way adjustable seat with memory and a good sense of being in command. Cadillac did a formidable job with the interior design, with a definite overall cue towards its emblematic edge designs. This is clearly seen by the center console which holds the entertainment system/NAV unit and climate controls. The stitched-leather upholstery has a very comfortable feel to it and all the materials used inside felt both solid and didn’t come across as cheap at all.

Overall sound quality of the audio system, while not as great as I’ve heard in other new cars, is better to my ears than other cars in this class and will easily please most customers. It supports CD, Bluetooth audio, XM satellite radio, mp3/wma and has a couple of USB ports as well – one behind the “secret door” just under the radio and another under the middle arm-rest.

GM’s Bluetooth system was giving me fits on my Android-powered call phone and, unfortunately, I didn’t have another phone to test out so that’d be an issue to check out at the dealer, before you buy.  The ATS uses Cadillac’s CUE system (Cadillac User Experience) which – a touch-screen operated system that, once you quickly get used to it, is rather slick. On-board navigation is intuitive and worked well – even in the more remote regions of Eastern Washington.

As with most compact sedans, there’s not a great deal of real estate for the rear passenger leg room department – assuming that the front passengers are over 5’-9” or so. Even though it’s technically a 5-passenger car, I think one would be hard-pressed to comfortably fit an adult in the middle of the rear seat.

Handling is where I believe this car shines the brightest as its “you are glued to the road” feeling is something that I know the engineers at Cadillac worked hard on creating and they succeeded. There’s virtually zero body roll around hard corners, in fact, the car can actually come across as having a rather harsh ride. But I believe most consumers that fall into the performance compact sedan will easily overlook that in favor of top-notch performance and handling.

Overall, I believe Cadillac knocked it out of the park with the ATS and clearly demonstrated that the 3-series BMW should be worried. If you’re at all in the market for a car like this, I’d highly recommend you setup a test drive as I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.

Cadillac website: http://www.cadillac.com

Price as configured: $48,630

 


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Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a food and wine writer who is also the owner of WineFoot.com. Pemberton is also a well read automobile reviewer and critic, all of which incorporates into his travel, wine and food reviews.

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