Cadillac ATS Review

2013 Cadillac ATS Sedan Exterior

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An all-new model, the Cadillac ATS arrives on the scene with up-to-date styling, a well-equipped interior and an engaging driving feel that allows it to compete strongly with its rivals. Smaller and less expensive than Cadillac's CTS, the ATS aims right at the heart of German-engineered titans like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series that dominate this market of sport sedans.

Historically, Cadillac has not had much to offer in the compact sport sedan segment, but the ATS distances itself from the small, underpowered, front-wheel-drive sedans of the brand's past. Sharp, agile and desirable, the ATS is helping to redefine Cadillac for a new generation.

Current Cadillac ATS
The Cadillac ATS is a new introduction for 2013. Four trim levels are available: Standard, Luxury, Performance and Premium. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine fitted to the Standard model produces 202 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. For those desiring additional power, the ATS is available in the Luxury and Premium models with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 272 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The 3.6-liter V6 (available only in the Performance model) tops the range with 321 hp and 274 lb-ft of torque.

All levels of trim come standard with rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available as an add-on. Most ATS models further come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission, but Cadillac does offer a six-speed manual gearbox for the turbocharged four-cylinder as an option.

Even the base ATS Standard comes pretty well equipped with heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way power front seats with power lumbar, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, OnStar and a seven-speaker Bose audio system. Stepping up from the Standard level to Luxury makes the optional navigation available along with keyless entry/ignition, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seats, driver memory functions, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat (with pass-through), HD radio and the CUE infotainment interface.

Similar to a smartphone's screen, the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment screen responds to swipes, taps or flicks, lighting up as you touch it. We like the familiarity of its design, but it reacts to commands more slowly than desired and lacks easily accessible, intuitive central features like a volume knob. This touchscreen system is available across Cadillac's full lineup, and while it is aesthetically pleasing, we hope that it will become easier to use in the future. As it stands, the amount of attention required to operate CUE can be distracting.

The rest of the interior is modern and well-styled, and we've found it to be high quality, attractive and comfortable. Rear seats will likely leave taller passengers slightly cramped, though. When it comes to holding the driver firmly in position, the optional sport seats don't do much more than the already supportive front seats.

The 2.5-liter engine fitted to the Standard model is adequate but lacks the power we typically expect from a sport sedan. Those desiring quicker performance should opt for the turbocharged 2.0-liter or V6 engines. Where the ATS truly shines, however, is handling. Responsive steering, a connected driving feel and ideal weight distribution contribute to its competency for both daily driving and enthusiastic cornering. Whereas previous Cadillac sedans have been docile and underwhelming, the ATS is composed and planted while still remaining comfortable on the highway.

When choosing a compact sport sedan, be sure to consider the Cadillac ATS. While it falls marginally behind in areas like trunk space and power with the base engine, the Cadillac ATS compares very well to its rivals in terms of price, standard and optional features and handling. We feel it's a legitimate option for any entry-level luxury sport sedan shopper.

Read the most recent 2014 Cadillac ATS review.

If you are looking for older years, visit our used Cadillac ATS page.


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