2013 Cadillac ATS: A Good Start
February 5, 2013
I badly wanted to like the ATS. I really did. And after a few days of getting to know it, I do. But I wanted to crush hard on this car. Cadillac promised the Merican challenge to the mighty 3 Series, the Wreath versus the Roundel. But the ATS just doesn't measure up.
Others on staff can better articulate any of the ATS' dynamic deficiencies. To me, the 2.0-liter turbo has enough sauce to thread traffic pretty effortlessly, and get up to highway merge speed. It doesn't sound that happy doing it, but it's not a braying donkey. The smoother, quieter BMW 3 Series turbo-four gets the advantage here.
And then it's down to details. Our car's creaky steering wheel. The tacky "tech" etchings on the door panel trim. The flash instrument cluster, with its blues, reds and hot whites, which feels like less of an achievement than the classic chronometer aesthetic and backlighting of the 3 Series. There's some science in the ATS, but not much art.
CUE, meanwhile, just increases driver distraction and voice recognition alone isn't quite good enough to rely on. Cool idea, poor execution. Ford's been at this a few years already and even they haven't got it right. Sometimes you just want a volume knob.
I wanted one for the home team. And the ATS is a good car, no question. I still want to drive it. It looks sharp and it sounds solid when you give the trunk and doors a proper throw. But Cadillac should represent a legitimate American alternative to BMW, Benz, Infiniti, with no compromise. The ATS just isn't there yet.
You buy the ATS because you like something about it. You're an early adopter and dig the electronics. Maybe you like the design. Maybe you only buy American cars. But you're disappointed if you buy the ATS thinking it's a BMW. But I'm optimistic. It's the first model year and a good start. It feels like the engineers, designers and product planners are only a mid-cycle refresh away from finding their swagger, from meeting every Bavarian benchmark and then some.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 3,900 miles