A Good Start - 2013 Cadillac ATS Long-Term Road Test

2013 Cadillac ATS Long Term Road Test

2013 Cadillac ATS: A Good Start

February 5, 2013

2013 Cadillac ATS

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


  • ed124c ed124c Posts:

    The ATS doesn't live up to a 3 series and doesn't have a decent size trunk. If you still want the performance, then buy a Camaro V6 or V8-- with a larger trunk than the ATSs. I, for one, would buy the V6 Camaro, smugly knowing that my trunk is bigger than your Caddys, is a lot less expensive, and doesn't have a decades old Chevy turbo under the hood.

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    Hmmm, I 've read reviews that the ATS has one of the most impressively handling chassis of all sedans sold. Is that the case, but the irrigations trump that strength?

  • steve_97 steve_97 Posts:

    It will be almost an impossibility to beat the benchmark once its already set. The 3 series is the benchmark, and it will always be a step ahead of the competition. I know this, and I'm not even a BMW fan.

  • mr_bots mr_bots Posts:

    Great car that could be excellent with a few minor adjustments (and software updates to CUE). Decades old Chevy turbo? Could have sworn the Gen III Ecotec 2.0 Turbo's first year was 2012 in the 2013 Malibu and ATS.

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    @steve_97, I think ATS has a real opportunity for enthusiasts, as the 3-series has left some of its core strengths for popularity - steering feel is absent, it understeers, sweet NA engines are gone. However, they have nailed a cohesive driving experienc

  • jeffinoh jeffinoh Posts:

    Cadillacs are so uniquely American, and have plenty of street cred, so why are they so hung up on being European? Everything I hate in BMWs is thankfully missing in Cadillacs. They are premium American and that's fine with me. Having said that, quality has to be there in any premium car. I saw the video on that creaking wheel and no way I'd put up with that. After a day or two I'd end up launching it thru the dealer's front window. By the way, there's a volume button on the steering wheel.

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