2013 Cadillac ATS Long Term Road Test

2013 Cadillac ATS: Magical Touch Sensitive Interface

February 14, 2013

2013 Cadillac ATS

One of the most jarring features of our 2013 Cadillac ATS is the touch-sensitive interface for the stereo, climate controls and the CUE telematics system. A still photo doesn't do it justice, really, and there are some hidden surprises.

It goes way beyond the knobless volume control JKav mentioned previously, although that element is perhaps the most frustrating and prominent aspect of the system. This particular touchpad is oddly calibrated in that you can't reliably reach zero volume when you drag your finger across it to the extreme left edge of the pad.

A second stroke is usually required, and things get screwy when the volume isn't dropping fast enough and your spouse makes a move for the touchpad at the same time. A volume knob really does require so much less time, effort and thought, which adds up to less diverted attention, driver distraction and marital discord.

But I digress. Let's see more of it in action.

I suppose it's a crowd pleaser on the showroom floor, where a simple wave of the salesman's hand triggers proximity sensors that wake up the touchscreen before any physical contact is made, magically revealing additional soft buttons that can be pressed before your very eyes. And then there's that hidden backlit smartphone compartment with its own concealed release. Neat-o.

But is all that flash worth it?

I tend to see it as a bit of smoke and mirrors. All of the touchpads tell me the wow factor and a design concept won out over everyday usability, particularly for the more basic functions like volume and climate control. And then there are the fingerprints. You'll never see an end to them thanks to the touchscreen and the acres of piano black paint in which the touch-sensitive pads are embedded.

But I must admit I do like the concealed smartphone compartment with its own dedicated (and illuminated) USB socket. Cord management and security are a definite plus here. If only I could say with certainty that the motorized door will hold up over time.

What you still can't see is the lag in the system and the odd haptic feedback that vibrates under your touch as if to say, "I know your command wasn't immediately carried out, but the message was received. I'm on it." I suppose this represents progress from the Chevrolet Volt, which has laggy touchpads with zero feedback.

In the end it's an interesting exercise in the application of technology, particularly the proximity sensors wired to the touchscreen. But I can't shake the feeling that we've taken one step forward and two swipes back.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,671 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2013 Cadillac ATS in NJ is:

$267 per month*
* Explanation