When it comes to premium sport sedans, the Germans are winning. In fact, they've been winning for so long that they've fortified their position, built a settlement and nearly blocked off all of the inroads.
But while Ingolstadt was eyeing Stuttgart and Munich was busying itself with odd hatchbacks, Detroit crashed the party with the 2013 Cadillac ATS.
Unlike previous attempts at cracking this nut, the new Cadillac ATS doesn't have any caveats. It's not bigger, but cheaper; it's not faster yet less efficient; it's not better-looking but lower-quality. The ATS is, at first blush, a real-deal competitor to the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Adding one to our long-term test fleet was a no-brainer. We wanted to know how close Cadillac got to creating a better sport sedan. As soon as they went on sale, we went out and bought a 2013 Cadillac ATS.
What We Got
The 2013 Cadillac ATS is currently available with one of three engines. The first is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 202 horsepower. It's the base engine for those who want an ATS without a big sticker price. Then there's a 3.6-liter V6 that, in this application, churns out 321 hp and a healthy 274 pound-feet of torque. It's a solid engine that produces good power, but we know this engine well already so there wasn't much to learn.
Instead, we opted for a 2013 ATS armed with GM's turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. This engine not only returns 22 city/31 highway and 24 mpg combined, but does so while making up to 272 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The first trim level where this motor's available is on the "Luxury" which starts at $37,590, a big jump from the ATS's base price of $33,095.
And that's before we added options.
We knew we wanted this car to be rear-drive. All-wheel drive is available on the ATS, but we're in Southern California and 2WD saves us a few bucks for some other goodies. From there our list consisted of a car with heated seats (yeah, we're in California, but they're great for a bad back or a post-gym treatment), an automatic transmission (this is America and the automatic is, by far, the volume mover here) and a dark interior (that one's just preference). Finally, we needed to get a car that had Cadillac's new CUE infotainment system with navigation. Cadillac has a lot of eggs in this new connectivity system and a full year with it will answer any questions we may have on our new touchscreen future.
Ultimately, we settled on a 2013 Cadillac ATS Premium -- the highest trim -- with a base price of $44,895. This trim has standard CUE, driver-and-passenger eight-way power seats with memory, rear park assist with back-up camera, HID headlamps, "performance" front seats, a Bose stereo, aluminum pedals and 18-inch wheels. Heated seats were, unfortunately, an option on top of this.
To find all the goodies we wanted in a timely manner, we had to take some other features as well. Namely, the $3,200 Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear automatic braking, automatic collision preparation), the $1,050 power sunroof and the $850 18-inch polished wheels. The driver assistance package wasn't anywhere on our radar, but it is new technology that we're happy to test as long as we've got it. These systems are getting more and more common, after all.
Out the door, our 2013 Cadillac ATS Premium wore a sticker price of $51,510. Boulevard Cadillac/GMC in Signal Hill beat that, though, offering us a deal only $212 above invoice. Excluding tax, title and other fees, we paid $48,566.68 and walked out the door with our new ATS and a free iPad 3 which comes with all ATS and XTS models equipped with CUE.
Why We Got It
Cadillac has been trying to crack this nut for years with varying degrees of success, most recently with the CTS. Ultimately, the CTS fit an odd mold somewhere between the BMW 3 and 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz C- and E-Class and Audi's A4 and A6, while offering little of the driving magic or expert execution provided by the Germans.
The ATS, however, might.
In our Cadillac ATS Road Test we said, "The 2013 Cadillac ATS...is an exciting rear-drive alternative to the compact sport sedan establishment. That it's as good as it is, and that it's American-made, should be enough to bring new, young buyers into Cadillac dealers."
Well, so far so good. They've sold one to us and our long-term test begins now. We've got 12 months and 20,000 miles to see if Cadillac has cracked both the sport sedan and the infotainment nut in one fell swoop, or if it has bitten off more than it can chew.
Current Odometer: 676
Best Fuel Economy: 21.1
Worst Fuel Economy: 18.7
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 19.7
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.