Full 2014 Cadillac ATS Review
What's New for 2014
Automatic high-beam control has been added to the Driver Awareness and Driver Assist packages on the 2014 Cadillac ATS, while a 110-volt power outlet is now included in cars with the navigation system. In addition, automatic-transmission models with paddle shifters now have a larger-diameter steering wheel.
Now in its second year, the 2014 Cadillac ATS is a capable entry in the well-stocked compact entry-level sport luxury sedan class. Although consumers have plenty of choices in this price range, the Cadillac's contemporary interior design and touchscreen control interface stand out from the competition. The ATS is also one of the best handling entry-luxury sedans out there, and while it's not extraordinarily quick, both the midrange 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and available V6 provide a satisfying compromise of power and efficiency. Overall, the ATS stacks up well among entry-luxury cars, and it's easily the most desirable small Cadillac of the modern era.
That said, the Cadillac ATS has a few weak spots that keep it from toppling its rivals. Performance is lackluster with the base 2.5-liter engine, and while the 2.0-liter turbo is significantly more potent, its soundtrack has all the charm of a combine harvester. Inside, the CUE infotainment system is pleasing on an aesthetic level, but it's often slow to respond to commands, which can make it distracting to use while driving. The ATS also has one of the smallest backseats and trunk of any entry-level luxury sedan.
Of course, the biggest hurdle for the 2014 Cadillac ATS is simply the extreme level of competition in this price range. The 2014 BMW 3 Series has dominated this class for years and continues to do so, thanks to its lineup of overachieving engines, spacious cabin and all-around excellent driving dynamics. Other top choices include the 2014 Audi A4, Infiniti Q50 and 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The recently introduced Mercedes-Benz CLA is another possible candidate, since it costs less and provides similar luxury appointments.
The BMW is without a doubt our favorite car to drive in this group, while the Audi has some of the finest cabin furnishings. The 2014 Cadillac ATS is a step behind these two, but it's still a strong contender and worth a test-drive before you make a decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Cadillac ATS is a five-passenger, luxury-oriented sport sedan that is offered in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Performance and Premium.
Standard features on the base trim include 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, automatic headlights, an active aero grille, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way power front seats with power lumbar, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a seven-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio, an iPod/USB interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional on the base ATS is the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system and an upgraded surround-sound system, which adds HD Radio, an 8-inch touchscreen audio display, 10-speaker Bose sound system (with a CD player) and a rearview camera.
The CUE interface is standard on the Luxury trim, which also adds run-flat tires, keyless entry and ignition, remote engine start (automatic-transmission models only), eight-way power front seats, front and rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seating, driver memory functions and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
The Performance trim (not available with the 2.5-liter engine) includes previously mentioned equipment along with dual exhaust outlets, a Driver Awareness package (automatic high-beam control, automatic wipers, rear-seat side airbags, and forward collision, rear cross-traffic and lane departure warning systems), xenon headlights, an upgraded 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, front sport seats (with driver-side bolster adjustment), aluminum-trimmed pedals and, as on the base ATS, a fixed rear seat with a pass-through.
Stepping up to the Premium trim (not available with the 2.5-liter engine) adds 18-inch wheels, a navigation system, a color head-up display and the 60/40 split-folding rear seat. Rear-wheel-drive ATS Premium models also come with run-flat summer tires, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive suspension dampers and a limited-slip rear differential.
Many of the features that are standard on the upper trim levels are optional on the lower trims. A few other option packages are also available. The Driver Assist package includes the features from the Awareness package and adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a collision mitigation system with brake assist (which activates in both front and rear collision situations) and the color head-up display. The Cold Weather package includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Available only on rear-drive V6 Premium models, the Track Performance package adds an engine oil cooler and upgraded brake pads. Other options include different wheels, a sunroof and a trunk cargo organizer.
Powertrains and Performance
Three engines are available for the 2014 Cadillac ATS. The 2.5 models come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 202 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0 Turbo models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 272 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The 3.6 models come with a 3.6-liter V6 that cranks out 321 hp and 274 lb-ft of torque.
All ATS engines come matched to a six-speed automatic transmission except the 2.0-liter turbo, which can also be had with a six-speed manual. Rear-wheel drive is standard across the board. All-wheel drive is optional for the 2.0- and 3.6-liter engines and requires the automatic transmission.
In Edmunds testing, a rear-drive ATS 2.0T with the manual went from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. An automatic-equipped ATS 2.0T (also rear-wheel drive) turned in an identical time. A rear-drive ATS 3.6 Premium accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Both times are average among similarly powered entry-level luxury sedans.
EPA estimated fuel economy for the base ATS 2.5 is 26 mpg combined (22 mpg city/33 mpg highway). Equipped with the automatic, 2.0 Turbo models are estimated to return 24 mpg combined (21/31) in rear-drive configuration and 23 mpg combined (20/29) with AWD. With the manual gearbox and rear-drive, the ATS 2.0 Turbo is rated at 23 mpg combined (19/30).
The V6 is estimated to achieve 22 mpg combined (18/28) with rear-wheel drive and 21 combined (18/26) with AWD.
Standard safety features for the 2014 Cadillac ATS include antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, active front head restraints, front-seat side and knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
Optional safety items are included in the aforementioned Driver Awareness (forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, automatic wipers and rear seat side airbags) and Driver Assist packages (adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and collision mitigation with brake assist). Note that the collision mitigation system that's part of the Driver Assist package will automatically apply the brakes in both low-speed forward and rearward potential collision situations -- an unusual feature in this price range. A rearview camera is optional on the base model and standard on the Luxury, Performance and Premium.
In Edmunds brake testing, an ATS 3.6 Premium with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet, while a 2.0T with summer tires required a bit more at 112 feet. An ATS 3.6 Performance with all-season tires did it in 113 feet. All three distances are average for this class of vehicle with these tire types.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2014 Cadillac ATS boasts a variety of high-quality materials, including tasteful wood and metallic accents. The cabin feels solidly put together, but we've noted a few more fit and finish issues in the ATS than in similarly priced competitors.
The available CUE infotainment interface features large icons and operates like an iPhone or iPad, which is to say you operate it by tapping, flicking, swiping or spreading your fingers -- making it familiar for many users. Furthermore, "haptic" feedback lets you know when you've pressed a virtual button by pulsing when you touch it.
This all results in a certain wow factor, but in practice, CUE can be slow to respond (and occasionally, fail to respond at all), and some features, such as the slide bar for volume adjustment, turn out to be more trouble than conventional controls. In this class, we prefer the BMW iDrive and Mercedes-Benz COMAND interfaces (both of which use a multidirectional dial-type controller). On the upside, the ATS has a robust voice recognition interface, so if you get tired of fiddling with the touchscreen, initiating commands by voice is a pretty painless process.
Up front, most drivers will find it easy to get into a comfortable driving position, and in our experience, the front seats provide ample support on longer drives. Oddly, the optional sport seats don't provide much more lateral support than the standard seats, even with the addition of power-adjustable bolsters.
Compared to most other entry-level luxury sedans, the ATS's backseat is smaller than the norm. It's not necessarily a deal breaker depending on what your priorities are, but know that taller adults will find headroom, shoulder room and hiproom in short supply. The trunk is similarly confining. In spite of its wide opening, it offers just 10.2 cubic feet of capacity. Only the Luxury and Premium trims have a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
The 2014 Cadillac ATS is an impressive all-around performer, thanks to its poised ride, sure-footed handling and excellent response from the steering and brakes. More demanding drivers might criticize the steering's so-so levels of feedback, but overall, the compact Cadillac is a fine daily driver that can also provide plenty of entertainment on a Sunday morning drive.
The base 2.5-liter engine is smooth, but it delivers tepid acceleration compared with other entry-level powertrains in this class. Fortunately, both the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and 3.6-liter V6 provide thrust more in keeping with this Cadillac's athletic personality. Of these two, the V6 would be our choice, mostly because the 2.0-liter turbo gets noisy under hard acceleration and isn't as refined as the four-cylinder engines in rival sedans. Although enthusiasts may lament the lack of a manual transmission for the V6, the six-speed automatic will get the job done for most consumers. Switched to Sport mode, it knows when to hold a gear and provides rev-matched downshifts.