2013 Cadillac ATS Long-Term Road Test Wrap-Up on Edmunds.com

2013 Cadillac ATS Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (2)
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

Read the introduction of the 2013 Cadillac ATS to our long-term fleet.

See all of the 2013 Cadillac ATS long-term updates.

What We Got
The 2013 Cadillac ATS was the all-new model in the brand's lineup. The fact that it was aimed directly at the segment-leading BMW 3 Series made it all the more intriguing. We knew we wanted one, so the only decision left was deciding just how to equip it.

Equipment options were extensive. There were three engines: a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter inline-4; a 321-hp 3.6-liter V6; and a 272-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. We opted for the turbo, which offered the best balance of power and fuel economy.

The option decisions didn't stop at the engine. We chose rear-wheel drive, which saved a few bucks. We wanted an automatic transmission and the Cadillac CUE infotainment system with navigation. It wasn't hard to find a car with these features, but it was hard to find one with these alone. Time was a factor, too. We didn't want to wait. The unit we ultimately bought was a top-tier ATS Premium with the Driver Assistance package ($3,200), sunroof ($1,050) and 18-inch polished wheels ($850). Our total was $48,566.

We looked forward to testing our tech-heavy ATS, and it wasn't long before the impressions rolled in.

Our Impressions

  • "I took my first drive ever in the ATS this week, and this car put a smile on my face. I really like the way it rides. It's firm, controlled, even sporty, yet there's an underlying compliance to it. It reminds me a lot of the last two generations of the BMW 3 Series (E90 and F30). That's a good thing, of course, especially since our long-term ATS is priced in 328i territory. The steering is very good, too. It's precise with good feel. Again, like a 3 Series. I can totally see taking this sedan on a back road someday. But in that case, I'll definitely have to shift the six-speed automatic manually to make sure I stay in the power. Often during my commute, the engine rpm would fall enough that there wasn't much turbo boost to work with and the ATS felt slow.... But never mind that. A mediocre turbo four-cylinder isn't going to dampen my enthusiasm for the small Cadillac's excellent chassis." — Erin Riches

  • "Recently, I got a lot of seat time in our ATS. It was a good opportunity to see how the car's traits (both good and bad) affected me over a longer duration.... The backseat is small for this class of car. Yet I never really found it to be an issue. Granted, I never had to drive around other adults in the rear of the ATS, just my two small children.... I also warmed up to the CUE interface. Yes, it's totally fair to say that BMW's iDrive or Mercedes' COMAND interfaces are easier to operate. But as touchscreen interfaces go, this one's still quite good. It responds quickly to touches and I found the haptic feedback to be useful.... The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine's sound really started to bug me after a while...the tone just isn't pleasing during hard acceleration. The power's there, but it doesn't sound happy about making it.... The ride is pretty firm, and for common use I'd prefer to have greater suspension compliance.... There really is a lot to like about the ATS, but the big picture qualities sort of get damped down by annoying little things. It's trivial, but in this segment the trivial is important." — Brent Romans

  • 2013 Cadillac ATS

  • "I love getting to know our long-term cars on the open road. After driving to Monterey, California, and back in our ATS Premium 2.0T, though, I'm convinced it's not quite up to par in the entry-level luxury sedan class. One issue for me is the ride quality. If I lived on California's Central Coast, I could totally deal with our ATS's firm ride. (You'll recall that choosing a rear-wheel-drive Premium model locks in summer tires and a sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers.) The roads are smooth up here, especially U.S. 101, and the default Tour mode for the adaptive dampers is livable. But I wouldn't buy an ATS Premium if I continued to live in Southern California. It rides too harshly over worn sections of freeway. I've driven rival sedans with sport package upgrades over these same roads, and most of them offered more compliance." — Erin Riches

  • "At the test track, auto upshifts are quick and reasonably gentle. There's a little bit of a torque deficit at the very bottom of the rev range, but it quickly disappears as the tach swings past 2-3K rpm. I generally like the feel of the engine, but it doesn't have what I'd call a personality.... The steering is not what I'd call communicative, but it isn't noisy or syrupy either. I get just enough information about the front tires' grip and the precision remains.... Steering response is crisp, without unnecessary weight in the steering effort. Nicely sculpted/contoured wheel. Very good balance overall with a delicacy and precision that is sadly becoming a rarity." — Chris Walton

  • "One of the most jarring features of our ATS is the touch-sensitive interface for the stereo, climate controls and the CUE telematics system.... It goes way beyond the knobless volume control JayKav 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.... 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.... 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'.... 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

  • "I'm going to belabor the point. The ATS's center stack has no knobs and no real buttons. This makes life in the car slower and more difficult. Now that we've lived with it for a while, I feel like CUE is just cost-cutting masquerading as progress. Groan." — Josh Jacquot

  • "Back in April Mike wrote with poison pen about the driver seat in our ATS. He wrote, 'I've spent several days in the ATS now, and I just can't seem to find a position that's truly comfortable for me. The stuffing, in both the seat cushion and the seatback, is just too dang hard for those long-haul days in the saddle.' As I said, the man is crazy. I love the seat in the ATS. Unlike Mike's buttocks, it is shaped to perfection. And, despite Mike's words, it is not too hard, nor is it too soft. I personally find it to be comfortable for short trips as well as long-haul days in the saddle. Don't get me wrong; everyone is entitled to their opinion, regardless of how incorrect it may be." — Scott Oldham

  • 2013 Cadillac ATS

  • "The comfortable cabin [of the ATS] is accommodating to most passengers, the suspension is firm but not harsh, and once you get used to CUE there is plenty of entertainment available for those lulls in conversation that happen over long miles. One glitch, however. The nav system froze up on the way there. We solved this by turning off the car and restarting. All was well after that." — Donna DeRosa

  • "When the Cadillac slipped under 50 miles of range, the computer simply told me the range was 'low.' I would've loved to know exactly how far I had left, especially with a possible range record coming up for the ATS.... After driving 30 miles on unfamiliar rural highways, I gave in and stopped for gas. 432.9 miles on one tank, a new record! The ATS took just over 16 gallons of fuel, which is apparently the exact size of the tank." — Travis Langness

  • "The ATS 2.0T's trunk is generously wide at the opening, but things get tight further back in the cargo area. I found out just how narrow it gets at the wheelwells when I folded down the rear seats and tried to put a mountain bike in through the trunk. The pass-through is plenty tall enough for this maneuver, but definitely not wide enough. I had to lower the seat post all the way down to get the bike in (besides taking off the front wheel, of course). And even then it was a total squeeze-fest... the ATS's 10.2-cubic-foot trunk is on the small side for the class. The BMW 3 Series offers 11 cubic feet of space and the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class measure 12.4 cubic feet." — Mike Monticello

Maintenance & Repairs

Regular Maintenance:
The Cadillac Premium Care Maintenance program pays the bill for routine maintenance over the first four years or 50,000 miles. The manual specifies tire rotations at 7,500-mile intervals and oil changes as dictated by its onboard computer. Our only out-of-pocket expense in this department was a $159 wheel alignment, which is arguably beyond the parameters of "regular" maintenance.

2013 Cadillac ATS

Service Campaigns:
A handful of issues arose during our test. The steering wheel inflatable restraint (SIR) coil and steering wheel sensor were replaced. TSBs to update the seat-memory system, tighten the turbo manifold connection and update CUE software were also performed. A burnt-out door handle approach light, as with all of these items, was replaced under warranty.

We encountered some mystery items also. There was the erroneous right low beam failure warning light. Don't forget the PRND lights that flickered for no discernible reason. The power steering malfunction warning also had us scratching our heads. Most of these appeared a couple of times and never again.

Fuel Economy and Resale Value

Observed Fuel Economy:
The EPA rated our 2013 Cadillac ATS turbo at 24 mpg combined (21 city/31highway). We averaged 22 mpg during our test. Our best single tank was 31 mpg. Though it fell short on fuel economy projections, its range was impressive. The ATS went as far as 432 miles between fill-ups.

Resale and Depreciation:
We purchased our Cadillac ATS for $48,566. After 14 months and 21,566 miles, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued the Cadillac at $36,285 based on a private-party sale. And we found a private party to pay exactly that amount. This marked 25 percent depreciation from our original paid price.

Summing Up

Pros: Good combination of power and responsiveness from turbocharged engine; admirable handling for a sedan; precise steering feel; quiet interior; modern electronics features; free maintenance program.

Cons: Ride can be choppy with optional sport suspension; engine doesn't sound particularly refined; CUE infotainment system takes some getting used to; fuel economy was below EPA estimates; tight backseat.

Bottom Line: The ATS is Cadillac's best small sedan in a long time. It combines sharp handling and a responsive engine with a comfortable, well-built interior. Some electrical gremlins and occasional frustration with the user interface are the only things that kept us from considering it a top-tier sedan in the entry-level luxury class.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: None (over 14 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: $159 for wheel alignment
Warranty Repairs: Replace steering wheel inflatable restraint (SIR) coil, replace steering wheel sensor, update seat memory system, tighten turbo manifold connection, update CUE software, replace burnt-out approach light.
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 24
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 30.6 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.6 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 22.1 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $36,285 (private-party sale)
What It Sold for: $36,285
Depreciation: $12,281 (25% of paid price)
Final Odometer Reading: 21,566 miles

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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