2017 Cadillac ATS Review
Edmunds expert review
Smaller and lighter than its CTS stablemate, the ATS serves as Cadillac's counter to the BMW 3 Series. Introduced for the 2013 model year, the ATS continues today as fundamentally the same car, though it has received enhancements along the way. With its lively steering, nimble handling and attractively creased sheet metal, the 2017 ATS is going to appeal to you if you're searching for a small luxury sedan with a healthy dose of performance and attitude.
Having received revised engines and a new transmission last year, the 2017 ATS carries over largely intact. Its calling card, though, remains its playful handling and pin-sharp steering. It's genuinely entertaining to drive and is the most convincing entry-level luxury sedan ever produced by an American automaker. It's not entirely without faults, as its CUE infotainment interface isn't the benchmark in the class and the ATS has a smaller backseat and cargo area than its competition.
Good as the 2017 ATS is, your choices for a small luxury sedan are many. There's the 3 Series, of course. It has more rear seat space than the ATS, and its six-cylinder engine is noticeably more powerful. If it's a supremely classy cabin you want, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is way to go. As if those aren't enough, there's also the fully redesigned Audi A4, all-new Jaguar XE and popular Lexus IS to consider. Still, it's a credit to Cadillac that the ATS manages to distinguish itself in this company. It's worth your attention.
Standard safety features for the 2017 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. A rearview camera is standard on all trims.
A Teen Driver system, which can be used to set and monitor certain vehicle parameters for young drivers, is a new standard feature this year.
The Safety and Security package and the Driver Awareness package both add a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic wipers, automatic high beams, lane departure prevention, a forward collision warning system, and the Safety Alert seat that buzzes the driver seat bottom as an additional form of warning. Also included is a lane-change alert system that detects quickly approaching vehicles in adjacent lanes when the turn signal is activated.
The Driver Assist package bolsters that content with a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, and a forward and rearward collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.
In Edmunds brake testing, an ATS 2.0T with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 112 feet, an average distance for this segment. Impressively, an ATS 3.6 stopped in 113 feet despite wearing slipperier all-season tires.
In government crash testing, the ATS received an overall score of five stars out of five, with five stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection.
What's new for 2017
Trim levels & features
The 2017 Cadillac ATS is a compact luxury sport sedan offered with rear- or all-wheel drive and is available in four trim levels: ATS, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Premium Performance. The ATS Coupe is reviewed separately, as is the high-performance ATS-V.
Standard features on the base ATS include 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a driver information screen, six-way power front seats with power lumbar, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. On the technology front, the ATS has the CUE infotainment system with voice controls, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone app functionality, an 8-inch touchscreen, OnStar (with 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability), Bluetooth connectivity, and a 10-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio, three USB ports and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Luxury trim adds navigation, leather seating surfaces with 10-way power seats, memory for seats and mirrors, parking sensors, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, remote start (not available with manual transmission), a 110-volt power outlet and a split-folding backseat with a pass-through.
Premium Luxury adds adaptive xenon headlights with automatic high beams, LED running lights, a sunroof, automatic wipers, collision alert, blind-spot warning, lane departure prevention, rear cross-traffic alert, steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles and heated 12-way driver/10-way passenger power sport seats.
Premium Performance (rear-wheel drive only) includes all of the features of Premium Luxury, plus Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers, revised suspension tuning, an increased-capacity engine cooling system, a limited-slip differential, 18-inch wheels, summer tires, a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel and a head-up display.
Premium Luxury and Premium Performance trim levels are available only with the 3.6-liter V6 and the eight-speed automatic transmission.
Many of the upper trims' standard features are optional on the lower trims. Several option packages are available. The Driver Assist package (available on Premium Luxury and Premium Performance only) adds the head-up display and adaptive cruise control plus advanced safety features (see Safety section below). An Advanced Security Package adds an alarm and a locking fuel filler door. A new Carbon Black Package adds Recaro performance seats, a blacked-out grille, a rear spoiler, special exterior and interior trim, and unique dark-finish 18-inch wheels.
Available only on Premium Performance models, the Track Performance package adds a heavy-duty cooling fan and upgraded brake pads. All rear-wheel-drive models can be ordered with a V-Sport Performance Suspension Upgrade package, which adds a sport-tuned suspension plus 18-inch wheels and summer tires.
Two engines are available for the 2017 Cadillac ATS. All ATS engines come standard with rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 272 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is optional, as is a six-speed manual transmission (but only with rear-wheel drive). Equipped with the automatic, the base 2017 ATS is expected to return the same results as in 2016 — an estimated 26 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway) in rear-drive configuration and 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway) with AWD. With the manual gearbox, the 2.0T is rated at 23 mpg combined (20 city/29 highway).
The optional 3.6-liter V6 cranks out 335 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. No manual transmission is available with the V6, but all-wheel drive is optional. The ATS 3.6 is rated at 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) with rear-wheel drive and 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway) with AWD.
With its big-hearted power delivery and eagerness to play, the 3.6-liter V6 turns the ATS into a little hot rod. It's the handling poise that really puts the cherry on the ATS sundae, though. This is an impressive all-around driver's car, with nimbless and precision in equal measure. Its quick steering has actual feel, and the brakes are responsive and inspire confidence. In this respect, Cadillac has out-BMW'd BMW. Get the summer tires and sport-tuned suspension and you'll likely find all sorts of excuses to exercise your ATS on twisting roads. Be aware, however, that the ride quality suffers noticeably with the sport suspension, particularly when driving over rough pavement.
The base 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder delivers a satisfying amount of forward thrust, though its refinement and noise level under hard acceleration leave something to be desired. Its fuel-efficiency benefit over the V6 isn't tremendous, either. And although it's nice to have the option of a manual transmission, the ATS' isn't our favorite. Shifts aren't as smooth as they could be, and the shifter doesn't feel particularly impressive in your hand.
The cabin in the 2017 Cadillac ATS is trimmed in a variety of reasonably high-quality materials, including tasteful wood and metallic accents. While it's attractive enough, we've noted a few more fit and finish issues in the ATS than in similarly priced competitors.
The standard CUE infotainment interface features an attractive 8-inch touchscreen and operates similarly to a smartphone or tablet, via taps, swipes and pinches. Furthermore, what's known as haptic feedback lets you know when you've pressed a virtual button by pulsing when you touch it.
When the car is turned off, the sleek, buttonless center stack looks uncluttered and even futuristic. In practice, however, the lack of discrete buttons is frustrating because its use depends on your vision and not simply feel. Some of CUE's features, such as the slide bar for volume adjustment, turn out to be more troublesome than conventional controls. Until you get accustomed to the system, expect to glance at the center stack frequently any time you make a minor adjustment to the fan or radio settings. In this class, we prefer the BMW iDrive, Mercedes COMAND and Audi MMI systems, all of which employ a multidirectional knob-based controller.
Many drivers will find it easy to get into a comfortable driving position, and our experience shows that the firm front seats provide ample support even on long drives. Curiously, the optional sport seats don't provide much more lateral support than the standard seats, even with the addition of power-adjustable bolsters.
The compact size of the ATS is a blessing and a curse, as its backseat is smaller than those of most other entry-level luxury sport sedans. These tighter backseat confines aren't necessarily a deal-breaker, but be aware that taller adults will find headroom, shoulder room and legroom in short supply. Likewise, the trunk of the ATS is similarly lacking in space. In spite of its wide opening, it offers just 10.4 cubic feet of capacity, and the base trim does not have folding rear seatbacks.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.