The all-new Cadillac ATS for 2013 is a mouthful – rear- or all-wheel-drive compact luxury sport sedan.
But the ATS is also an eyeful, with subtle curves along the door panels and shoulder lines. The taillights and grille still say “Cadillac,” but the ATS is light and agile, and great fun to drive.
The ATS comes in four model choices and 16 trim packages with nine rear-wheel-drive and seven all-wheel-drive configurations. There are three engine choices – a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, and a 2.5-liter four and 3.6-liter V-6, both normally aspirated.
For this report, I drove the ATS AWD 3.6-liter Luxury model with a six-speed automatic transmission (base price $43,195).
You don’t have to spend that much, though. Prices range from $33,095 for a 2.5-liter base rear-drive model to more than $47,000, and there also are lots of options available.
My tester’s exterior color was the optional Thunder Gray Chromaflair. Inside, the heated leather seats, lower dash and door-panel inserts were red, and the remainder of the interior was black with sporty red top-stitching.
The standard engine for the ATS is the 200-horsepower 2.5-liter four, with a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination is good for over 30 mpg on the highway.
With the 270-horsepower turbocharged engine comes either a six-speed manual transmission or the six-speed automatic.
The most powerful engine, the 3.6-liter, produces 321 horsepower and gets 18 mpg city/26 highway with the six-speed automatic, the only gearbox available with the V-6. I averaged 22 mpg, according to the driver-information system.
My ATS also came with Perfect Algorithm Tapshift for the experience of manual shifting and the ease of automatic shifting using paddle shifters located on the steering wheel.
This sport model was quick out of the gate and could easily overtake and pass any other vehicle on the road. It would be lots of fun on a track, too, if I had the opportunity. The sport suspension and electric variable steering would enhance that experience, along with the Brembo performance front brakes and Stabilitrak with traction control.
Carbon fiber accents on the door and dash, and small touches of satin-finish gray metallic trim added more “sport.” The Cadillac shield was echoed in the interior, on the steering wheel and control panel, and outside in the shape of the front and rear fascias. The dual stainless-steel exhaust with bright polished tips enhanced the sporty exterior.
The tester had a number of options, including CUE, the Cadillac User Experience. It has a customizable user interface for phone, audio and navigation, and included an eight-inch color display, voice activation for Bluetooth and navigation, an iPod jack, a digital clock, outside temperature display, CD/MP3 player, satellite/HD radio, 10-speaker Bose surround sound system and steering wheel controls for audio, phone, navigation, and instrumentation display.
The weather folder on the navigation system was nice, with time and temperature, forecast, weather map and prompt, easy-to-understand advisories and warnings. But the touch screen and touch buttons on the control panel were a little difficult to get used to, didn’t work well with gloves and “thumped” when touched.
Also, I found the navigation system confusing, but Cadillac also comes with OnStar. Push the OnStar button and speak to an operator to get turn-by-turn directions to wherever/whatever you need. Using OnStar is quicker, easier and safer than pulling over to use the touch screen for navigation.
I got directions while driving, without taking my eyes off the road or my hands off the wheel. OnStar also includes automatic crash response and Remotelink.
The OnStar button and the SOS button are located on a ceiling panel, which is an improvement. More than once I have attempted to adjust a rearview mirror with OnStar buttons and summoned an operator by mistake.
A Cold Weather Package included heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. I have arthritis in my fingers and the heated steering wheel is very nice.
The handcrafted interior was comfortable in all positions, with eight-way power-adjustable driver and front-passenger seats including lumbar support. ATS has lots of legroom – 42.4 inches front, 33.5 rear – and headroom, at 38.6 inches front/36.8 rear.
LED ambient lighting enhanced its well-appointed interior. There is dual-zone automatic climate control with air filtration, as well.
The rear seatback folded in a 60/40 configuration to increase the cargo area from 10.2 cubic feet to a space large enough for DIY supplies, surfboards, camping equipment, small pieces of furniture, or dorm-room furnishings.
The passive entry system made it simple to unlock and open the door, especially in a situation where my key was difficult to access. Keyless pushbutton start was nice for the same reason; I kept the key in the bottom of my purse. The ATS can also be started remotely, to cool or warm the interior in advance.
ATS also comes with lots of standard safety equipment and offers several safety options. Standard are 10 air bags – frontal, knee, side and head-curtain; adjustable front head restraints; rearview camera; antilock brakes with auto-dry; hill-hold and start assist; daytime running lamps; programmable power door locks’ rear child-safe door locks; and audible theft deterrent with vehicle immobilizer.