As our regular readers may know, I own a 2008 Cadillac CTS. In August 2008, I fell for that car’s charms, and features been a nice ownership experience, though not without some annoyances. Seeing that my car is five years old, I feel like I’m ready to start something else. I very much looked forward to spending some seat time in the ATS with all the 2. liter turbo and six speed manual transmission as a possible candidate for that coveted left-hand parking spot in the Haak garage. However for reasons of practicality and cost, as well as in-car technology, I’m just not able to start another few years of car payments for a car that’s arguably better than mine in almost every way, apart from two big demerits.
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T 6MT Premium CollectionFirst, the good stuff. The ATS is a good size (no less than in terms of being a driver’s car – back seat passengers and those who plan to use its trunk may disagree) and has an amazing chassis. The car wants to play and is also incredibly tossable, especially when equipped with FE3 performance suspension as our test car was. Cadillac engineers who created the ATS’ new Alpha platform outdid themselves by using a structure that may be rigid but incredibly lightweight; while the previous-generation (2008-2013) CTS is a heavyweight and you can feel its bulk in the majority of dynamic maneuvers, the ATS excels dynamically specifically since it does not carry anywhere near that quantity of bulk.
As a fan of manual transmissions, I’m grateful to Cadillac for equipping the ATS with one, regardless of whether it’s only accessible with a single engine (the two. liter turbocharged four cylinder) and single drivetrain (rear wheel drive only), and it’s really not a bad gearbox at all. (Sorry if that’s damning with faint praise). The ATS’ manual gearbox at launch annoyed many people and was basically re-engineered to improve satisfaction, along with the results are now solid. It doesn’t have the identical shift action of some of the best gearboxes (the BMW 1 Series M that I drove a year ago comes up) but carries a fairly short throw plus an easy-to-modulate clutch. I didn’t miss a single shift in the ATS during my week with the car, which I can’t necessarily say about the last manual transmission-equipped GM vehicle I tested (ahem, Camaro ZL1).
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T 6MT Premium CollectionAccording on the seat of my pants, the ATS with FE3 excels with regards to both steering and braking, and it holds its own in terms of acceleration. It’s just too bad the manual transmission is not available with the 3.6 liter V6, which would immediately become the enthusiast’s choice. The FE3 suspension within the ATS includes GM’s outstanding magnetorheological shocks that combine excellent body control and damping using a fairly compliant ride. The ATS with FE3 has basically the perfect ride/handling mix, thanks to the suspension and the car’s light weight.
Even though the XTS, which preceded the ATS by only a few months, has what I called possibly the best interior that has ever been in any Cadillac, the ATS has a few places where the interior was obviously engineered to a price point. The vinyl that may be cut and sewn and which covers the top dash and upper door panels feels less leather-like than the material used in the XTS; it’s very obviously not leather (though at least more realistic compared to pebble-textured vinyl used in the 2008-2013 CTS). There’s also some hard plastic on the sides of the center console and also in the lower door panels. Overall, the interior design and materials are very good, though.
The CUE infotainment system is still a bit of an enigma, though 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T 6MT Premium CollectionI really liked the interior’s color scheme. It’s easy to figure out and appears great, although the system just does not have sufficient processing power in order to quickly execute commands. I found myself on several occasion touching the screen, getting no feedback (haptic or otherwise), touching the screen again, just to learn that we effectively executed the command twice when the system trapped with me.
Because the system uses a capacitive touchscreen (similar to what is utilized on an iPad or smartphone, unlike the resistive touchscreen used in most other cars with touchscreens), Cadillac adds haptic feedback for the system to let you know the system has brought a command from you. This comes by means of a small vibration behind the screen, which is intended to evoke the sensation of pushing a button.
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T 6MT Premium CollectionThe interface is tablet-like, with large icons similar to an iPad’s, and as an alternative to pressing a plus or minus to zoom in or out on the map view, it is possible to pinch to unzoom and unpinch to zoom. The system’s reaction is nowhere near as smooth as in using the Google Maps app on an iPhone, for example. You’ll pinch and not see anything on the screen for a second or so, then as you try again, the system decides to listen to your earlier command.
Do you remember how people beat up on BMW’s iDrive when it was first introduced, and now it’s practically the benchmark among luxury-brand infotainment systems? BMW took that criticism to heart, so I’m hoping that Cadillac does the same, because you can bet that CUE is not going away (it is now in the ATS, XTS and SRX and going into the CTS and ELR. All that’s left is the Escalade, and I’m sure that the following-generation Escalade may have CUE in certain months). I really think that fundamentally it’s OK (aside from not needing volume and tuning knobs) and that by incorporating bug fixes and more robust processing power, it would be a better system – if you can stand fingerprints on your glossy navigation screen, that may be.
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T 6MT Premium CollectionIt’s hard in my opinion to express how well this car drives. The engine – a 272-horsepower 2. liter turbocharged, direct-injected four cylinder – has somewhere between adequate power and strong power. The 2.0T doesn’t feel 50 horsepower weaker, even though the 3.6 liter 321-horsepower V6 is clearly stronger. It is possible to thank its flat torque curve for almost all of that feel. Neither the 2.0T or even the 3.6 liter would be the smoothest, most refined engines in the world, particularly at speed, but they are both quite sedate at idle. The EPA rates the ATS 2.0T 6MT’s fuel economy at 19 MPG city/30 MPG highway/23 MPG combined. The 328i having a 2.6 and 0T speed manual is rated at 22/34/26. Alternatively, about 3 MPG better. On paper, the 3er gives up a lot of power to the ATS (240 against 272 horsepower) but in fact, the 3er is a bit faster. Under-rating your engines, BMW? Anyway, in one week of mixed driving, I saw about 24 MPG.
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T 6MT Premium CollectionAs you navigate along back roads, the ATS’s nearly-perfect weight distribution, strong brakes (the fronts are Brembos), and accurate, well-weighted steering make the ATS a joy to operate a vehicle. Aside from wanting perhaps more power (and therefore power is offered already from your optional 3.6 liter V6, and I’m fairly certain that someday there will be an ATS-V to compete with the newest BMW M3, likely by using a version in the CTS Vsport’s twin-turbo 3.6 liter V6, producing in excess of the 420 horsepower in the CTS Vsport. If it appears, will be an incredible car, the ATS-V.
I’d call Cadillac’s pricing strategy with the ATS bold, not aggressive. It had the Premium Collection, started at $44.895, although this particular car, which was rear wheel drive only. Add the $995 Thunder Gray Chromaflair paint, $850 18? polished aluminum wheels, $600 cold weather package (heated front seats and steering wheel), eliminate $1,495 for your manual transmission, and add $895 for destination, and you get to a car that costs $47,155. For any great-driving, cramped, four cylinder Cadillac, that seems a little steep. However, according to TrueDelta.com, the 328i costs $7,080 more than the ATS when accounting for equipment differences. The price distinction between this ATS and an A4 with quattro AWD as well as an automatic is closer, with the ATS just $2,715 less. Of course, with top-spec CTS Vsports available with $70,000 Monroneys on the windows, some 20 grand less could be about suitable for the ATS.
Can I recommend the ATS? Absolutely. It’s a great driver’s car, returns decent mileage, and it’s fairly priced against a 328i. The BMW has more interior and trunk space, carries a better infotainment system, and it’s faster and more fuel efficient. However the ATS is much more refined, handles better, and appearance better. It’s the best entry level Cadillac how the company has ever built, though the ATS isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, its lack of interior utility, small trunk, and frustrating infotainment system most likely will keep it off my consideration list for the following new car I buy.