Auto Review: The back-road Cadillac

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Fri., Dec. 14, 2012
- Contributed Photo

A few weeks back, we took a look at Cadillac’s all-new XTS sedan, and I talked about how this roomy, technologically-advanced car did a great job of balancing traditional Cadillac virtues with contemporary advancements. The company has clearly decided to make 2013 a very important year, because there’s an additional completely fresh sedan in the Cadillac stable that – unlike the XTS – is focused on performance, and built on an idea the CTS line started: a “sporting” Cadillac can take on the best in the world.

The new model is the ATS, and it combines fresh rear-drive chassis architecture with an unusually light curb weight to produce a seriously sharp-handling car. A competitor in the compact luxury segment, the ATS benefits from an art and science design philosophy that the company describes as being centered on “a foundation of driving dynamics and mass efficiency. It is the most agile and lightweight Cadillac, with one of the lowest curb weights in the segment – less than 3,400 pounds.” It is also a car you can tailor to your performance tastes in that there are three engines available and the option of all-wheel drive.

The ATS manages 50/50 weight distribution on its 109.3-inch wheelbase, and the engine choices include a 2.5-liter Inline Four with 202 horsepower, a Turbocharged 2-liter Inline Four with 272 horsepower and the engine that graced our test car: a 3.6-liter V6 with 321 horsepower. The Turbo can be had with a six-speed manual transmission, as well as the six-speed automatic found on the other two drivetrains. The V6 engine proved to have plenty of bite to accompany a very low-key, melodious bark. Aided by a slick-shifting gearbox, 0-60 mph runs averaged a very quick 5.68 seconds with very little drama, showing that this sport sedan is as refined as it is capable. The Performance Collection trim level includes a Sport Suspension, and this in combination with Brembo brakes let you exploit the powertrain to the fullest, with handling and braking that rivals some of the most exclusive sport sedans on the market. Steering is tight with great feedback thanks to ZF Premium Electric Variable Steering, and all in all, this is a breakthrough car for the company with better overall handling and performance balance than even the CTS brought to the table.

The moderate exterior dimensions of the ATS mean this isn’t your grandfather’s Cadillac with room for entire extended families, but the seat comfort is excellent up front. The only foible is Cadillac’s new CUE (Cadillac User Experience) electronic interface, which, like many new touch/voice interfaces, takes a lot of practice to master sufficiently to be comfortable to use. The rear seats are not the roomiest in the class, but very comfortable once you get settled in.

A world-class sporting chassis underneath the Cadillac emblem has been a while coming, but the ATS proves it was worth the wait. The 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Performance Collection is EPA rated 19 MPG city/28 highway and has a base price of $43,695. With options, our sticker came to $47,760.

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