29 May 2012

2013 Cadillac ATS Buyer's Guide.2013 Cadillac.2013 Cadillac ATS Buyer'.Buyer's Guide


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MSRP: $33,095 - $47,795
MPG Range: N/A
Body Style: Sedan
Ever since its "Art and Science" rebirth, Cadillac has made it clear it's gunning for BMW. The CTS, and particularly the big-stick CTS-V, is the opening salvo. For too long, though, the CTS has been the only product in Cadillac's portfolio worthy of taking on the Germans, and it wasn't the undisputed victor. Now,
with its all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS, the new Standard of the World finally appears ready to take on the Ultimate Driving Machines.

2013 Cadillac ATS Front Right View 2
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The ATS was presented as a true BMW 3 Series competitor, and was benchmarked against what Cadillac says is the good 3 Series ever, the E46. Them's fightin' words, right there. Since then, Cadillac's been running its mouth with Super Bowl commercials, Nurburgring test videos, and more. In the meantime, BMW has returned fire in a very reserved, German way, by introducing the new F30 3 Series, which easily trounced the competition in a recent MT comparison ("The More Things Change...", May 2012).

The singular question, then, is whether Cadillac can back it up. Given Cadillac's boasting and GM's general long-standing but finally fading habit of overpromising and under-delivering, I was skeptical. That new 3 Series is damn good, and I should know -- I'm assigned to MT's long-term 328i. Has Cadillac really done it?

The answer is yes. The Cadillac ATS is shockingly good. In fact, here are the four things I don't like about the ATS: the instrument cluster is boring and uninspired; the shift paddles on the steering wheel are too far away from your fingertips; the back seat is too cramped; and the 2.5-liter base engine has no business being in a car aimed at dethroning the 3 Series. That's it. But does that make it better than the 3 Series?
2013 Cadillac ATS Front View
2013 Cadillac ATS Front Right Side View
2013 Cadillac ATS Rear Right View

The ATS certainly has its spec sheet right. Every external dimension, from wheelbase to track widths to length, width, and height, are within an inch or less of the 3 Series. The Cadillac offers both a 270-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder to match the 328's same-size 240-horsepower turbo-four, and a 321-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 to match the 335's 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. The ATS offers everything from optional magnetic shocks to its CUE infotainment system and more to match BMW's adjustable shocks and iDrive and the rest. But does that mean anything on the road?

It does. I drove all three engine variants on beautiful and treacherous back roads north of Atlanta, and I was more than surprised. The ATS is smooth and composed on rough pavement and through turns. The ride is appropriately stiff for a car with sporting intentions, but never harsh or brittle. I was most surprised by the standard, non-adjustable suspension, because frankly, I couldn't feel much of a difference between how it and the optional Magnetic Ride Control suspension rode or handled.

2013 Cadillac ATS Rear Right Side View
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And it does handle, fancy shocks or not. Cadillac claims the ATS weighs as much as 160 pounds less than the last 3 Series we tested, but it retains a solid, weighty feel on the road. It comes off planted and confident, ready to glide through corners with ease rather than attack them with unbridled fury. I can't recall how many times we've declared that the CTS "ain't your father's Caddy," but the moniker applies equally to the ATS. It's good enough to make you overconfident. Should that become the case, the ATS defaults to progressive understeer, unwilling to put its tail out unless you really do something wrong, like put a tire off the road into some nice, soft dirt.

On the road or the track, the ATS imparted a sense of balance -- the engine never overdrove the suspension or tires. Steering feel is very good for an electric unit and the car turns in quickly with a nice bit of weight to it. The Brembo brakes, standard on turbocharged and V-6 models, provide excellent, linear stopping power and resist fade very well. GM's six-speed auto has been tuned up for performance duty and offers upshifts so quick, most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this torque converter auto and a dual-clutch unit. Downshifts, though still quite good, are where the torque converter loses time and a little composure. The six-speed manual, available only with the turbo four-cylinder engine, is a very nice box with short, crisp throws with a pleasant mechanical feel to them and an easy-to-modulate clutch.
2013 Cadillac ATS Front Right View
2013 Cadillac ATS Rear Right Side View 2
2013 Cadillac ATS Rear Left View

While I drove all three variants on the road, I was only able to test the top-shelf V-6. Without a proper dragstrip on hand, I used the front straight at Road Atlanta where our trusty VBox recorded a 0-to-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 14.1 seconds at 101.6 mph. That's actually a bit slower than Cadillac predicted. It said the V-6 should do a 5.4 to 60 and 14 flat in the quarter. Aside from the test location, unusual atmospheric conditions on the test day may have contributed to the poor result. We'll retest the car when one becomes available in California to verify the result. The BMW 335, by contrast, lays down a blistering 4.7-second 60-mph time, though its 300-horsepower rating is suspect, considering that's 426-horsepower Camaro SS 0-to-60 mph territory. I had far better luck in the braking test, where the ATS stopped in just 111 feet from 60 mph, just two feet longer than the 335. The ATS really shone on the skidpad, where it pulled 0.94 g average to the BMW's 0.90.

2013 Cadillac ATS Front Left View
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The V-6 emits a decent rasp as you lay into it. It's one of the better 60-degree V-6 sounds out there, considering how hard it is to make that type of engine sound good. The turbo-four, meanwhile, makes something of a soft growl that, again, is pleasing for a four-cylinder. Both engines doled out power in a nice, smooth pull to redline, though the V-6 didn't feel all that much faster on the road than the turbo-four. Cadillac says the turbocharged engine should lay down a 5.7-second 60 mph time and a 14.1-second quarter-mile. It expects this will be the volume-selling engine.

Then there's the 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder. It's not a bad engine - in fact, it's very smooth. It just doesn't belong in a Cadillac. Power delivery levels off about halfway through the throttle pedal's travel, and while it's adequate for getting around town, it's not particularly impressive (7.5 seconds to 60 mph and mid-15s in the quarter-mile, Cadillac says). The ATS doesn't need this engine. Not for sales, not for marketing, and not for CAFE. The 2.0-liter turbo gets the exact same fuel economy and costs just $600 more than the 2.5-liter while still undercutting the 328's base price by $1600. All the 2.5-liter does is let Cadillac say the ATS starts under $34,000, by all of $10. What's more, it's only available on the lowest trim levels and without the performance options or all-wheel drive. BMW doesn't offer a stripper model with a weak engine, and neither should Cadillac. It's an old habit Cadillac picked up from Chevrolet and it needs to stop if Cadillac wants to play with today's big boys of luxury. No one brags about having the cheapest, least-equipped luxury car on the block.
2013 Cadillac ATS Front Right Side View 2
2013 Cadillac ATS Front Left Side View
2013 Cadillac ATS Front View 2

They may brag, though, about CUE. I hadn't tried the Cadillac User Experience prior to the ATS, and based on Jonny Lieberman's experience with the XTS, I was prepared to be disappointed. The Cadillac people tell me that despite the cars being launched only a few months apart, the ATS features a newer version of the CUE software, which the XTS will be getting retroactively. This ability to make fast, running changes is part of Cadillac's strategy to let you update CUE by simply going online and downloading the latest software to a USB thumb drive, then plugging it into the car, rather than going to the dealer. We'll see how that works out when it actually goes online, and how Cadillac's even more ambitious plan to someday make the car itself a Wi-Fi hotspot and let it download software updates wirelessly works out when that day comes.

Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1207_2013_cadillac_ats_first_test/viewall.html#ixzz1yhB6aacJ

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