Take the new Cadillac ATS-4 sedan for a test drive and you’ll immediately know why it has been voted 2013 North American Car Of The Year. The ATS is definitely a BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C250 fighter. It has all the attributes to be a compelling alternative to both.
For starters, my test car came with the 2.0L, 272-hp, turbocharged 4-cylinder that generates 260 lb/ft of torque at a low 1,700 rpm. This direct injection powerplant couples to a 6-speed automatic transmission - although a manual is also available. With the automatic, it garners EPA ratings of 20 city, 30-highway mpg (or 24 combined). The combination provides exhilarating acceleration for a sedan that weighs 3,543 pounds and employs an aluminum hood and magnesium engine mount brackets to reduce weight. The ATS has been 0-60 timed at 6.3 seconds and at 14.8 for the quarter mile.
Although shifting is done automatically, there are paddle shifters for self-shifting. And if it’s more zoom you want, there’s an optional 3.6L normally aspirated V6 offered. But why, when this engine combines ample power and exceptional fuel economy.
Also optionally available is the FE3 suspension package that offers driving modes of Tour and Sport. I can only imagine that the Sport mode may be too stiff and harsh for a Cadillac, and for my delicate, herniated lower back. With it, you also get GM’s magnetorheological dampers (whew, try to say that fast) that include the two modes.
The ATS has a superb chassis and suspension that contributes to excellent handling with plenty of road hugging adhesion on Michelin 18-inch tires. All this while maintaining a comfortably smooth ride. And with AWD, the ATS can fare well in moderately deep snow and slick roadways.
Parking is easy with assisted electric steering and the system manages to provide some road feel and feedback.
Stopping is commendable and helped via famed Brembo front brakes. Probably the only reason Cadillac didn’t use Brembo’s in the rear is because GM bean counters figured it would increase the price which was intended to be less than a comparable bimmer.
Inside the cabin, posh leather topped perforated seats were comfy and supportive and at night the door handles illuminate. The back seat is also comfy for two adults. Ingress/egress back there, requires a head lowering due to the sloping roofline.
The vertical stack uses the same press-sensitive buttons as on the full-size XTS sedan, and are straightforward except when the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system intervenes and displays on an 8-inch color screen. I found controls for audio and nav to be overly sensitive whereby traditional knobs would have been easier. Everything like Bluetooth is integrated through CUE which user wise, is similar to using an iPad or Smartphone although with more feedback as the system delivers a buzz or tickle to the fingertips when selections are made. There are also voice commands for GPS Nav and other functions. But there are too many steps involved to do a simple function.
The ATS can be had with - and I highly recommend it - the Driver Assist Package ($3,330) that includes Adaptive Cruise, Side Blind Alert, Automatic Collision Preparation and the really unique, Front and Rear Braking.
This latter option automatically applies the brakes if an object is sensed or the cars’ speed it too great for an oncoming object. At that split second, the drivers’ seat vibrates and the brakes are instantly applied. All tangible accident preventers.
Of course a rearview camera system is standard as are rear thorax air bags.
With a short rear overhang, trunk space is limited to 10.2 cubic feet. I estimate two medium size roll-a-longs or two golf bags with the long clubs stacked atop the bag, can fit.
The vehicle’s base price is $45,995 but after adding the Driver Assist Package, Advanced Security Package ($395), Crystal Red Tintcoat ($995), Cold Weather Package that includes heated front seats and steering wheel ($600) and delivery ($895), the bottom line reflected $52,100.
While the ATS is considered a compact sedan, it rides like a full-size. The only addition I’d like to see is if Cadillac could shoehorn into the engine bay the CTS-V’s V-8, Corvette engine. That would be devastatingly exciting.
To test drive an ATS stop by Faulkner Cadillac in Bethlehem. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.