First Spin: 2013 Cadillac ATS
This summer, the 2013 Cadillac ATS is hoping to do for General Motors’ luxury marque what its CTS did 10 years ago: Change people’s perception of the brand for the better.
With ATS, the company has its eyes on the top prize in the premium-compact-car segment: the BMW 3-Series. GM could have taken the easy way out by taking one of its existing compact cars (one sold here or elsewhere in the world), slapping on a Cadillac badge with some more chrome, and punting it out the door.
Having learned the lessons of “badge engineering” the hard way (for the most part, anyway), Cadillac designers and engineers started the ATS project with a clean sheet of paper. Sure, some of its components are/will be available on other GM products, but the car’s basic platform is unique.
It’s fairly obvious the ATS is specifically targeting the 3-Series. Buyers will have the choice of rear- or all-wheel drive; a powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder or V6 engine; a manual or automatic transmission; and a variety of high-tech connectivity features. Heck, the two cars are within the margin of error in terms of exterior and interior dimensions.
This Cadillac does separate itself from its German rival in the fact that ATS offers an additional engine. You might be expecting some exotic piece, but it’s a rather pedestrian 202-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that GM is putting into lesser trim levels. For reference, a version of this motor will make its way into the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. The other engines are a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V6 with 270 and 321 horsepower, respectively.
A 6-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard on all models. All-wheel drive is available if you choose the turbo 4-cylinder or V6 engine. A 6-speed manual transmission is optional on rear-drive turbocharged variants.
ATS’ lineup follows other Cadillacs. Base, Luxury, Performance, and Premium “Collections” are the order of the day. The 2.5-liter engine comes only on the Base and Luxury, and those cars carry the “2.5L” designation. Turbo versions are called “2.0T” and you can get this engine on any ATS. V6-equipped versions get the “3.6L” moniker and come as the Luxury, Performance, or Premium.
We won’t go into too much detail about equipment, but there are a few things to note. All but the Base have leather upholstery, and heated front seats are optional. The Performance model includes forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, a vibrating seat alert for those systems, front- and rear-obstacle detection, and other convenience items. Notice anything missing? Yes, the Performance model doesn’t actually have anything substantive that increases performance (no additional engine power, suspension wizardry, not even sportier tires).
Something that does have an impact on performance, GM’s Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension, is offered only on the rear-wheel-drive Premium. The MRC on ATS is the latest iteration of this nearly decade-old system. Through a combination of special fluid and sensors, the suspension is able to alter its damping in mere milliseconds. Drivers can fine tune some of the adjustments via a button on the center console. In addition to MRC, rear-drive Premiums get a limited-slip differential, upgraded cooling, and summer-only performance tires.
We would be remiss not to mention the standard “Cadillac User Experience” (CUE). CUE is the brand’s new interface for audio, climate, and navigation functions. It basically operates like a modern tablet computer. You can swipe to move from screen to screen, re-arrange the virtual buttons to your preference, and “click” and drag to access favorite radio stations, cell-phone contacts, and navigation destinations. Owners of Apple’s iPad can even download a free CUE application that acts like an owner’s manual, with interactive tutorials.
We previewed the 2013 Cadillac ATS on the highways and biways around Atlanta. We also took a spin around the track at the new Atlanta Motorsports Park, which is basically a country club for those who want to race their cars. Does the ATS have the goods to take on BMW’s iconic small sedan?
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