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March 10, 2013

2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T

by Mark Savage

Looks, handling, turbo give small Cadillac a boost

Those of us who have been around for a few decades may be forgiven for our skepticism when we hear Cadillac is creating an entry-level sport sedan. Visions of Cimarron dance in our brains.cady ats

Ah, but those who observe the car market closely know that Cadillac has been swinging for the fences of late while also having gotten its groove on in the styling department. The result for 2013 is a sweet compact sports sedan, the ATS.

First, it looks great with vertical lights front and rear. The front lenses fold over the front fender pointing up toward the cockpit, while the rear ones remind of many a Cadillac of years past. These look elegant, AND sporty, while the body is taunt and well chiseled with a lean athletic stance.

Folks who didn’t care for some of the overwrought designs and fluffery of the past should appreciate ATS’s understated good looks.

This is a true entry-level luxury sports sedan, the base 2.5L with rear-wheel drive lists at $33,095 and packs a 2.5-liter 202-horse four-cylinder rated at 22 mpg city and 33 highway.

Love the tall vertical lights and chiseled look of the car.

Love the tall vertical lights and chiseled look of the car.

The tested ATS AWD 2.0T Luxury moves up the food chain a bit to start at $41,395, but many performance minded drivers will prefer its 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection I4 that features variable valve timing and whacks out a stout 272 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. This boosts the fun factor as the engine comes on strong and the turbo lag is slight, and mainly at city driving speeds.I continue to like GM’s 6-speed automatic and it mates well with the 2.0T motor to provide smooth shifts. And even regularly exercising the turbo I got 21.5 mpg, while the EPA rates this at 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, certainly possible with less accelerator pounding.

2.0T, AWD, Cadillac, Cadillac ATS, CUE, Mark Savage, savageonwheels.com, sport sedan, turbo, VVTIt’s no secret that Cady hopes the ATS will convert some younger drivers who might have leanings toward BMW’s 3 series, or Lexus’s IS model. Well, ATS delivers on looks and performance, enough so that those other brands should be taking this Cady seriously.

Handling is sporty with good turn-in to corners. The car steers well and with moderate steering wheel feel and good road feedback. There’s no lean in hard cornering and with the turbo it’ll race up to highway speeds in short order. And while BMW’s nearly always feel heavy, the ATS feels agile, the AWD model checking in at 3,543 pounds, almost 200 more than the rear-drive models.

Sleek HID headlights give the ATS a sporty look.

Sleek HID headlights give the ATS a sporty look.

Adding AWD gives the sedan good traction and stability in winter. I had this one during a couple of our snowy days last month and it held the pavement well under fairly aggressive driving on sloppy roads. ATS features large Brembo disc brakes up front too.The car’s 109.3-inch wheelbase (same as a Honda Accord) gives it a good stance and softens the bumps from our crumbling highways and byways. Thank Cady’s first five-link rear suspension for that, plus the car’s 50/50 weight balance front and rear. Certainly the ride remains sporty and firm, but never punishing. If anything I felt a little too much shock rebound on some rolling bumps, although to firm it up much more might decrease ride comfort.ATS also features an adjustable transmission mode that allows you to choose from Touring, Sport and Snow & Ice. The button is on the console near the shift lever.

I loved the interior’s look, but not all of its functionality, the main problem being Cadillac’s CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system.

The dash is clean and the blood red seats give it some pizazz!

The dash is clean and the blood red seats give it some pizazz!

But let’s start with appearance, because Cady nails that.  The sharp looking black test car featured a black over blood (dark red) leather interior with the seats featuring the red cushion inserts to liven up the interior. There also was gloss black trim on the center stack with chrome trim and carbon-fiber look trim on the doors and a portion of the dash. Stitching on the dash and doors also was a dark red. Classy!The dash is beautifully laid out too, very simple and elegant with the main gauges featuring blue rings and white numbers, plus there’s a large screen for the radio/navigation system, all part of CUE, which IS clean looking. It’s actually not too hard to figure out, at least to do the standard functions like run the radio, navigation and climate controls. But it’s all touch-screen sensitive. You never push a button, just touch the black glossy surface.I suspect this works great in the design labs, but as you are driving and trying to “touch” the exact point that will turn up the radio or heat or select a radio station, you also are encountering the motions of the car. AND, while you can adjust the desired touch level of CUE, it can be frustrating to keep touching a point and getting no response. It will NOT work, if you are wearing gloves. So I pounded it pretty hard out of frustration a couple times and got NO response, other than my own mutterings.

The CUE system looks good, but is hard to use while driving. It's too touchy!

The CUE system looks good, but is hard to use while driving. It’s too touchy!

This system needs some fine tuning by the Cadillac design crew. Since it adds $1,295 to the car’s cost. I’d pass for now.The good news? The radio volume, cruise control, trip computer and phone have redundant buttons on the steering wheel hub. That helps eliminate a few frustrations. The wheel is a manual tilt/telescope model, plus features a heating element in the wheel. That’s awesome in winter as within a block or two of the house the wheel is warm enough to allow you to take off your gloves.Cadillac delivers a comfortable, although pretty sporty and snug seat here too, with three levels of heat. The heated seats and wheel are part of a $600 package, and worth it. I like the seats’ contouring to keep me in place if I push the performance envelope a bit. My wife, is less thrilled with tight side supports. Seats are power and the driver’s seat has a power lumbar and two-memory setting on the driver’s door panel. One down side, Cady’s seat belt buckles are incredibly snug, making it hard to pull the seat belt out and get it to the desired position each time you use it. Odd!

The test car added a Driver Awareness Package for $845 that vibrates the driver’s seat if you get near a center line or road’s edge. I don’t care for that, but folks who do a lot of highway driving may find it keeps them more alert. The system also flashes and buzzes a warning if it senses you are approaching the car in front of you too fast and might have a collision.

Front seat room is good, but despite this being a sedan, the rear seat space is less generous. Headroom is fine, but the support under the rear seat sticks out a bit, somewhat limiting legroom and leg comfort as it pushes against the back of your legs.

I also was surprised by the small trunk, just 10.2 cubic feet. Considering this is similar in size to an Accord, I expected more. Accord offers a 16 cubic foot trunk and better rear seat room.

The test car, in addition to its options, added a $895 delivery fee to hit $46,275, but note that a similarly equipped BMW 3 Series would run you that, or more. Note too that you can move up to a 3.6L Premium AWD model, with a V6 and 321 horses, for $47,795, if you need even more power. There are 16 trim levels with three engine choices with ATS, so finding what fits your needs, and budget, seems relatively easy if you yearn for a luxury sport sedan.

ATS is good looking and a true performer. Look out BMW!

FAST Stats: 2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T Luxury

Hits: Stylish exterior and interior, great handling and acceleration, controlled ride creates sporty feel. Clean attractive dash with heated steering wheel and three-level heated seats, including a memory feature.

Misses: CUE is awkward and unusable when wearing gloves, seat belts are hard to pull out to adjust and the trunk is small.

Made in: Lansing, Mich.

Engine: 2.0-liter Turbo, VVT DI-I4, 272 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,543 lbs.

Here's another look at the red leather ATS seats.

Here’s another look at the red leather ATS seats.

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.Cargo: 10.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/30

Base Price: $41,395

Dealer’s Price: $38,911

Major Options:

Advanced Security Package (locking wheel lugs, tilt sensor, remote lock fuel door, steering column lock), $395

Driver Awareness Package (safety alert seat, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, rear side airbags, rain-sensing wipers), $845

Cadillac User Experience (CUE) w/navigation system, CD player, Bose surround sound system, $1,295

18-inch polished aluminum wheels, $850

Cold weather package (heated seats and steering wheel), $600

Delivery: $895

Test vehicle: $46,275

Sources: Cadillac, www.autos.yahoo.com

Photos: Courtesy of Cadillac

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