I must admit that I wasn’t very impressed with the Cadillac ATS when it was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show last January. Its style just didn’t seem to have the same punch as the CTS and it looked more like a smaller version of the XTS. But first impressions aren’t always correct: I had the chance to attend its launch and I have to say that I had to reconsider my opinion. This sedan is nicer on the road than it is in a showroom.
Kudos to Cadillac for daring to take on the leaders of the luxury sedan category, such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. You’ll agree that the bar is reasonably high, but so is Cadillac’s confidence given the success of the CTS. Bolstered by this experience, Cadillac developed the smallest sedan in its family.
The ATS is an extremely balanced car with the same visual characteristics as other Cadillacs. What’s more, the version equipped with vertical LED headlights on the lower part of the frontend is even more elegant. In the passenger compartment, the brand’s signature style is present and accounted for, but in a smaller size. Sure, it’s relatively small inside, but it’s comfortable nonetheless. High marks are also awarded for the materials and finish, which are on par with the competition. In fact, the CUE control display system is the simplest that I have encountered to date.
An exclusive platform
Many automotive observers have concluded that the ATS is derived from the CTS and thus uses the same platform. This is simply not the case though. It’s actually built on General Motors’ Alpha platform, which is currently unique to the ATS. Furthermore, it’s more rigid than average for the category. But they didn’t stop at exclusivity. The engineers maximized efficiency with a multilink suspension aligned in a straight line with the anchoring points. The components of the front suspension are all made of aluminum while the rear suspension is made of very rigid steel to obtain perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Moreover, it’s the first five-link rear suspension ever offered by Cadillac.
Also note that the differential housing is made of cast iron. The engineers explained that this material needs less lubricant and reduces the friction responsible for higher fuel consumption. Some are going to see this as a step backward in technological terms; others will see it as a clever solution. A limited-slip differential comes factory standard on versions equipped with the six-speed manual transmission and is included in the optional FE3 Sport Suspension Package along with magnetically controlled dampers. You can order a Magnaride suspension: its shock absorbers use a magnetic fluid whose viscosity varies continuously according to the road and driving conditions.
Finally, the variable-assist power steering is made by ZF while the optional high-performance brakes are provided by Brembo, whose reputation is second to none.
A trio of engines
To meet marketing demands, the ATS is offered with a choice of three engines. The base model features the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 202 horses and 191 lbs-ft of torque. It comes factory standard with an Hydramatic’s six-speed automatic gearbox. This same transmission will accompany the 3.6-litre V6 that develops 321 horses and 275 lbs-ft of torque. For those who would like to order their ATS with a manual gearbox, they’ll have to opt for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo and its 272 horses and 260 lbs-ft of torque. The six-speed automatic gearbox is offered on option on this model. These three engines are equipped with direct fuel injection, infinitely variable valve timing as well as dual overhead camshafts.
A balanced product
During the launch, I had the opportunity to drive all trim levels and therefore all the engines. The 2.5-litre engine offers respectable performances with a 7.5-second 0-100 km/hr time. The V6’s time is 5.4 seconds, while the 2.0-litre Turbo version comes in at 5.7 seconds. Don’t forget that this engine is also available with a six-speed Tremec manual gearbox, unlike the other two.
Behind the wheel, I found that the car was very well balanced and that its handling was irreproachable. Indeed, this Cadillac may not have that special little something that the BMW 3 Series offers, for example, but the rest is truly impressive. I had the chance to drive this car on a private race track in the Atlanta suburbs, and although this is a relatively difficult technical track, the Cadillac wasn’t intimidated in the least. The automatic transmission does not have a double clutch, but the shifting is very fast with the shifters on the steering wheel.
Basically, the ATS is excellent. In my opinion, the most interesting trim level, because of its overall balance is the one power by the 2.0-litre turbo whose performances are nearly identical to those of the V6, but with a smidge more agility. The prices have been unveiled and they range from $35,195 for the base version to $43,935 for the version with the V6 engine. Between the two, there’s the Turbo version for $36,985.
But whatever choice you make, it’s hard to go off course!
|Price as tested||N/A|
|Fuel consumption||Better than several rivals|
|Value for price||The Cadillac logo may discourage some snobby buyers|
|Styling||Low-key, balanced and elegant|
|Comfort||Excellent marriage of handling and comfort|
|Performance||The Turbo engine is the one to choose|
|Overall||A pleasant surprise|