This may sound obvious, but the Cadillac ATS is a new car. It's the first small, rear-wheel-drive sedan Cadillac has ever produced, rides on a new platform, and is bristling with high-tech features. It's no surprise that editors have been eager to grab the keys to our Four Seasons model.
Most of the early first impressions are about the way the ATS drives. Our initial review of the ATS praised above all its dynamic excellence -- it impressed both on back roads and on the racetrack. Those feelings have only been strengthened during the first month of our test.
"The ATS is genuinely fun to drive and really satisfying to hustle," notes Jake Holmes.
A "taut suspension" doesn't always work in a long-term car's favor, since we have to deal with the pothole-riddled roads of southeast Michigan roads. (See our long-term test of the 2011 BMW 535i and 2011 Mini Countryman). So far, however, most of us have been pleased with the ATS's ride-and-handling trade-off. "The ride is surprisingly sweet on crappy roads," notes editor-in-chief Jean Jennings, although she adds that there is some head toss as speeds below 20 mph. Credit the optional magnetorheological dampers as well as the car's relatively low 3460-pound curb weight.
The ATS's controls are just as finely tuned, with a firm brake pedal and communicative steering. "The steering wheel is a finely tuned weapon, although it is cocked a bit to the left," says Jennings. (About that last part: we visited the dealer for a four-wheel alignment, but the steering wheel itself still seems a bit off-center.)
We're also rather satisfied with the ATS's 3.6-liter, 321-hp V-6. "The powertrain is smooth, has plenty of oomph, and emits a great exhaust note," reports associate web editor Donny Nordlicht. That said, some wonder if we'll grow to regret choosing the least efficient engine in the ATS lineup. So far. we've observed fuel economy in line with the EPA's 22 mpg combined rating. (The 2.0-liter turbo is rated 2 mpg higher.)
Our ATS's cabin is a glitzy affair, with large swathes of real carbon fiber and dark red leather seats that have drawn comparisons to raspberries and pig's blood. Minor packaging quirks -- a hump in the front footwell, longish seat cushions, and a low rear roofline -- have drawn some criticism, but most have found the ATS comfortable, even when carrying three passengers.
The comfort level is much lower when it comes to Cue (Cadillac User Interface). Infotainment systems of any kind take some getting used to, and Cue is particularly daunting for first timers due to its heavy reliance on touch-sensitive controls and multilayered submenus.
"I want some real damn buttons," grumbles copy editor Rusty Blackwell. "The touch points are too small, and I'm taking my eyes off the road for too long to hit them."
Even simple operations can cause distress. The volume slider, for instance, sometimes responds to one's touch, sometimes doesn't, and sometimes pops up unwanted when one reaches for another control.
After some acclimation, however, the system is starting to make more sense. "The first thing I did when I climbed into the ATS for the weekend was take fifteen minutes in the parking lot going through all the settings," says associate web editor Donny Nordlicht. "That's key to avoiding frustration." He adds that any real customer should get a similar orientation before leaving the Cadillac showroom. Of course, as Jennings notes, "Getting used to Cue is different than liking Cue."
We'll see if we continue to like the ATS overall as we get used to it.