As professional auto enthusiasts, we're almost required to demand that every car should provide performance and driving dynamics above all else. The 2013 Cadillac ATS answers that call and then some. It is, perhaps, the most overtly sporty vehicle in its segment. In fact, some of us are starting to wonder if it focuses too narrowly on being sporty at the expense of being a well-rounded luxury car.
"It's weird to be in a Cadillac that's better on a track than it is on my commute, but that's precisely the case with the ATS," notes senior web editor Phil Floraday. "The hard ride, cramped back seat, and inferior CUE infotainment system all detract from the car's everyday usability," he says.
Not all these issues relate directly to the sedan's driving dynamics. We suggest Cadillac could very well add a few knobs to the center stack without detracting one bit from the car's sporting persona. The ATS's fun factor likewise neither explains nor excuses two minor but stubborn quality issues: our Cadillac ATS has been plagued from day one with an uneven idle from its 3.6-liter V-6 and a slightly off-center steering wheel. Visits to the dealer for service have yet to rectify the issues.
And yet, car development is a zero sum game: automakers have finite time and resources and must prioritize. Floraday thinks Cadillac prioritized wrong. "I get the feeling the ATS team spent too much time benchmarking BMW handling and not enough time on the interior."
Not everyone agrees with that sentiment. "The good news is that General Motors engineers know how to benchmark the BMW 3-series, and management finally let them do it," says executive editor Todd Lassa. "Cadillac found as good a ride/handling balance as BMW -- maybe better -- and the steering is among best-in-class."
It's also worth noting that our recently departed Four Seasons BMW 328i -- a roomier and more comfortable car -- drew precisely the opposite complaints. We all agreed that it was a fantastic luxury car but thought it was a bit soft and uninvolving in everyday driving. The ATS, in contrast, turns even our office park into a handling course, as associate editor Greg Migliore relates:
"I accelerated onto the straightaway outside our building and required minimal braking to execute a hard right toward the office. More aggressive acceleration. Brakes again. Another hard right onto Highland Drive, and one more into the parking lot. Vigorous interactions like this show how much effort Cadillac has put into honing this sport sedan."
The question anyone considering a Cadillac ATS should ask is whether the superlative driving experience makes it worth putting up with some rough edges. It's a question we'll be pondering for the rest of our test. For now, associate editor Jake Holmes sums up our conflicted feelings.
"CUE stinks and the idle stumbles like that in my sixteen year old Mazda Miata. But, oh, that powerful engine! That balanced handling! That perfect brake feel! Much as I'm frustrated with the issues the ATS is having, I do love this car."