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1311 2013 Cadillac Ats September Update
four seasons long-term tests

2013 Cadillac ATS - Too Sporty?

Patrick M Hoey
FALL 2013 cadillac ats
2013 Cadillac ATS reviews to date

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."

2013 Cadillac ATS Specs
  • Overview
  • powertrain
  • chassis
  • measurements
  • equipment
  • options
Body style 4-door sedan
Accommodation 5-passenger
Construction Steel unibody
Base price (with dest.)$47,590
Price As tested $49,735
Engine 24-valve DOHC V-6
Displacement 3.6 liters (217 cu in)
Power 321 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque 275 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Drive Rear wheel
EPA Fuel Economy 19/28/22 (city/hwy/combined)
Steering Electrohydraulically assisted
Lock-to-lock 2.7 turns
Turning circle 36.0 ft
Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R Vented discs
Wheels 18-inch aluminum
Tires Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
Tire size 225/40R-18 88W/255/35R-18 90W
Headroom F/R 38.6/36.8 in
Legroom F/R 42.5/33.5 in
Shoulder room F/R 55.2/53.9 in
Wheelbase 109.3 in
Track F/R 59.5/60.9 in
L x W x H 182.8 x 71.1 x 55.9 in
Passenger capacity 90.9 cu ft
Cargo capacity 10.4 cu ft
Weight 3461 lb
Weight dist. F/R 51.5/48.5%
Fuel capacity 16.0 gal
Est. fuel range 350 miles
Fuel grade 91 octane (premium unleaded)
  • Standard Equipment
    • Adaptive suspension dampers
    • Limited slip differential
    • Stainless-steel dual exhaust
    • Brembo performance front brakes
    • 18-inch aluminum wheels w/performance tires
    • Leather-trimmed interior
    • Power front seats
    • Split-folding rear seats
    • Cue w/8.0 –inch touchscreen
    • Navigation
    • Bose surround sound audio system
    • SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month trial subscription
    • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
    • Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity
    • Magnesium paddle shifters
    • Aluminum pedals
    • Automatic dual-zone climate control
    • Auto-dimming rearview mirror and exterior mirrors
    • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
    • Keyless entry and ignition
    • Front and rear parking assist
    • Dark-chrome grille
    • Rearview camera
    • Hill-start assist
  • Packages & Options
    • Power sunroof
    • $750
    • Cold weather package
    • $600
    • Heated steering wheel and front seats
    • Rear spoiler
    • $480
    • Front license plate bracket
    • $15
    percynjpn
    Typical auto rag writers: they whine when it's not "sporty enough", and then whine again when it "too sporty". What a bunch of hypocrites - you're all full of BS.
    john_ls39
    I had driven the ATS 2.5 & 2.0T but they were standard and luxury trim models with 17 inch rims and the ride quality was super smooth for a compact car and then I drove the XTS premium and that car has an excellent ride quality as well.  I could not tell the difference between both cars ride quality.  They were closely matched.  So I say excellent engineering feat for GM to make a luxurious ride and handling balance out of the base ATS for such a compact car.  I had not driven the ATS with the '18-'19 rims on the car so I am sure the ride quality may not be sacrificed much due to the sophisticated engineering in the magnetic ride suspension and base suspension setup.  So Automobile (some of the editors) claiming about the ATS being too sporty and lack luxury is bullcrap.  
    cruebrew
    I've driven the ATS 3.6 and all of it's direct competitors, except for the Lexus IS 350 F Sport. I'm waiting for them to get one in that I can test drive. The ATS was by far the best driving car of all of them. And it is what I am most interested in. The only thing that has kept me from buying it, is I'm waiting on the ATS V. Personally I liked the styling and transmission of the S4 better. I liked the interior (not the seats) of the C350 better. I like the engine of the 335 better. But the ATS was still good in those areas too, but was WAY better in the driving experience. I also thought the ATS 3.6 was reasonably priced (when compared to the cars I drove). The price that BMW is asking for the 335 (even worse with the new 435) with any options is just insane IMHO.
    So to answer your question, for me, the ATS is NOT too sporty.
    James Katt
    BMWs are sports cars, not luxury cars.  Their ride is harsh, loud, precise, and uncomfortable.  Even the BMW x5 is uncomfortable because of it is primarily tuned to be a sports car not luxury car.  BMWs are a pain to drive for long distances since you feel every bump on the road. You are beaten up by BMWs on long drives.  But this is exactly what sports car enthusiasts love.A luxury car, on the other hand is smooth, quiet, and comfortable. The lack of feel for the road is precisely what gives it comfort. It is the opposite of a sports car. 
    OfMyOwnAccord
    Sounds like a case of the Goldilocks to me - "This car is too luxurious and soft. And this car is too sporty and hard." What car is 'Just right'?
    john_ls39
    Earlier on on previous Cadillac models, Automobile complained that Cadillac was not sporty enough but yet they complained that the current ATS is just too sporty and not luxurious enough.  Make up your mind rather you like the laid back ride of pass Cadillacs or sporty handling of the ATS, Automobile.  Some editors and reviews love the ATS just the way it is and some on here think the car is too hardcore for them.  Go figure!
    Van K
    "2013 Cadillac ATS - Too Sporty?" I defy you to find a similar question being asked about any of the better BMWs. I know that change is harder on some than others, but sheesh it's time to get past the '90s paradigms. We don't need MORE luxury sedans at the expense of sporty sedans. 
    KDiggityDog76
    The answer to the question posed in the headline is no. :)
    Richard Ovens
    I have same 3.6 and idle is very smooth at close to 500 RPM cold. Off center steering wheel?? Are you saying that it has a misaligned wheel on shaft spline during assembly?? That sounds so unlikely to pass quality assurance inspection. And if so then demand dealer deal with it and correct it.
    Whatnow
    Too sporty?   This is a sports sedan aimed directly at the 3 series which until this year is also known for the stiff suspension and cramped back seat. If buyers want something a little softer, they can get a Buick. Still sporty, but not quite as pinned down as this awesome care. In addition, the CUE is fine for people that know how to use Android operated smart phones, it's very similar; however those not use to the tech or perhaps iphone users are the ones most likely having issues, and in regards to the back seat. Come on, this is not the car to drive the family around in every weekend, that's what cars like the CTS, 5 Series, E Class and A6 are for.
    DERRECK
    Great Car Cadillac 
    the_roadrunner
    @john_ls39 Great comment.  Auto mags always order the most extreme handling suspension and tires.  The fact is if you  live in Michigan you should order tires with a higher sidewall and an FE2, not FE3 suspension.  Or if you get the magnetic suspension, put it on a softer tour setting outside of the track.  The only way Cadillac is gong to get BMW owners is to beat them at their own game , with the best handling suspension.
    James Katt
    @OfMyOwnAccord  Exactly.  There is no one car that is "just right".  Every car has compromises.As with any tool, use the right tool for the job.  There is no one tool that will fit all jobs.  As also with tool, if you can afford it, buy several cars - each with its own purpose.  The minivan for your kids.  The SUV for your off-road exploits.  The Luxury car when you want to show off.  The commuter car when you want to save gas.  The sports car when you want the most fun driving without worrying about comfort.

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