12 MONTH CAR REVIEWS: 2013 Cadillac ATS - Too Sporty?

November 1, 2013
2013 Cadillac ATS Front Left Side View
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Long-Term 2013 Cadillac ATS Update - FALL 2013 (1 OF 1)
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.
2013 Cadillac ATS Left Side View
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."
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
Power sunroof $750
Cold weather package $600 Heated steering wheel and front seats
Rear spoiler $480
Front license plate bracket $15

Long-Term 2013 Cadillac ATS Reviews to Date:

FALL 2013
2013 Cadillac ATS - Too Sporty?
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