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The Cadillac team tries to avoid reminders of the company's past forays into the small car market, but there were a couple of serious mistakes made, such as the Cimarron sedan that appeared in 1981 and that shared a platform with Chevy’s Cavalier. Cadillac’s share of the market fell off some 40 percent from the Cimarron’s introduction until the appearance of the Catera (billed as the Caddy that zigged) in 1997. The Catera was really a mid-sized sedan based on Opel architecture.
The CTS finally came along and launched the beginning of Cadillac’s resurgence in the luxury marketplace. Still, the CTS and its variants were mid-sized, rather than compact.
Enter the all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS, the Urban Wheel Awards Car of The Year; a true compact luxury sedan positioned to do battle with the likes of BMW’s 3-Series, the Lexus IS lineup and the C-Class stable from Mercedes-Benz. The compact category represents the largest sales volume globally for luxury autos.
At first glance, the new ATS may appear to be nothing more than a smaller CTS, since both share the same DNA, but that’s not the case at all. The ATS is its own vehicle - the most significant Cadillac to be launched since the first CTS. It showcases new technologies along with a high performance driving experience. It is quick, nimble and fun to drive. It is nine inches shorter than its CTS sibling and weighs in at 545 pounds less. The ATS rides on a 109.3-inch wheelbase and measures 182.3-inches in overall length.
The 2013 Cadillac ATS offers three engine choices, two transmission choices and will be available in a collection of four trim levels: Standard; Luxury; Performance; and Premium. There are other choices to be made as well, such as Rear-Wheel or All-Wheel Drive, suspension packages, Wheel design, exterior color and interior trim.
Engine choices consist of two new four-cylinders: a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers 202 horsepower; an available 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder cranks out an impressive 272 horses; and a proven, available 3.6-liter V-6 generates 321 horsepower.All of the engines feature direct injection and dual overhead camshafts with continuously variable valve timing, which combine to optimize power and efficiency, along with reducing emissions. The engines are matched with six-speed transmissions, including the Hydra-Matic 6L45 automatic with tap-shift control, and a six-speed manual available only with the turbo engine.
The ATS went on sale this past August with pricing ranging from $33,990 to $47,590. The 2.0-liter turbo starts at $33,795, with the 3.6-liter V6 beginning at $42,090. All prices include the Destination and Handling charge. Opting for the Sport level adds front sport seats and magnesium paddle shifters, while the Premium level includes navigation and FE3 Sport Suspension.
During the national press launch, I was able to sample a representation of the complete lineup, beginning in a Luxury trim model powered by the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with the six-speed automatic, in an AWD configuration. The base sticker read $41,395, which rose to $47,325 after factoring in the Navigation and Surround Sound Package, Cold Weather Package, Driver Awareness Package, Advanced Security Package, Sunroof and Destination charge. Next I piloted a 2.5-liter, automatic, RWD version in Luxury trim that topped out at $39,085. My drive finished off in a RWD 2.0-liter turbo, automatic, in Performance trim with a window sticker totaling $44,185.
The drive route took us on a 110 mile trip from downtown Atlanta to the new 1.8-mile, 14 turn Atlanta Motorsports Park, where I was afforded the opportunity to experience the 2.0-liter turbo manual RWD and 3.6-liter AWD auto on the challenging and technical track, then back to Atlanta. The ATS displays exceptional 50/50 weight distribution front to rear, balance and stability, both on the road and on the track that featured several elevation changes, blind turns, and decreasing radius and reverse camber turns.
I was not a big fan of the 2.5-liter ATS as it didn’t seem really Cadillac-like. My on road choice was the 2.0-liter turbo AWD automatic with tap shift feature, and while I also enjoyed the 2.0-liter turbo manual RWD on the track, my pick for the track was without question the 3.6-liter AWD automatic. It was possible to circuit the track in third gear with the manual, and to operate the 3.6-liter auto in drive, ignoring the paddle shifters. The automatic delivered downshift rev matching when braking hard. The Magnetic Ride Control was phenomenal - able to read the surface and provide instantaneous damping adjustments. Everything worked well including Cadillac’s first five-link independent rear suspension, multi-link, double-pivot MacPherson-strut front suspension with direct-acting stabilizer bar, the Driver-adjustable FE3 sport suspension with MRC, Premium electric variable-effort steering gear by ZF Steering Systems and four-channel ABS with available Brembo performance brakes.
The ATS is a car to be enjoyed by enthusiasts. Smoke into a corner too hot and brake to correct, and you’ll likely encounter understeer. Nailing the throttle too aggressively on exit and the rear is quite capable of breaking loose. All fun stuff if in control, but not optimum situations for the best lap times.
In the looks department, the ATS is both sleek and sexy. Aerodynamics are enhanced by underbody sheathing. The split dual exhaust tips set in the rear diffuser hint at the cars performance prowess, and proportions are dictated by Cadillac’s “Art and Science” philosophy.
Moving to the inside, the interior is inviting, luxurious and comfortable. Cue, (Cadillac’s User Experience) is the focal point of the IP with a large screen and larger, more intuitive controls, utilizing the first automotive use of capacitive touch technology in an automobile.
In the final analysis, the four-passenger, four-door 2013 Cadillac compact luxury sedan is ready to take names and seriously kick some European booty.