Cadillac has had problems with small cars, and just to be fair—or perhaps kind—we won’t mention any names. We don’t have to, actually, because those who know, won’t forget, and for the rest, we’d rather tend to the task at hand, the 2013 Cadillac ATS, or specifically in the case of this review, the 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6L Premium Collection.
The ATS is the third jewel in Cadillac’s sedan crown, including the newly introduced big Cadillac, the 2013 Cadillac XTS, and the Cadillac CTS, also in coupe and wagon versions and soon to be in its second generation.
Contrary to what one might expect, the new Cadillac ATS is not built on a front drive platform from another GM product and adapted to this application. That’s where Cadillac got in trouble before.
Instead, the Cadillac ATS has a platform all its own, developed specifically for the ATS and honed among other places at Germany’s famed Nurburgring racetrack. Whether the platform remains exclusive to the ATS, or even Cadillac, nobody’s sayin’, but maybe we can at least hope for a coupe to join the ATS sedan, and be still our beating hearts, maybe an open two-seater?
A two-seater, in fact, would work well on this platform. We couldn’t get used to how compact the Cadillac ATS sedan is. Although it’s roomy inside, the ATS is significantly smaller, for example, than the CTS. The numbers difference may not sound like much, but the ATS, at 109.3 inches, has a wheelbase four inches shorter than the CTS. The ATS is about ten inches shorter end to end than the CTS. It’s a tidy package in size and design.
And design is clearly Cadillac’s Art and Science, with crisp lines and vertical elements, including the LED lights at the forward corners. The grille of the ATS bears some resemblance to earlier iterations of Audi’s “single frame grille,” while the Audi’s was still split by the front bumper, but Cadillac carries it off with an eggcrate grille insert. The sides have character lines arching downwards to the front, and the vertical light tube tail/brake light design is at home on the ATS as on all the other Cadillacs that have it. Which is all of them.
The inside will look familiar to Cadillac fanciers as well. Our test Cadillac ATS was the top-of-the-line Premium Collection trim level, and as such, was the best equipped of the lot that begins with ATS Standard trim and goes up through Luxury, Performance and Premium. Even the leatherette upholstering of the base Standard trim has hand-stitching on the dash and door panels, moving up to leather with real wood trim, metal plating or carbon fiber on the senior trim levels.
Our Premium Collection ATS had most everything available on the model, including optional paint, special wheels, and a heated seat/steering wheel option. The list of stuff that comes with the Premium Collection is long—see the window sticker on page 3 for a list that even Cadillac had to abbreviate—from keyless entry with pushbutton starting to CUE with Navigation.
CUE stands for “Cadillac User Experience,” Cadillac’s interface with the multiple functions on the vehicle, from audio to climate control and beyond, depending on trim level and options.
One of our favorite ATS elements is illuminating door handles. That’s Illuminating, not illuminated. They light up. Silly overreach, perhaps, but it amuses us, dahling.
The list for engines is shorter, but it is a list. The 2013 Cadillac ATS is offered with a choice of three. The base is a 2.5-liter four rated at 202 horsepower and 191 lb.-ft. of torque. Next up is a high-output 2.0L turbo is rated at 272 horsepower with 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The turbo is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with manual paddle shifting. With the Standard trim level only the automatic is available.
The Luxury trim level and up adds the option of the 3.6-liter V-6. Like the fours, the six is a double overhead cam engine with variable valve timing and direct injection, but is only available with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting. The automatic features rev matching on downshifts, and in manual mode is controlled only by the shift paddles. In manual mode, the engine won’t ever shift down or up on its own, even if it’s bouncing against the 7200-rpm redline rev limiter.