February 28, 2013
Let’s go driving! The ATS will surprise some with its firm, sporty ride. This kind of suspension is what I look for and want in a sports sedan. Compromising a bit on the ride lets you build an athletic car. The ATS is very poised and balanced, and invites you to play – all the time. I found the handling capability of this car to be astounding.
2013 BMW 328i xDrive. Click image to enlarge
The 328i′s ride is firm, but less so than in the past – there’s an increased cushiness to it. The handling is good, excellent even, but somehow, it doesn’t feel as immediate as the 3 Series always used to. It feels as though this line of cars is heading toward more comfort and luxury. Where the 3 has made gains in that department, it has given something up in terms of sport. Don’t get me wrong. It handles very well, it’s just different from what I’ve come to expect in a 3.
The ATS’ steering is flawless for this class of car. I loved the weighting at every speed, and how the car felt connected to the road – all the time. The steering feel is direct and quick, without ever making things nervous.
One of the 3 Series’ handling hallmarks in the past was the exceptional steering. BMW has made changes here and it felt more muted than I expected it to. Especially compared to the ATS.
Both of these engines are lovely. Both are fantastic for everyday driving. There’s plenty of power off the line, and they feel very linear once you overcome the very short turbo lag.
I felt that the ATS had more noticeable turbo lag, but in turn, the mid- and higher-range power came on stronger. Frankly, when it’s on boost, and you stay on the gas, the torque is relentless, and it seems as though it pulls as hard in second gear as it does in first. The 328i’s four-cylinder itself is smooth, but the sounds it makes seem terribly unrefined – especially compared to the mechanical symphony BMW’s inline-sixes create.
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD. Click image to enlarge
When it comes to transmissions, I found it to be one of the biggest differences between these two cars. The ATS’ six-speed left me wanting for more. It’s super smooth but I couldn’t find a sport mode where it became aggressive and held my shift points longer. It can be manually shifted using paddles or the gear selector and those shifts are pretty rewarding.
The 328i’s transmission is always smooth but it felt faster and more intelligent when it comes to aggressive driving. It hunts for higher gears to save fuel, but the Sport mode is effective. The shift lever has a manual mode – there are no shift paddles.
Both cars brakes are excellent – linear, easy to control, and plenty of braking power when you need it. Visibility out of both vehicles is excellent in all directions.
I was very impressed with both all-wheel-drive systems. Both felt relatively transparent during normal, dry driving, and both did a wonderful job providing traction when I needed it – which was lovely because we had two snowy, slushy weeks here in Edmonton. I also enjoyed being able to steer with the rear end in both cars, with the traction control turned off.
Both the ATS and the 328i did a very good job at keeping all noise levels controlled inside the cabin – drivetrain, road and wind noise never got loud or intrusive, with the exception of the 328i’s nasty engine note.
The 328i has an auto start-stop function. It’s smooth when it shuts down at a stop. The second you release the brake, it fires up again, and I found it to be quite rough every time. I ended up turning that “feature” off.