2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Cadillac ATS. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Mike Schlee

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2013 Cadillac ATS

If you have a strong brand loyalty or bias toward one of the luxury German brands, you may not want to read this review. The words presented in this article about a non-European luxury compact may toss your world out of whack and begin a downward spiral of disbelief and disillusion. It may be best to just close your computer’s web browser now [Don’t actually close it, he’s just using it as a figure of speech –Ed.] and continue to believe that no one, but no one, other than the Germans can make a proper compact luxury sports sedan (well, maybe the Japanese are close).

Alright, you’re still here? Good, let’s continue. I am making all this fuss because I just recently had a week in Cadillac’s new entry in the coveted compact luxury sport sedan market: the ATS. Designed, built, and marketed to go head to head with the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G sedan, Lexus IS, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac needed to ensure they produced an exceptional vehicle to be taken seriously in this class. And boy, did they ever succeed.

The ATS is dynamically magnificent, let down only by a few shortcomings; more on those later. The steering feel and response is second to none in its class. Yes, it is just that good. The car grips in the corners better than a compact luxury sedan should, and felt very neutral when I was tossing it around the handling course at the AJAC TestFest; a direct result of the 51.5:48.5 front/rear weight distribution. Size-wise and performance-wise, I could be sacrilegious and nominate it the spiritual successor to the BMW E46 3 Series, but the ATS is flashier than the Bimmer ever was.

2013 Cadillac ATS2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Cadillac ATS. Click image to enlarge

The secret to Cadillac’s chassis success lies in the adoption of the magnetic ride control in the FE3 suspension. In Sport mode, the suspension becomes firm and track-ready. Press the button to switch it to Touring mode, though, and the suspension softens right up and easily soaks up bumps. I have been in many vehicles with an adjustable suspension, but the ATS has really nailed the sporty dynamics that makes it a great driver’s car while still being able to transform into a serene highway cruiser. Magnetic ride control would mean nothing, however, without the proper mechanical bits accompanying it. Luckily, here Cadillac has done things right as well.

The FE3 suspension comes equipped with a mechanical limited slip differential and 225/40R18 tires up front complemented by wider 255/35R18 tires in the rear. Even in the cold weather we experienced during my week of testing, the rear tires gripped astoundingly. When traction does break, assuming the vehicle’s stability control has been set to Competition Mode, the back end will slide around predictably and controllably.

Getting those tires loose is Cadillac’s 3.6L V6 engine that produces 321 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque on regular-grade gas. The engine sounds glorious at any speed, but especially in the higher rpm range. Power pulls at all rpms but becomes a real gem when the 4,000-rpm mark is eclipsed. Being a larger V6 with a good amount of power, it is safe to assume fuel efficiency would suffer. But, in the real world, consumption is not all that bad thanks to Cadillac keeping the ATS’ weight down to 1,570 kg. Officially rated at 11.1 L/100 km in the city and 7.1 L/100 km on the highway, I was able to average 11.3 L/100 km in, uh, ‘spirited driving’ conditions. Oh, and since I know you’re wondering, the ATS 3.6L is rated to tow 454 kg.

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