2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Cadillac ATS. Click image to enlarge
Test Drive: 2012 BMW 328i Modern
Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300
Test Drive: 2013 Audi A4 Premium Plus
First Drive: 2013 Cadillac ATS
Test Drive: 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design
Test Drive: 2013 Cadillac ATS

Manufacturer’s website
Cadillac Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2013 Cadillac ATS

Make no mistake, the Cadillac ATS is here to stay. Unlike previous Cadillac compacts whose stars waned because of lacklustre quality and whose sales could barely even be justified (however, their names are now unfortunately and indelibly inscribed on many people’s perceptions of the brand, but I won’t drag those names back out of the mud). In fact, those vehicles did as much to tarnish the brand that used to claim the “Standard of the World” benchmarking status as anything.

The ATS is the coming of age of the new Cadillac, a fully formed and well-conceived sport sedan right from its launch. All the ingredients are there: all-new RWD architecture (with optional AWD); world-class chassis components and tuning on Nurburgring; sized to segment; a lineup of three competitive engines that spring from GM’s engineering expertise and reflect current industry trends; class-competitive interior with cutting-edge user interface and genuine quality materials; and a design language that leaps right to the front of the pack.

When it came to the new platform, GM outdid themselves. Their goal, according to ATS Product Manager Scott Meldrum was: “Be the best. Break the rules.” Compromises were simply not acceptable on such a product that targeted the BMW 3 Series, which has for decades dominated the segment it essentially created. The timing couldn’t have been better, either, Cadillac launching this car, a true driver’s car, right when BMW has engineered the 3 Series into a more all-purpose entry level luxury car. Sure, there is still the M3 to come, and the 3 is still an eminently capable and sporty sedan, but the focus seems to be on variety, equipment, and trims rather than the ultimate driving experience. Put another way, it has lost its edge.

2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Cadillac ATS. Click image to enlarge

Along comes the ATS, benchmarking the previous-gen 3 in all its focus and sporting pretensions. The ATS platform is as solid as anything in class, and lighter to boot; chassis flex has been banished, and the default suspension is set to “sport”, though base models with 17-inch wheels and medium-profile tires yield a supple ride. The FE3 sport suspension with Magnetic Ride Control shocks allows it to be set to “even more sport” when body motion control is the objective. However, even set to Touring, you’ll never call it soft, though it dampens the impact from rough roads with reassuring firmness—one thump and it’s done. It may not be for everyone, but it’s just how I like my sport sedans.

As far as components go, the suspension itself uses MacPherson struts up front connected to mostly cast and forged aluminum subframe components, for light weight and ideal stiffness. In every aspect of the chassis, GM committed to using the ideal material, be it aluminum, magnesium, high-strength steel, composite materials, or even cast iron, in the interests of the best performance, durability, and weight distribution.

This commitment to materials means that the ATS competes head to head with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi pricing rather than attempting to attract customers as a value option in the segment. Bold move, but you can feel the quality of materials in the nimble handling and solid chassis, so it will not get panned for being a flimsy imitator of the German mainstays.

Anyhow, back to that suspension, which uses five straight links made of high-strength steel in the rear for an efficient design and controlled ride, four of those links simulating a double wishbone setup, and the fifth lending extra control and precision. Cadillac mounts the electric-power-assist motor for the steering on the rack (rather than the steering column), to maintain as much road feel as possible with an electrically assisted steering setup.

Connect with Autos.ca