Vehicle Type: Luxury compact sedan / coupe
History / Description: As a used entry-level luxury sports model, the Cadillac ATS is proving to be a compelling buy. Launched in 2012, Cadillac’s 3 Series fighter packed four- or six-cylinder power, manual or automatic transmissions, rear- or all-wheel drive, and nothing short of the market’s very latest in connected-car technology, safety and convenience content. Noted by reviewers and owners for pleasing handling, a comfortable ride, and fuel efficient performance – especially with the four-cylinder turbo engine – the ATS has moved plenty of units in just a few years on sale.
Launched originally as a four-door sedan to challenge competitors from BMW, Audi, Lexus and others; the ATS range expanded to offer a two-door coupe model for 2015. Both sedan and coupe variants offered plenty of selection, and a finely-honed range of options and packages that provide enhanced entertainment functionality, safety, convenience and performance.
Look for feature content including OnStar, Bluetooth, premium Bose audio, push-button start, navigation, memory seating, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, a pre-collision prep system, Blind Spot Monitoring, (excellent) adaptive xenon headlights, a heads-up display, remote start, and much more. Note that it should be easy to find an ATS that’s still covered by factory warranty, for added confidence.
Engines / Trim: Engine choices included a 2.5L four-cylinder engine, tuned for efficiency, and offering 202 horsepower. An available turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder offered 270 horsepower, with available torque output approaching 300 lb-ft in newer models. The range-topping engine was the 3.6L V6, with 321 hp. Arguably, the four-cylinder turbo engine is the way to go. With more available torque than the V6 and highly comparable acceleration figures, the four-cylinder is easier on fuel, easier to maintain, and sees less weight over the front axle, which helps the ATS feel sharper and more lively.
Select rear-drive models could be paired with a six-speed stick, and all-wheel drive was available as well. Further, a performance package, with upgraded cooling, FE3 Sport suspension, wheels and brakes, was available.
What Owners Like: When it comes to handling, agility and responsiveness, the ATS seems to have impressed the majority of its owners, many of whom report the feel of the ATS as its best asset. Handling is top-notch, ride quality on most models is highly rated, and the car is said to offer a solid, dense and substantial feel. A quiet ride and a comfortable cabin round out the package, and the hidden storage compartment behind the central control panel is an oft-praised touch. ATS’s fast-acting and highly effective all-wheel-drive system is also favoured by owners who have that option, and your correspondent’s test drive notes, on two separate occasions, mention excellent performance from the available xenon lighting system.
What Owners Dislike: Gripes often centre around limited rear-seat space, especially in two-door models. The CUE infotainment system is highly controversial: some owners love it, while many do not, saying that it’s hard to use, fussy, and slow-to-respond. Other complaints include the low-budget instrument cluster, and an overly sensitive front passenger seat occupant sensor, which sounds the ‘buckle up’ chime even if you’ve left just your cellphone or wallet on it. Finally, the V6 engine fails to impress most owners with its real-life fuel mileage.
Here’s a look at some owner reviews.
The Test Drive: Many owners have complained about the ATS’s run-flat tires, which seem to degrade ride quality on rough surfaces, and are unduly delicate and likely to suffer sidewall damage, which results in bulges. Inspect the inner and outer sidewall surfaces of each tire, by running your hand over the circumference, for signs of cracks, bubbles or lumps. If any are detected, the tire should be replaced for maximum safety. Here’s some more reading on this well-documented issue.