Wheels

2013 Cadillac ATS Sport Sedan

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Spend a week behind the wheel of a 2013 Cadillac ATS compact luxury sport sedan as I did and you’ll appreciate why 49 journalists named it the North American Car of the Year.

The design and performance attributes of the car were born in the USA, but Cadillac hopes the ATS will win over prospective buyers of competitive European sport sedans, namely the BMW 3 series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C class.

The ATS was tested on European proving grounds and its performance benchmarked alongside its German rivals on the Autobahn.

Cadillac offers three ATS engines with horsepower ratings of 202, 272 and 321. My top-of-the line test model has the 3.6-liter, six-cylinder engine rated at 321 horsepower.

The 272-horsepower model is turbocharged and is the only ATS variant available with a six-speed manual transmission.

Design sells, and the Cadillac ATS has oodles of eye appeal to invite a closer look. It has a taut design highlighted by chiseled body lines, a low stance, and an aggressive, forward-leaning posture. The raised center section of the hood and ample chrome accents on all four sides complete the sport sedan profile.

The interior of my ATS is smartly styled. Supple leather seating on the firm sport seats is precisely cut and sewn. Controls are within easy reach. These include memory seats for driver and front passenger, Bose stereo system with Sirius XM radio, heated seats, and heated steering wheel. I appreciated the blind spot monitoring system on the side mirrors, alerting me to vehicles in my blind zones. This safety addition is being added to more vehicles and is highly rated and desired, according to a recent survey of drivers across the country.

My ATS is technology-rich, as I discovered during the week.

It has an automatic collision preparation system to help reduce crash damage by applying the vehicle’s brakes within a detection range of approximately 197 feet (but is not designed to avoid crashes). Another system, brake preparation, will reduce brake response by preparing for driver braking to occur more rapidly. Fortunately, I never needed this system either. The large front brakes responded quickly enough while I was driving.

The operation of the lane departure warning system literally caught me by the seat of my pants when I drifted slightly across the white line. The system warned me by rapidly pulsing the seat under my gluteus maximus. It startled me, but got my attention. After a few more such warnings, I turned the system off.

Cadillac calls its computer interface “CUE” for Customer User Experience. The CUE screen is well placed and features large icons. It operates like an iPhone or iPad. Simply tap, flick, swipe, or spread your fingers.

CUE allows you to interact with smartphones, tablets and MP3 players and it stores information for up to 10 devices. Find a song, make a call, input destinations without having to memorize complicated commands or sequences. CUE’s natural voice recognition makes hands-free interaction easy.

During the life of your ATS you can upgrade the CUE software so that it will be more current than when you bought it when you are ready to trade in your ATS.

This lightweight sedan did not disappoint when I awakened the 321 horses connected to my right foot. I was immediately greeted by brisk acceleration and a nice exhaust note. It seemed to be asking, “How much more fun do you want to have? The ATS is an enthusiast’s car!”

The speed-sensitive steering delivers superb handling with minimal effort while meandering through Hunt Country.  And the head-up display projected my speed at eye level on the windshield, similar to a Chevrolet Corvette.

The standard price of my 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6-liter Premium Collection model was $46,695. With options, the total price was $50,035. Other models cost less.

The EPA fuel economy estimate of my test vehicle is 22 mpg combined city/highway. All ATS models are covered by Cadillac’s 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, 4-year/50,000-mile maintenance warranty, and 6-year/70,000-
mile roadside assistance and courtesy transportation.