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New Road Tests Reveal
a Potential Winner in Cadillac ATS

July 26, 2012 by Matt

2013 New Cadillac ATS Red

The first road tests from Car and Driver and Autoblog are in, and the consensus seems to be that aside from a few questionable choices, the new Caddy ATS is more of a contender for the entry-level sports sedan throne than any American car has ever been.

The high points? Ideal (50:50) weight distribution, chassis dynamics including beautifully predictable and linear handling response and communicative steering. The presence of a manual transmission option paired with at least one engine option (the mid-range 270 hp turbo’d 2.0l 4-cylinder) drew praise as well. The publications also agree that the interior, and in particular the nav system are well done. The whole package, too, seems nearly perfectly calibrated on European tastes, which bodes well for conquest sales, since potential buyers of the BMW 3-series or Audi A4 will be already keyed into that ethos.

2013 New Cadillac ATS Interior Stickshift Manual Trans Transmission Tranny

Both reviews seem to agree that the lowest-power engine option may be a mistake. The 200-hp, 2.5l Ecotec 4-cylinder is badly matched to the car, and the two higher-power engines complement the chassis better, and motivate its 3,450-lb bulk much more competently. Also, in the opinion of this pundit, if Cadillac truly wants to compete on the same level as their European counterparts, they need to offer a manual transmission option with all engines, regardless of a the meager percentage of buyers that will actually elect to check that box on the option sheet. It may not make much sense in term of the bottom line, but it’s a matter of perception, and as much as the ATS is billed as a game-changer, Cadillac should have gone all in and spent the bucks to fit the stickshift to all the powerplants.

Finally, I just want to pause for a minute and reflect on the minor miracle that this car exists as all. Back in January, the car was unveiled, I expressed my hope that after 40-odd years of trying, Cadillac would actually “get it” and succeed in creating a viable alternative to the classic European sports sedan, and based on the road tests, it seems like they may finally have. It’s sort of the automotive equivalent of the Red Sox finally winning the World Series after the decades-long “curse.” Eagerly anticipating the first comparison test…

Filed under: Cadillac, News


  1. John D says:

    I really like this car. For the first time I feel like I could actually want to drive a Cadillac. As good as it looks and appears to perform, I’d still feel like a stuffy white guy if that is what I drove. Maybe I’d feel different if I saw one in person…

    • Matt says:

      You hit on their current challenge: The image problem. Even after the mold-breaking CTS-V and now the ATS, there’s still a stigma in the motoring world attached to the statement, “Yeah, I drive a Cadillac.” It’ll take a while for that to be overcome.

  2. What I am hoping for: an ATS-V Sportwagon.

    One can dream, no? :)

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