Cadillac's long-awaited ATS gives GM's luxury brand a direct competitor to the BMW 3 Series, which is still the best-selling luxury car in America. It's something Cadillac has lacked ever since the brand enlarged the CTS for 2008. Cadillac says the ATS weighs less than 3,400 pounds — less than the minimum weight of the 2012 Acura TSX (3,400 pounds), BMW 328i (3,406) and Audi A4 (3,505). That's an impressive statistic from GM, a company whose cars often show up heavier than the competition.
The rear-drive ATS will have three engines — two four-cylinders and a V-6 — with manual or automatic transmissions. All-wheel drive is optional. The ATS comes in base, Luxury, Performance and Premium trims.
The ATS' narrower headlights represent the closest interpretation yet of the slit-like lamps on Cadillac's Ciel and Converj concepts shown in 2011 and 2009, respectively. The protruding nose with an offset center bumper inlet recalls GM's Buick Regal, though the cars ride separate platforms. The Cadillac's short tail holds two inboard tailpipes, and it has a shoulder line that materializes under the C-pillar, winds around the trunk and disappears a few inches from Cadillac's deck logo. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 18s optional.
The ATS is 8.5 inches shorter than the CTS; it's also 1.4 inches narrower and 2.1 inches shorter in height. The footprint mirrors the 3 Series, while the A4 and TSX are a bit larger. The shrink-wrapped package affects trunk volume, which measures a scant 10.2 cubic feet.
Inside, the dash has genuine wood and metal trim with similar stitching as in the CTS. Cadillac's CUE system is front and center. First seen in the XTS sedan, CUE has an 8-inch touch-screen, smartphone multimedia integration and touch-sensitive buttons that motor out of the way for a storage cubby. Between the gauges, a 5.7-inch display can be adjusted to show various menus, too.
Faux leather seats are standard, with genuine leather optional. Available sport seats have power-adjustable bolsters to modify the degree of hip hugging. A navigation system and surround-sound Bose stereo are optional.
Under the Hood
Base models get a 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection. A 270-hp, turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder will be optional, as will Cadillac's familiar 318-hp, 3.6-liter V-6. All three engines can run on regular gas, though Cadillac recommends premium with the turbo. All-wheel drive is optional across the board. The ATS comes with a six-speed automatic, and a six-speed manual will be available in certain configurations.
GM took to Germany's Nurburgring track to develop the ATS. Cadillac says the chassis sports near-50/50 weight distribution and a multilink rear suspension. Brembo-brand brakes are optional, as is a limited-slip rear differential and sport-tuned adaptive suspension.
Eight airbags are standard, with two more optional. Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard. Options include adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, lane departure and blind spot warning systems, and adaptive headlights. Optional radar-based automatic braking can stop the ATS in Drive or Reverse at low speeds if it detects an obstruction.
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