2013 Cadillac ATS at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show


  • Competes with: BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Acura TSX
  • Looks like: A sleeker CTS, except maybe in back
  • Drivetrain: 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 270-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 318-hp, 3.6-liter V-6; six-speed automatic or manual transmission; rear- or all-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Summer 2012

Ever since the CTS grew with its second generation, Cadillac has needed a credible competitor in the entry-level, rear-wheel-drive sport sedan segment. Behold the long-awaited ATS, which hits Cadillac dealerships this summer.

More 2012 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

It's GM's latest shot at the BMW 3 Series, which is still the best-selling luxury car in America. 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 that neighbor who ignored all restraint on holiday fudge.

Toward that end, the ATS is 8.5 inches shorter, bumper-to-bumper, than the CTS. It's also 1.4 inches narrower and 2.1 inches shorter wheels-to-roof. The footprint mirrors the 3 Series, while the A4 and TSX are a bit larger. Unfortunately, the shrink-wrapped package affects trunk volume, which measures a scant 10.2 cubic feet.

The ATS' narrower headlights represent the closest interpretation yet of the slit-like lamps on the 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, with a shoulder line that materializes under the C-pillar, winds around the trunk and disappears a few inches from Cadillac's deck logo. It could look interesting or dopey; we'll have to see the car in person to decide. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 18s optional.

Inside, the dash has genuine wood and metal trim, with similar stitching as in the CTS. Cadillac's CUE system — Cadillac User Experience — 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. Rounding out the safety front are up to 10 airbags, plus radar-based automatic braking in Drive or Reverse.

Like any decent automaker building a sport sedan, GM took to Germany's Nurburgring track — the Mecca of raceways — to develop the ATS. Cadillac says the chassis sports near-50/50 weight distribution and a multilink rear suspension. Brembo brakes are optional, as is a limited-slip rear differential and sport-tuned adaptive suspension.

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 with the turbo, but Cadillac hasn't determined whether the other engines will be offered with a stick. A spokesman told us it’s "less likely," and we wonder why the most powerful engine (3.6-liter) will be automatic-only.

Gas mileage is pending, but Cadillac says the car will deliver 30-plus mpg highway in at least one variation.

Clicking on any image below will launch a larger photo gallery; you can browse through them by hitting the right and left arrow keys.












Cadillac Cadillac ATS 2012 2012 Detroit Auto Show Auto Show Detroit Detroit Auto Show

Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey