Despite being on the older side of the class, the 2017 Cadillac ATS holds its own against more recently redesigned compact luxury sports sedans. I tested the ATS during Cars.com’s Luxury Sports Sedan Challenge, in which we pitted the ATS 2.0L Turbo against the BMW 330i, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C300, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Jaguar XE and Lexus IS 200t. The ATS finished fourth, beating the BMW 3 Series and standing out in a few key areas.
Our 2.0L Turbo Luxury Coupe trim had rear-wheel drive and a new-for-2017 Carbon Black appearance package, which gave it the look of a mini ATS-V.
How It Drives
During the Luxury Sports Sedan Challenge, the ATS Sedan was a favorite of mine both on our tight handling course and while careening though the sweeping backroads of northern Georgia. The ATS wasn’t the fastest, but it had the most connected-feeling driving experience, with direct, natural steering that was perfectly weighted and acutely communicated what the front and rear of the car were doing. The way the rear-wheel-drive ATS hunkers down mid-corner and can slide around with the throttle exiting a corner is big fun.
The Cadillac ATS doesn’t ride too roughly at highway speeds, but it’s busy on less than perfect roads. The rear-drive spirited handling payoff is worth it, however. Competitors like the 3 Series and C-Class require optional suspensions to get the most sporting character out of them, while the ATS does it without any expensive suspension or ATS-V performance options. Our test car was equipped with the base suspension and all-season tires, so the experience would only intensify with the optional, higher-performance suspension, plus summer tires and a limited-slip rear differential.
A 272-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder scoots the ATS to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and to the quarter-mile in 14.3 seconds at 97.9 mph. That was quick enough for fourth place in our 60-mph sprint and third place in the quarter-mile; both times are nearly identical with the 2017 BMW 330i.
The Cadillac’s engine is strong and responsive, but it sounds gravelly compared with the smoother, more-refined sounds of competitors, including the BMW.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but the ATS Coupe we drove came with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Having eight gears in this class is now more normal than not. The Cadillac hiccupped during spirited driving and banged uncomfortably on upshifts, and at times wouldn’t downshift when I wanted it to in its more aggressive driving modes.
Our ATS Luxury didn’t have the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters that some of its competitors did, but rather a gear selector with a manual mode that wasn’t as quick-shifting as others. Paddle shifters are available on the ATS, but the Luxury trim we tested doesn’t have them.
Interior Room and Quality
The Cadillac ATS puts the “compact” in compact luxury sedan. Its backseat is tiny compared with bigger-overall cars like the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C300, and it’s made worse by the optional, bulky Recaro front sport seats. Those Recaros are spectacular at keeping you planted while throwing the car around corners — and they look cool, too — but their heavily arched backing cuts into backseat room, and the lack of adjustable head restraints makes the fitment questionable for some.
Even without the Recaros, seating both in front and back feels narrow and snug. The ATS’ 10.4 cubic feet of trunk space is small compared with the 13 cubic feet in competitors like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. You can compare them all side by side here.