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2013 Cadillac ATS Premium

I think this car could actually appeal to younger buyers. But what does the Peanut Gallery think?
cadillac atsheader

The Car:

Price: $49,735 as tested (including destination charge)
Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V-6, 321 horsepower
Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway
My favorite standard features: Leather seating surfaces, head-up display
Options I can’t live without: Cold Weather package, including heated front seats and heated steering wheel ($600)
You might also be considering: Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Infiniti G37, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
See more specs in our Car Guide.
dogs in hot cars

What I Think:

The Cadillac ATS is an all-new model for 2013, but it’s already the best-selling car in Cadillac’s lineup (although it still trails behind the SRX crossover in overall sales). The ATS is a luxury performance sedan at heart, with standard rear-wheel drive and an available 321-horsepower V-6 engine. Cadillac is hoping that the ATS will draw new, younger buyers to the brand, which suffers from an aging demographic. I’m normally turned off by Cadillac’s boxy, angular design language, but the ATS caught my attention, so I took one for a drive to see if it would change my mind. The ATS I tested was a Premium model, with standard leather seats, an eight-inch touchscreen with Cadillac’s CUE infotainment interface, and magnesium paddle shifters. Our test car also included a $1,050 power sunroof; the Driver Awareness package, which includes lane departure warning and front collision alert; and the $600 Cold Weather package, which gets you heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. dogs in hot cars The ATS’s striking exterior, with its long, teardrop-shaped headlights and tight angles, is a perfect companion to the sleek, luxurious interior. The ATS is the smallest Cadillac, so it’s not exactly spacious, but it’s not unacceptably cramped, either. The ATS I tested had a Morello Red interior, a pleasant burgundy shade reminiscent of red wine, contrasted with black trim. 2013 Cadillac ATS The standard CUE infotainment system was somewhat less pleasing. I appreciated the clear, legible display, but found the system drawing my attention away from the road for tasks as simple as changing the radio station. The physical buttons for climate and volume control weren’t as consistently responsive as one might hope. The standard head-up display, which projects vehicle speed and navigation information onto the windshield, was an interesting and helpful touch that helped make up for CUE’s shortcomings. The 3.6-liter, 321-horsepower V-6 engine makes the ATS genuinely enjoyable to drive. Our test car’s performance suspension, brakes, and precise steering gave the car a sporty feel. The V-6 isn’t available with a manual transmission, but the automatic transmission has a manual shift mode and optional paddle shifters that can give you a measure of control over the driving experience. When shifting manually, the transmission automatically rev matches on downshifts, producing an exhaust burp that is strangely gratifying despite the risk of making other drivers roll their eyes. dogs in hot cars

The Verdict:

I’m still not totally sold on Cadillac’s design language, but I am attracted to the ATS’s dynamic exterior and slightly softer lines in spite of myself. The interior is attractive and luxurious without losing its sporty attitude. I think Cadillac has accomplished its goal of creating a car that will catch the eye of a younger buyer. To me, the V-6 engine and performance features are what make this car. I’m not sure how I would feel about the significantly less powerful 2.5-liter, 202-horsepower base engine, for instance. Yes, $49,735 seems like a lot of money to spend on a small sedan, even one as loaded as this. But if you have the money and are looking for performance and style in a package that's not quite as predictable as, say, a BMW 3-series, this Cadillac could hit the spot.

Peanut Gallery:

Molly: My short time in the ATS was not long enough to familiarize myself with the CUE system, but it was long enough to frustrate me. I found it difficult to even turn up the volume on the stereo. I finally resorted to using the button on the steering wheel. The silver toned bars and buttons are aesthetically beautiful, but I would need much more time to really explore and understand all of the capabilities. Once I returned to the office, I found a plethora of videos that would have really helped. Christina: The interior of this car is beautiful! I love the two-tone leather in the car and the way the cockpit wraps around the driver and the passenger. I was most excited about the head-up display; it was nice not having to look down at the speedometer all the time. The only thing that would keep me from buying this car (besides the price) is the way it rides on rough roads. Performance suspension just isn't for me. Scott: The head-up display is awesome. I love that feature. It makes me feel like RoboCop or Terminator. For me, navigating around a city, I don’t want to be looking around at the GPS. You don’t have to tilt your head; all you have to do is glance. As for the looks and the driving experience, I felt like I was inside a delicious red velvet cake. I like that it doesn’t look or feel like a boat anymore, which is how I remember my grandfather’s Cadillacs. Laura: I recall running down the street as a kid to marvel at a brand-new Cadillac that somebody's dad or grandpa had just brought home, and watching in fascination as gewgaws and gadgets were explained and tried out. "You just push THIS, and THIS happens!" "Wowwww!" Commercials that show the ATS performing on the mountain roads of North Africa notwithstanding, I still see Cadillacs that way: a treat somebody gets for him- or herself later in life. Nothing wrong with that. What a pleasant experience, then, to see that this ATS has an interior color scheme, instrument panel trim, and display that are just as wild and different from the routine as ever. Because we're Americans! And that's what we do. Somewhere in middle Ohio, a new ATS owner is showing it off to the neighborhood kids. I hope their mouths are dropping open. They ought to be. Jean: If you like luxury, if you like a bit of edge and performance with your luxury, and if you like to buy American, then you should look at the ATS. The steering is a precise, finely tuned weapon, and the engine adds a little dramatic background noise. Shifts are better in manual mode, though still a tad lazy. Brakes are the best—Brembos—and the suspension damping is very refined, although it’s best at high speeds than lower. The space age interior controls, high-gloss carbon fiber trim, and iPad-like CUE navigation screen give the ATS a dash of techno that blends surprisingly well with the luxe leather. (I didn’t say I liked CUE, did I?) Altogether, it’s a cozy place to be, especially if you’re single.
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