A good sports sedan is the perfect combination of handling, refinement and performance. The Cadillac ATS seems to have that trifecta in its genes especially with the turbocharged four-cylinder model, and the V6, but how important is power to the sports sedan segment?
|1. The base 2.5L 4-cylinder makes 202 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque.
2. Those looking for more power can upgrade to the 2.0T engine with 272 hp or a 3.6L V6 with 321 hp.
3. Along with a base trim, an optional Luxury package costs $4,495 more and adds more standard luxury features including CUE as well as front and rear park assist.
4. Fuel economy is 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined.
5. The ATS starts at $33,990 and is among the least expensive sports sedans in its class.
To find out, we piloted the least powerful ATS available, which is equipped with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine. The ATS is Cadillac’s brand new entry into the realm of BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A4, cars which have been perfected over many years of constant development and healthy sales.
CADILLAC IN THE DETAILS
Slipping into the front seats of the Cadillac ATS, it’s nearly impossible to tell this is a GM product. Interior design is crisp, and intuitive. Little details are sprinkled all over the interior of the car to let off the idea that a bit more thought went into the making of this machine. Our tester came with the Jet Black interior, which features silver trim with unique etchings. Other, far more exciting interior colors are available on the ATS, including a sporty red leather accented with carbon fiber.
Highlighting the interior is a huge touchscreen, featuring Cadillac’s new CUE (Cadillac User Experience) operating system. CUE is reasonably responsive and features nifty tricks taken right from your smart-phone, like pinch-to-zoom on the maps and haptic feedback when making screen selections. In front of the driver an extension of CUE is present in the form of a customizable LCD screen. Both the main infotainment screen and the driver display are highly configurable and give you a wonderful sense of freedom and personalization.
Luckily, this ATS was equipped with a slew of safety equipment that helps when the driver is immersed in the high-tech world of CUE. Forward collision alert helps for when the car in front of you slows down, and you don’t. Instead of an obnoxious alert that tells everyone in the car how inattentive you are, the driver’s seat vibrates, making sure your gaffe isn’t broadcast for public humiliation. The same goes for a blindspot assist and rear cross-traffic alert, which make sure you don’t change lanes, or reverse into another car or object. The combination of these subtle yet effective safety alerts and CUE means that you have a bit more leeway when your mind is on something other than driving.
Interior comfort is good, with solid space for the front two passengers. However, the rear passengers will be jealous of the front seaters, with limited leg and headroom. Children should be fine in the back and while adults will fit, they will not be impressed.
Visually, the ATS is striking with its most prominent feature being the headlight design, which flows and spills onto the hood of the car. Compared to more experienced rivals like the C-Class, 3-Series and A4, the ATS has a much more fresh and youthful look. Inside and out, it has a modern vibe.
In the 2.5L model, there is one small design hiccup. Where the sportier ATS models with the 2.0T or 3.6L V6 feature a great looking rear bumper with two exhaust exits, the 2.5 only has one exhaust exit, which is awkwardly placed off center.
ENTRY-LEVEL CADDY CUTS CALORIES
As soon as the ATS gets going, the wonderful steering feel is obvious. This is a crucial test for the car to pass since driving feel is such an important part of a successful sport sedan. Sloppy steering can ruin an excellently sorted suspension and properly tuned chassis
In addition, the ATS boasts those qualities as well. The 2.5L model is the lightest vehicle in the sport sedan category at 3,315 lbs, and thankfully those weight savings are not evident in the cabin.
That weight is also well balanced. A weight distribution of 50/50 makes the ATS feel controllable at all speeds and a joy to drive. While our 2.5L ATS wasn’t blazing up and down the streets, it was equipped with the optional Brembo brakes which worked wonderfully, providing solid and consistent braking feel from the very first touch of the pedal.
A 4-CYLINDER IN A SPORTS SEDAN?
That joy of driving is amplified with the two more powerful engines available with the ATS. The same can’t be said of this base 4-cylinder, though it is quiet and power is adequate.
The most significant advantage for the 2.5L comes in fuel-economy with a 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway rating. Without trying, the ATS managed 26 mpg during our driving through country back roads and into city traffic.
Overall, the 2.5L is the value choice, and is cheaper than the similarly powered Mercedes-Benz C250. Not only that, but the Cadillac is slightly better on gas with the Benz rated at 21/31 mpg. Additionally, all the other European sport sedans require premium fuel, where the Cadillac can get away with regular. Only the Audi A4 is cheaper than the 2.5L ATS, but is missing out on many of the luxury features that are expected at this level.
There is, however, one bigger issue with the 2.5L, and that’s Cadillac’s turbocharged 2.0-liter. For $1,805 more, the 2.0T puts the sport in sports sedan and offers 70 more hp and 70 more lb-ft of torque, available earlier in the rev-range, making for a far more exciting ride. It also makes just a small sacrifice in fuel economy with a 21/31 rating.
A seriously impressive new Cadillac, the ATS is a true sports sedan and deserves better. It would be a shame to put the car’s sublime chassis to waste with meager power from a budget engine.