By Reed “The Traffic Guy” Berry
I’m not just driving a car, I’m driving a Cadillac. And I’m not just driving any Cadillac, I’m driving an impressive new Cadillac that keeps winning awards. The 2013 Cadillac ATS has been named the 2012 Esquire Car of the Year and Motor Press Guild’s Vehicle of the Year. As if that isn’t enough, a group of 49 highly respected automotive journalists from throughout the U.S. and Canada has named it the North American Car of the Year. Can one car really deserve so many prestigious accolades? Guess I’ll find out as I take the ATS on a road trip from the congested freeways of Los Angeles to lightly traveled rural roads of southern California’s Inland Empire.
If I hadn’t told you I was driving a Cadillac and described this vehicle only by some of its features, the luxury brand may not even come to mind. A compact, sporty car with a four-cylinder engine doesn’t really sound like a Cadillac, but it is. This isn’t Cadillac’s first attempt at a smaller vehicle, however. If you think back to the ’70s, you may remember the Cadillac Seville. In the ’80s, there was an even smaller and less-than-impressive vehicle known as the Cadillac Cimarron. Okay, I’ll admit it, I considered purchasing a Cimarron back in the day because I liked the idea of small, practical vehicle, plus the Cadillac crest was bound to impress potential dates. Based on my initial impression of the ATS, Cadillac’s latest attempt at a slightly smaller vehicle may have been worth waiting for.
Not unlike a number of other vehicles currently on the market, Cadillac has given ATS a sleek body style, low roof line and big bold chrome accent grille. It works. This car has some serious eye appeal. One feature that adds to the striking appearance of my test vehicle is the White Diamond Tricoat exterior. It really makes the car look like a million bucks, which I guess you might say is a good return on your investment because this special paint color will only cost you an extra $995. The big polished aluminum wheels serve to provide an attractive contrast between luxury and sportiness.
As I enter the vehicle, it definitely looks and feels like a Cadillac. The comfortable, well-appointed interior is quite welcoming. As you may expect from a luxury vehicle, ATS has leather seats but, unlike many cars, this vehicle features a stylish hand cut and sewn interior. The rich leather carries over to the steering wheel and shift knob, as well. The sculpted dash flows down into a sleek, functional center console that houses a variety of controls and an eight-inch full color touch screen.
The ATS is equipped with CUE (Cadillac User Experience) which is a good name for it because it really is, well, an experience. I can remember a time when it was cool just to have an in-dash CD player then, before I knew it, came high-tech touch screens. CUE is an entertainment interface with a screen you don’t even have to touch. No, it’s not controlled by brainwaves (check back in a few years for that), but it does have proximity-sensing technology that actually detects your hand as it approaches the screen. At the risk of sounding a bit crazy, the controls in this car are actually communicating with me. As I press icons on the screen or touch any of the controls on the console, they pulse to confirm each command.
Not only is CUE’s touch screen intuitive and quite functional, it is also very easy to use because it is designed to operate much like a tablet or smartphone with similar touch commands and hand gestures. There’s a convenient app tray in which one can position their most frequently used apps so they can be accessed from any screen. The display is quite vibrant and the available navigation system features 3D mapping. CUE software can be updated via USB to be kept current throughout the life of the vehicle. CUE allows the user to interact with other electronic devices to stream music and access contacts. As a talk radio listener, I appreciate the fact that ATS is equipped with HD radio, making AM stations sound as crisp and clear as those on FM or even satellite radio.
The ATS seems to have ample power. Impressive, considering that this particular model has a modest yet respectable 202-horspower four-cylinder engine under the hood. Acceleration is hesitation-free and I am able to pass slower moving traffic quite effortlessly. As a daily driver, this model should satisfy just about anyone that wishes to benefit from a blend of luxury and solid performance with impressive fuel economy for a Cadillac: 22 in the city and 33 on the highway.
For those thinking about ditching their Audi or BMW for an ATS, I suggest considering one of the more powerful, performance-oriented models such as the 272-horsepower 2.0-liter Turbo (which can be paired with a 6-speed manual transmission) or the no-nonsense 321-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. While only the Turbo has an available 6-speed manual transmission, the other models have an efficient 6-speed automatic with a tap-shift feature that allows manual shifting, if desired, without the need for a clutch pedal.
As I exit the 60 Freeway and make my way along some side roads heading toward Riverside, I’m impressed by vehicle’s performance. While the car has a bold, stylish look, Cadillac has apparently given it a lightweight chassis and fuel-saving electric-assist speed-sensitive power steering for exceptional handling. Sport suspension provides a good feel of the road while confidently negotiating a variety of surfaces and driving conditions.
While ATS may be considered a compact luxury sport sedan, it has plenty of room for the comfort of those inside. Front row seating is quite spacious and, as I take a break from driving and move into the back seat, it is obvious that back seat passengers are not forced to sacrifice comfort as in some vehicles. ATS has been intelligently configured to provide ample leg room and comfort throughout the passenger compartment.
I’m assuming that since the passenger compartment is fairly spacious, Cadillac must have sacrificed cargo space. Surprisingly, however, as I make my way to the rear of the vehicle and pop the trunk, it is also quite roomy. As I load it with two 25-pound bags of freshly-picked oranges from a roadside stand, there is still plenty of cargo space to spare.
I guess I now understand why the 2013 Cadillac ATS is getting attention and winning so many awards. It’s a well-designed “everything” car for someone in want of luxury, performance and practicality. Time will tell, but the stylish design and impressive features may be just enough to turn the heads of would-be buyers of European sport sedans.
For more information about Cadillac products, go to www.cadillac.com
Name of vehicle:
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.5L Luxury Collection
As Tested: $42,225
EPA fuel economy estimates (miles per gallon):
22 city/33 highway
2.5-liter 4-cylinder DOHC engine with direct injection
202 @ 6,300 rpm
190 @ 4,400 rpm
6-speed automatic with tap-shift control
ZF premium electric rack-and-pinion steering
Brembo front, performance 4-wheel antilock disc brakes
18” polished aluminum wheels (17” polished aluminum wheels standard)
Overall length: 182.8 inches
Overall width: 71.1 inches
Overall height: 55.9 inches