Caddy’s ATS is one special sports sedan

Well, well, what’s this? Cadillac makes a serious push into the luxury compact sedan segment.

Yes, that’s right. If you haven’t heard, the ATS is the real deal. It’s done so right that Audi, BMW Lexus and Infiniti need to take notice.

The ATS is so strong it was voted automobile of the year at the North American Auto show a few months back. After sampling a couple of these beauties I have to say the folks in Detroit got it right.

The ATS is a striking design in its interior and exterior execution. The car’s front is exceptionally aggressive, with a massive grille, sleek headlamps and a long, slopped hood. The body is a wicked wedge shape that flows into a square back that’s neatly finished.

2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Cadillac ATS

The interior is elegant and ultra modern. The gauge cluster is bright and can be configured to display several different functions. The steering wheel has a plethora of buttons which duplicate controls from the center stack. It’s also heated.

Let’s talk about that center stack. Both cars I drove had the CUE system (Cadillac User Experience). It replaces most of the car’s function buttons with a touch screen that acts like a tablet. It responds to swipes, pinches, pokes and any other thing you do to an iPad or Surface. Not a bad idea because many people have such devices, but the response time is a tad slow and, well, I prefer buttons. In time I think the system will be fine.

The rest of the interior is full of wood, metal and copious amounts of leather crafted as well as any of the competition. Space is a premium, but you can fit five adults in relative comfort. It would be best that each likes the other a lot, especially in the rear.

All occupants will appreciate the car’s driving dynamics. Steering, handling and braking are excellent. You feel this car and you love what it’s doing.

If you opt for the turbocharged four cylinder engine you’ll the car feels a bit lighter on its feet. The 272 horsepower engine makes the car seem to react quicker – as if its had a few energy drinks.

Go for the six-cylinder performance model and the car feels completely different. Power is increased to 321 horses and torque jumps to 274 pounds-feet. The car feels more planted and bullish. The car’s view on life seems to be it’s a hammer and the rest of the world’s a nail. It’s not brutish, just beastly.

A six-speed transmission is mated to either engine. It slices through its gears with precision and finesse. You can shift manually, but it does its job so well that you may never bother sampling the option.

The rear is nicely finished
The rear is nicely finished

Speaking of options, both models were well equipped. The CUE system, navigation, Bose surround audio, Sirius and HD radio, power package, heated steering wheel, anti lock brakes, remote start, head-up display and premium paint jobs are part of a long list of standard and optional equipment.

The biggest difference between the two cars is that the six-cylinder was all-wheel drive and the turbo was rear-wheel. Both cars were north of $50,000, which is about average with the competition. The Caddy does seem to deliver more bang for the buck and it is one of the most handsome cars on the road. I don’t have a preference over engines. The turbo is more fuel efficient, but uses premium gas. Ironically, the V-6 can get by on regular.

The ATS is certainly something Cadillac should be proud. This car puts the company squarely back in the game, possibly even ahead of the game. All other makes have reason to rethink current and coming product.

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