2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Premium Collection

Just a heads-up before we go any further, I am not going to utter the name of that 3 letter German brand in this review.  You can help yourself to that comparo in a million different places, if you wish.  Instead, this is about the ATS and how Cadillac has finally built a small, lightweight sports sedan they can claim is the best such car in the world and no one would call them crazy.  In fact, if you appreciate the concept of a European tuned sports sedan and understand what it’s expected to deliver then I would defy you to tell Cadillac they’re wrong.

There are a number of different powertrain configurations available for the ATS and mine resides at the top of the food chain of the rear-wheel drive trims.  This is the 3.6 Premium Collection invigorated by GM’s do-it-all 3.6-liter V6 tuned for 321 horsepower and mated to a 6-speed automatic with a performance algorithm and long, Magnesium paddle shifters.  Stick shift fans will have to turn to the 2.0-liter turbo model for satisfaction.  This car also benefits from the most sophisticated suspension setup with what Cadillac refers to as FE3.  This performance design is most notable for its Magnetic Ride Control shocks and mechanical limited-slip differential.  Adjustable settings give the driver even more control.  If you’ve ever driven a car with an MRC damping system than you know how amazing it is at reducing body motion while simultaneously avoiding harshness.  And that’s at the core of what makes this ATS so good.  Even when wearing Bridgestone, run flat max performance summer tires, the ATS makes a reduction out of rough pavement, transmitting to the body more subtle yet frequent motions.  You feel the road in this car more than that of its target rival but likely not in an off putting way to those interested in this level of ATS.  Cadillac went all in on parts suppliers using ZF for its electric variable steering and Brembo to handle stopping…both are stellar and heartily support the robust power foundation.  There were times when I felt like I was driving a less heavy CTS-V, with a tuned rumble never before heard from this V6 and throttle responsiveness that’ll have you thinking V8.  It’s confident grip during spirited driving is aided by the ATS’s balanced feel with predictable handling and just enough rear-wheel play with safety electronics turned on to keep it fun and safe.  The transmission shifts with authority making the 5.4-seconds it takes to reach 60mph feel even faster.  And there’s power seemingly everywhere you search.  Let me put it this way; the ATS feels every bit as good as it looks.  And keeping it light is a huge part of that success.  You can even use regular gas to return 19mpg city/28mpg highway.

The interior reminds me of a miniaturized version of that found in the XTS, including a lighter version of CUE without as many gauge tricks.   It’s chock full of tech, safety and convenience features just like the XTS, too, and other than the Cold Weather Package with heated seats and steering wheel, everything is standard.  The rear seats are a little cramped for leg room but Cadillac cleverly angled the bottoms for a deep position to offset that some.  With a number of ATS models from which to choose, this $49,185 example will probably be a rarity.  But make no mistake; Cadillac has produced a car in this segment that can take on anything the Europeans will throw at it.

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