The 2013 Cadillac ATS broke cover one day before the opening of the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan (though it proved to offer a much more formidable presence in the flesh). The 2013 Cadillac ATS represents an all-new entry-level sedan from the domestic luxury brand, and one which is aimed squarely at Cadillac’s Teutonic competitors in an effort to steal buyers away from class leaders like the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4.
Cadillac has not made any forays into the compact segment since the disastrous Cadillac Cimarron – read re-badged Chevrolet Cavalier – in the early 80’s. The 2013 Cadillac ATS aims to not only obliterate any memories of that failed endeavor, but also occupy the space left in the Cadillac lineup when the second-generation Cadillac CTS sedan moved closer to the mid-size category after its most recent redesign.
The 2013 Cadillac ATS has been given all the right moves to help attract the attention of luxury sport sedan fans. The ATS features a rear-wheel drive layout (with the option of all-wheel drive), a weight balance of nearly 50/50 front and rear and checks in with a curb weight of less than 3,400 lbs. Not only does this make the ATS the lightest model in the Cadillac lineup, but it also undercuts the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 while almost matching the mass of the BMW 328i. The Cadillac sedan’s slimmed-down physique (made possible by the extensive use of aluminum and natural fibers) is aided and abetted by a five-link independent rear suspension system, an available Magnetic Ride Control suspension system that can be custom-tuned by the driver and optional Brembo brakes.
The 2013 Cadillac ATS will be offered with a trio of engine choices. The vehicle’s entry-level, 2.5-liter four-cylinder will generate 200 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque, while a much more robust 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder pushes out 270 ponies and 260 lb-ft of torque. Cadillac is touting the forced induction motor’s 135 horses per liter as one of the primary selling points of the “power dense” turbocharged unit, an engine that will undoubtedly be the target of more than one aftermarket tuner. The range-topping 3.6-liter V-6 will produce over 320 horsepower in the ATS, giving it a significant advantage over the 300 horsepower BMW 335I. The four-cylinder turbo engine will be available with a six-speed manual transmission aimed at enthusiasts, while the V-6 will be paired with a six-speed automatic. The auto is of course optional across the lower end of the lineup. Cadillac has also announced that a diesel edition of the ATS would be coming to the American market within the first lifecycle of the sedan, which would finally give the brand a legitimate high mileage option.
Visually, the 2013 Cadillac ATS is evocative of the first generation CTS, especially when viewed from the sides and the rear. A number of small touches add a degree of both elegance and modernity to the Art and Science design language used on the ATS, including sculpted, aerodynamic tail lights and an integrated center trunk brake light spoiler. Up front, the ATS features widely-spaced headlights that call to mind its Mercedes-Benz C-Class competitor, with strong style lines stretching back from the projector housings across the top of the fender and hood all the way to the windshield.
Inside, the Cadillac ATS features a cabin that is comfortable up front but somewhat tight in the rear, especially for taller passengers. The materials used throughout the interior of the ATS feel appropriate to their entry-level luxury price point, and the vehicle also gains the CUE vehicle interface system that debuted at the New York auto show inside the Cadillac XTS full-size sedan. CUE is intuitive to use and features a center-mounted capacitive LCD touchscreen that displays large icons that provide access to most vehicle functions – a first in the industry and a significant technological step forward for Cadillac.
Pricing for the 2013 Cadillac ATS has yet to be discussed, but look for the compact sedan to slot in below the Cadillac CTS’ current $35,000 MSRP.