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The all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS compact luxury sport sedan is Cadillac’s challenge of superiority in the world’s most significant luxury car segment. Developed on an all-new, lightweight rear-drive architecture, the ATS reflects a new expression of Cadillac’s Art & Science execution philosophy, centered on a foundation of superb driving dynamics and mass efficiency. It is the most agile and lightweight Cadillac, with one of the lowest curb weights in the segment-less than 3,400 pounds. This new Cadillac combines the highest state of luxury, innovative high-technology and safety systems with superb high-performance dynamics.
The ATS’s superb attributes starts with the unique styling. It interprets Cadillac’s Art & Science design language in a new proportion, tailoring the signature styling and refinement cues for the most compact Cadillac while upholding-and-advancing the exemplary attention to detail and technological elements for which the Cadillac brand is now known. A long 109.3 inch wheelbase and wide 59.9-front/60.9 inch-rear tracks are the cornerstones of the ATS’s firmly planted stance, which is enhanced further with short overhangs and taut sheet metal that appears to wrap tightly around the Premium’s 18X8 inch front and 18X9 inch rear wheels and tires.
Bold vertical light elements-HID headlamps with Adaptive Forward Lighting including new LED front signature lighting detail-as well as LED door handles and active grille shutters lend technologically advanced style and function to the ATS. The grille shutters close at highway speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag and enhance fuel economy. The front fascia of the all-new ATS is highlighted with the signature Cadillac grille now with midnight chrome accents. Down below is a wide air-intake for the turbo’s intercooler surrounded by a chrome strip which also features a spoiler and flat bottom plate to keep the front well planted at high speeds. The silhouette shows steeply raked windshield A-pillars, flared fenders, aerodynamically styled side mirrors, pull-out door handles, swept-back B-pillars, narrow windows surrounded by a thick chrome strip, a scallop at the bottom of the doors, deep side extensions and a flat roof with a fastback styled rear window. At the rear are large vertical LED taillights, V-shaped spoiler at the end of the trunk lid, the Cadillac wreath just below, and a chrome strip with Cadillac stenciled at the right side. Below the rear bumper is a diffuser to manage rear airflow and two polished stainless steel exhaust tips. It is a look that is modern, aggressive and luxurious as only Cadillac can deliver. Keeping the aerodynamic drag to a superb 0.299 are underbody aerodynamic shields that help smooth airflow.
Motivating the all-new ATS are three engines starting with a standard 2.5 liter four-cylinder making 202hp and 191lb.ft. of torque, a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder and the 3.6 liter V6 making 321hp and 275lb.ft. of torque that is available only for North America.
I tested the ATS with the potent 2.0 liter turbocharged/intercooled four-cylinder engine that features an aluminum block and heads, DOHC’s with continuously variable timing, and direct high-pressure fuel injection. This high-tech powerplant generates a healthy 272hp at 5,500rpm and 260lb.ft. of torque at just 1,700-5,500rpm. It is smooth, high-revving and very quiet. When pushed the exhaust note going through the large dual exhaust system emanates a loud growl. At 136hp per liter, the new 2.0 liter is one of the most power-dense engines in the industry, topping engines from European competitors. All of the engines are mated to six-speed transmissions, including the Hydra-Matic 6L45 automatic with tap-shift and paddle shifters available on the 2.0 liter turbo and 3.6 liter engines. A smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission is also available with the turbo engine when you want to be a closer part of the powertrain. I tested the automatic with up/down tap-shift on the leather-wrapped stick, and magnesium paddle shifters on the steering wheel. It was great fun shifting so quickly and precisely with either of the modes. The paddle shifters are large so it is always within your fingertips to upshift or downshift. Keeping the automatic in Drive also shifts fast and precisely when your speed reaches the electronically controlled speed needed to upshift. The 2.0 liter turbocharged engine pushes the new ATS to 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.7 sec.
Proportion and balance are on the ATS’s side, with a low curb weight of just 3,373 pounds and power-dense powertrains that are also highlighted to achieve 50/50 weight distribution and a great power-to-weight ratio. They complement wide front and rear tracks-59.5 front and 60.9 inch rear-for a lower center of gravity that promotes great stability and a neutral feel when attaching curving roads. Putting it through its paces it feels lighter than the stated curb weight. Furthermore, low vehicle mass and optimal brake sizes are expected to give the ATS braking performance that is among the best in the segment, with Brembo brakes fitted to the 2.0 liter turbo and 3.6 liter engine, the ATS stops from 60mph to 0 in about 129 feet.
The real fun of piloting the all-new ATS is the incredible suspension system that hugs the road, turns as if you are at the side of a wall and smoothes out the bumps when traveling over poorly paved roads. The suspension and steering systems work together to give you a feeling that you are at the wheel of a real racecar because it is so responsive with just a slight tug of the leather-wrapped sporty steering wheel.
Up front, a multi-link MacPherson strut suspension setup uses a double-pivot design for a more precise feeling of control, including more linear communicative steering and a smoother ride. It also improves impact isolation on bumps and rough surfaces. The double-pivot system incorporates a pair of ball joints and lower control links that replace a conventional wishbone at each wheel. The optimal balance of ride and handling is achieved via a suspension geometry that decouples road inputs by integrating a soft fore/aft ‘ride link’ that provides greater isolation from impacts and a stiff, laterally positioned ‘handling link’ for more direct steering feel and quicker lateral response. The control arms, the spindle and the body form an effective four-bar link for each side of the front suspension, creating virtual pivot points for reduced spindle length, significantly reducing steering wheel feedback due to wheel impacts and imbalance. There is also a direct-acting stabilizer bar. The front suspension’s design also enables a short spindle and positive-offset steering geometry for optimal steering control, excellent straight-line stability and a more refined ride. High-durometer rubber and hydraulic bushings are used with the front suspension for an excellent balance of ride comfort and precise response when cornering. Luxury and performance taken to the next level!
At the rear of the ATS is the first five-link independent in a Cadillac. It’s design that helps reduce roll center motion, enables positive lateral control, reduces ‘squat’ during acceleration and promotes excellent dynamic stability. In short it helps keep the tires planted on all surfaces and during all hard-cornering maneuvers. Four handling links (upper and lower control arms) are used at each side to control wheel motion and a toe link at each wheel provides additional horizontal control-particularly during hard cornering. The upper and lower links create an effective double-wishbone design, although the links are mounted independently. As with the front suspension, the five-link design creates virtual pivot points that the ATS’s engineers used for geometry optimization. The stiff links are mounted on a cradle that contributes to a smooth, quieter and more isolated ride. The cradle is made of steel (with hydroformed side rails) to help optimized the car’s structural stiffness and mass. Germany’s famed Nurburgring served as one of the key testing grounds, along with additional roads, race tracks and laboratories around the world where ATS engineers tested and balanced the performance with Cadillac’s trademark refinement. Enhancing the ride and handling of the ATS turbo are 18X8 inch front and 18X9 inch machined alloy wheels wrapped with Bridgestone 225/40R18 inch front and 255/35R18 inch rear Potenza REO5A super-high-performance run flat tires for superb grip and a smooth, quiet ride.
The 2.0 liter turbo comes with the FE3 Sport Suspension with a mechanical limited-slip differential standard that is not matched by all other competitors and gives the ATS turbo an edge when it comes to ensuring all of the powertrain’s torque is applied to the tires during hard cornering. It is houses in a robust 8.6 inch carrier.
Further supporting the ATS’s new and unique suspension designs are advanced damping, steering and braking systems including Magnetic Ride Control, which is the heart of the FE3 Sport Suspension package, the above mentioned limited-slip differential and a high-capacity cooling system. MRC is a real-time damping system that delivers more precise body motion control. It ‘reads’ the road every millisecond and can change damping forces in only five milliseconds. You can manually change the damping settings from Touring/Sport/Snow but pushing a button on the center console next to the Traction Control On/Off button. Changing the setting from Touring to Sport or visa-versa, adjusts the intervention of the StabiTrak and traction Control systems.
All ATS models come with a premium electric, variable-assist power steering gear from world-famous ZF Steering Systems. This system is designed to deliver excellent response and on-center characteristics, while also saving fuel because engine power isn’t directly required to assist gear movement-as is the case with conventional hydraulic systems. The steering gear has a great torsional stiffness and lower operating friction, which enables the steering feel with almost perfect linear response. Additionally, the steering column and intermediate shaft feature stiff, direct-acting and low-friction ball bearing designs. That means there is almost no ‘lash’ in the entire steering system for a more immediate and connected-to-the-road feel in your hands. Further enhancing the steering feel and front turn-in is the three-piece strut tower brace found in front of the engine.
Cadillac uses their own high-tech innovations for the powertrain and suspension then uses technology and innovation from the world’s great aftermarket companies. That also includes the superior braking system found on the turbo that I tested. Four-wheel power-assisted steel disc brakes give the ATS great braking power as they use Brembo four-piston calipers to clamp on the 12.6 inch vented discs up front. The rear 12.4 inch vented discs are clamps with GM single-piston calipers. The braking system also includes ABS, BA, an auto dry system, and a Ferritic Nitro Carburized process for corrosion resistance.
While the innovations and engineering under the skin are competitive with the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class and Lexus IS class, it is the interior that really separates the all-new Cadillac ATS from its aforementioned competitors.
All four doors open wide to reveal a sumptuous and luxurious cabin with several sporty cues to give the all-new ATS a one-of-a-kind sport oriented interior. The driver-focused interior features integrated technology and crafted materials that complements and supports the ATS’s driving experience. Everything from the placement of the aluminum/rubber foot pedals, the tilt/telescoping sport steering wheel and the position of the shifter knob is designed for effortless and intuitive performance driving. The leather-trimmed performance front bucket seats are 12-way power-adjustable with power-adjustable side bolsters to optimize lateral support during high-load cornering with 10-way power-adjustable front passenger seat. Further contributing to the interior’s intuitive feel is an instrument panel that wraps into the doors and a center stack in the mid-instrument panel that flows into the center console. LED lighting for the bold gauge cluster enables clear, at-a-glance viewing in all lighting conditions, while ambient lighting accents functional elements of the console and door. The ‘head’s-up’ display has four different screens for your viewing pleasure as you never have to take your eyes off the road to view important driver information. Real wood, metal plating and carbon fiber trim and Cadillac’s cut-and-sewn instrument panel, console and doors enhance the emotional connection to the ATS. Standard features on the Premium Collection ATS that I tested not mentioned above include Bluetooth phone connectivity with voice recognition, USB, auxiliary and SD memory card ports, Sirius XM satellite radio, keyless access and keyless push button start/stop, Bose Premium Surround Audio system with 10-Bose speakers, reconfigurable 5.7 inch instrument panel cluster display/trip computer, an 8-inch full-color touch display with navigation, dual-zone climate control with air filtration, dual map lights, rain-sensing wipers, power/heated side mirrors with driver-side self-dimming, dual lighted vanity mirrors, universal home remote, remote vehicle start, front aluminum door kick plates, map pockets behind the front seatbacks, cruise-control, front/rear parking assist, rearview camera, power door locks, power windows with front express up/down and rear express down, dual cupholders front and rear, air-vents at the rear of the front center console, grab handles at each door, front and rear floor mats, rear pass-thru and 60/40-split folding rear seats. The trunk features full carpeting, a deep storage tray on the right and underfloor storage to complement the entire package.
The all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS comes with Cadillac CUE-a comprehensive in-vehicle experience that merges intuitive design with auto industry-first controls and commands for information and entertainment data. It is designed to be unique for each consumer from the simple user to the fully connected super user. CUE (Cadillac User Experience) pairs entertainment and information data from up to 10 Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, USBs, SD cards, and MP3 players with a vehicle infotainment system that reduces complexity through customized information, voice commands and fewer buttons and large icons. For example, most of today’s luxury cars have around 20 buttons controlling the radio and entertainment functions, CUE has only four. The heart of CUE is the 8-inch LCD multi-touch sensitive screen seamlessly integrated into the top of the central instrument panel and a motorized fully capacitive faceplate at the bottom concealing a 1.8 liter storage area. The vibrant LCD screen displays CUE’s home page, which resembles a smart phone’s screen by using large, easy-to-target icons to execute commands. Capacitive technology refers to using electrodes to sense the conductive properties of objects such as a finger. It is slow going at the beginning but you’ll grow accustomed to its easy-to-use controls once you use it for a couple of driving periods.
The all-new ATS is one of the safest vehicles to be driving or as a passenger with these standard features-airbags-driver/front passenger frontal/side/knee, front/rear outboard head curtain and side impact airbags, 4-way adjustable front head restraints, driver awareness package (rear vision camera system, hill hold/start assist), daytime running lights, ONSTART collision response, LATCH system for child seats, rear child security door locks, audible theft deterrent with vehicle immobilizer, remote keyless entry, three-point safety belts for all five seats, strong structural safety cage, front/rear crumple zones, and steel beams in each door.
Options included in my Premium Collection test ATS included adaptive cruise control, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, front/rear automatic braking and automatic collision preparation, cold weather package with driver/front passenger heated seats and a heated steering wheel.
After my seven-day test drive the impression I got was that Cadillac has it the mark in all categories that make a compact luxury sport sedan supreme. It is the real deal, competing head-on with the best from Europe and Japan.
Word has it that Cadillac is working on a ultra-high-performance ATS-V with a 3.0 liter twin-turbo and other go-fast measures to compete with the BMW M3, Audi S4, Lexus IS-F and M-B C-AMG.
COPYRIGHT: 2013: HARVEY SCHWARTZ
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