Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Cadillac ATS test drive review. Less Cadillac, more BMW

If you are someone planning to trade in your old Cadillac DTS, you’ll be in for a shock when you get behind the wheel of the all-new Cadillac ATS.  But if you’re looking to trade off your BMW 3-Series, you’ll feel right at home.

You see, this is not like any other Cadillac you’ve been in before.  It’s short.  It’s narrow.  It only weighs about 3,400-lbs.  But don’t mistake the phrase “little Cadillac” with “the second-coming of the Cimarron.”  This is a brand new car built on a state-of-the-art platform specifically for Cadillac.  This is a very good car; a driver’s car.  The first time you get behind the wheel, you’ll know immediately that this is something special.

I had the opportunity to drive a 2013 3.6L Premium Collection ATS for nearly two weeks, and it gave me a new perspective on the “Standard of the World.”

First of all, let me just say, there is still a strong cache to the Cadillac nameplate.  Friends and acquaintances took notice when they saw me arrive in the ATS.  It obviously wasn’t my car, and at $49,000 I could never afford to own it, but I can see why you would want to if you could.  The wreath and crest still has the power to impress.

The view from within is impressive as well.  They described the interior as “handcrafted cut and sewn leather,” and you saw evidence of that everywhere.  Even the top of the instrument panel and door panels were covered in supple cowhides.  And if it wasn’t wrapped in leather, it was probably some kind of fancy, striped wood or magnesium.  Oh, and I recommend the cold weather package.  The heated seats and steering wheel are to die for.

As expected, the new ATS is loaded with technology.  The CUE Infotainment system controls all the audio, GPS, and climate control duties.  Some of the controls disappear when you aren’t using it for a streamlined look, but magically appear when your hand approaches the 8.5-inch screen (the fingerprints will make you crazy, though).  And as if that weren’t enough, there are also some physical controls on the steering wheel, and redundant displays on the instrument cluster and also the head’s up display in the windshield.  Incidentally, if you’ve never experienced a head’s up display, it’s a similar sensation to the ghost that appears in your car when you ride through Disney’s Haunted Mansion.

One novel feature is the lane departure warning system.  When you wander out of your lane, or change lanes without signaling, you get a little massage in the butt cheek that corresponds to the lane you’re entering.  I don’t know if it kept me in my lane, or encouraged me to cross the line, but it was interesting anyway.  You also got a little hiney jolt if you were sitting still and someone walked near the car.

The most impressive part about the ATS, however, is the way it drives.  I can see why people rave about those BMW 3-Series all the time, and this is pretty similar.  It isn’t darty or unpredictable, but push it hard and it responds in kind.  It has an appropriately plush ride on the highway, but displays a composed firmness in the turns.  This car even drives better than some of the CTS-Vs that I’ve tried out.  It’s amazing what a lighter weight and new suspension technology can accomplish.

This car had the top-of-the-line 3.6-liter V6 that cranked out an impressive 321-hp and 275 lb/ft of torque.  That’s the same power plant that resides in the standard Camaro sports car, but it seems even more potent in the svelte ATS.  The only thing I wasn’t completely enamored with was the soundtrack, but that’s not the car’s fault.  Whenever I hear a V6 at full-blat, my mind still conjures up something like an ’86 Pontiac 6000.  I guess I’ll always be a V8 guy at heart.

And like I said, this is a small car.  That means you’re going to have to deal with some small car compromises.  More to the point, your spouse or whoever isn’t in the driver’s seat is going to complain.  Their arm is going to be in the way every time you want to retrieve your sunglasses from the console.  If you have people in the back seat, the front seats are going to need to be moved up to the point of being uncomfortable so they have someplace to put their legs.  This is a fun, luxurious commuter for one or two people, but if you have a few kids or friends to shuttle around, the packaging might wear thin.

In the end, the 2013 Cadillac ATS is one of the nicest cars I’ve driven in a long time.  It might look like a rounder CTS, but its creases are perfectly starched behind the wheel.  When you see those sinister LED light blades approaching in your rear view mirror, you know that the person driving that car is experiencing something very rewarding.

I tried to take pictures in locations befitting of this car, so I went to Tom Watson’s Nationals Golf Course, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  You can see them in the slideshow belowOr click this link for a better version of the slideshow.

No comments:

Post a Comment