Although many cars have tried, few have come even close to the capabilities exhibited by the BMW 3 Series. But the Caddilac ATS is a promising small sedan that could very well play spoiler to the most successful sports sedan on the globe. We've sampled both the ATS and the newest 3 Series, but Motor Trend had the chance to get both sport sedans together to test them out in its latest "Head 2 Head" video.

Right off the bat, M/T points out just how close these cars are in just about every category from size to weight to performance when comparing the 328i and ATS 2.0T variants. All of the dimensions are within just inches of each other and Cadillac's weight-conscious construction of the ATS makes it just 24 pounds heavier than the 328i. Both cars use turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 engine, and while on paper the ATS delivers more horsepower and torque, M/T points out that BMW is known for underrating its engines and estimates true output to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 270+ horsepower.

On the track, the BMW barely edges out the Cadillac in 0-60 and 1/4-mile times, but for a true comparison of how the ATS stacks up, M/T's Jonny Lieberman puts both cars through their paces along some of California's best back roads. Surprisingly, with "sharper and crisper" steering and Magnetic Ride Control, the ATS seemed to be more impressive along the twisty roads than the BMW, but both cars' biggest downfall was their manual transmissions. The shifter of the ATS exhibited a couple of issues that could seriously hamper performance, including a "ghost detent" when shifting into second gear and the need to double shift into gears, and Jonny really had nothing nice to say about the BMW's shifter or throttle response, either.

We're not going to play spoiler here, because regardless of which car is victorious in this head-to-head comparison, it's clear that driving enthusiasts are the true winners. No spoiler here, folks. Check out the video below to see if BMW retains its dominance in this segment or if Cadillac has managed to dethrone the king.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 202 Comments
      Carpinions
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why is it there always seems to be 1 thing a 3-Series fighter seems to miss to grab the gold?It was this way with Infiniti's G, and it appears Cadillac may have committed the same error on a different aspect of the car. Regardless of this outcome, I have to say that seeing those two cars side by side, the Cadillac looks GR8-GREAT. The 3-Series looks downright curmudgeonly, which is a low point given its youthful segment. Thumbs way up to Cadillac for how well the A&S styling is evolving, and for making a true competitor in the segment. I can't wait to see what they do next.
        recharged95
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Carpinions
        Because the BMW has issues with it's throttle pedal, rubbery shifting, dated interior (really hasn't gottten better), and price and maintenance: the caddy lost cause it does all those things better, but has a lousy shifter as well. Good eval MT...
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      Cadillac knows that 95% of ATS' sold will be Automatic so they didn't take it seriously. I would also guess that like the BMW most will go out the door on a lease. Ever try leasing a car with a Manual? typically $150 or more per month compared to the same car with a manual. Nobody likes a used manual.
        bluemoonric
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        Very few people want a manual transmission in the real world. Car enthusiasts don't account for more than about 1 or 2% of the market and yes manual transmissions are the kiss of death on the used car lot. You can sell 25 automatics before you sell 1 manual. Why tie up company money for 90 plus days in a manual? When you can sell more automatics quicker? You could put a BMW emblem on a Honda Accord and 60% of the buyers would not know the difference. They are buying a brand identity for themselves and that is all they care about. Others will notice the difference. For some reason, attorney's like manual transmissions more than any other profession. I asked one why? She said it was a control thing.
      sfblog
      • 2 Years Ago
      3 Series looks like it ran over a rim/tire on the Freeway and dented the front lip. Or like a child making funny faces with both his fingers stretching his mouth out
      Bob Smiley
      • 2 Years Ago
      Given that the 2.0T hasn't started production yet, i can't help but feel like making a final judgement like this using a pre-production ATS isn't quite fair...
      Hazdaz
      • 2 Years Ago
      Geez, how bad is that transmission?!? I have yet to see any ATS' in real life, so until they hit dealerships, I will definitely need to read-up more about its transmission issues. Beyond that though, I thought the video was very well done. I really liked the back-and-forth comparing different points, however little, or no mention of exterior and interior styling, interior room and comfort, perceived quality of materials and stuff like that. Maybe on the next test, Cadillac should be lending out their automatic models if the 6-speed is really that bad.
      Kris Derentz
      • 2 Years Ago
      As a past 335i owner and current M3 owner I would say if they are this close I would go with the ATS only because of cost. BMW's ala carte options makes the same equipped 3 series significantly more money.
      msspamrefuge
      • 2 Years Ago
      I may be up for some downvotes, but this reeks of coping out to me. When you claim that you'd rather own one car than another, that, at least to me, implies you're smitten with it, flaws and all. And speaking of flaws, while the BMW's transmission didn't exibit any blatant assembly/engineering gaffes, Lieberman more or less implied that it too didn't positively engage the driver. So why not negate this category with the failing grade both supposedly deserve?
      Mike Fernandez
      • 2 Years Ago
      There's no way you have to shift into 4th in the Cadillac to reach 60mph. They made a whoopsie there for sure. The cadillac looks ok, but it's still not agressive enough. I like where they are going with it though.
      vince
      • 2 Years Ago
      Overall I enjoyed the review for the parts that were there, but he spoke about driving the cars every day and did not mention the ride, comfort, road noise, infotainment, or purchase/running costs. Also, in their first drive, motor trend said the manual on the 2.0t had "smooth transmission action, just notchy enough to let you know that it means business, but nice and precise, we're getting right into the gears with no problem." Considering all the hype about comparing these cars I was expecting something a little more in-depth, especially coming from a print magazine. What was there was good, but a lot was missing.
      Kris Derentz
      • 2 Years Ago
      As a past 335i owner and current M3 owner I would say if they are this close I would go with the ATS only because of cost. BMW's ala carte options makes the same equipped 3 series significantly more money.
      Frisky_Dingo
      • 2 Years Ago
      I really, really like the 328i. I think, however, I like the ATS even just a bit more. If we're talking the 335i vs the 3.6, though, BMW hands down, there. Here's to hoping the shifter issue was a fluke. Bravo Cadillac.
      CruzControl
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've sat in one at the dealership here in Miami. It's a deceptively aggressive car, and its stance is very muscular. The interior was very, very nice and the CUE system worked quickly. I can't say before the ATS I'd consider a Caddy, but its legit folks. The 2.0 wasn't in yet, so ill wait to test drive it.i just despise that single exhaust pipe on the 2.5.
    • Load More Comments