The new Cadillac ATS is an impressive sport sedan, often considered one of the most serious threats to the BMW 3 Series. Unlike GM's previous attempts, this four door brings aggressive styling, commendable chassis dynamics and class-leading handling to the highly competitive battle. And, like its daunting German foe, Cadillac offer several powertrain choices.

I recently spent time with the ATS 2.0T Premium on my home California turf. Fitted with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox with a limited-slip rear differential, my tester was lightly optioned, with only a paint upgrade and a cold weather package. That brought the as-tested price to $46,305, configured the way I imagine most enthusiasts would prefer. This meant I fully expected to enjoy a week with a tossable sport sedan that boasted "fun-to-drive" as its middle name, but all was not well...

Driving Notes
  • The ATS' stiff chassis, strong brakes and upscale interior were my favorite attributes. A close second would be the extraordinary styling that manages to be sporty and bold, yet classy and timeless at the same time.
  • Cadillac's innovative touchscreen CUE interface with haptic feedback may work well in the showroom, but at least for this journo, its application in a bouncy and vibration-laden automotive environment is a mistake. In addition to being slow to respond and frustrating to use, it is a hair-pulling experience trying to steady a pointer finger to touch the proper real estate whether that is a capacitive touch volume bar or greasy fingerprinted flat panel display. Cadillac actually provides a microfiber cloth in the glovebox to wipe it clean, but isn't that admitting a preexisting flaw (would you have confidence in an automaker who provided an oil drip pan with each new it car sold)?
  • I am a huge fan of GM's magnetic ride control suspension, but I didn't like its tuning in this ATS. When pushed hard, the rear tires seemed to skip over imperfections in the pavement, meaning the rubber wasn't staying in contact with the undulations in the road. The two-mode damping was almost too firm in default setting and then harsh when configured to sport mode (the console-mounted button must inexplicably be pushed twice to toggle the suspension change).
  • This segment is embracing 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines for their excellent combination of power and fuel efficiency, but I found little to like with the turbocharged engine in the ATS. It felt and sounded buzzy, with nothing but racket coming from under the hood. Plus, it ran out of steam well before redline and fuel economy on my enthusiastically driven watch was not spectacular (16 mpg around town and 26 mpg on the highway). While it did provide decent power, especially in the thick of its torque band, it desperately needs a sporty exhaust note to bring a bit more excitement to the game.
  • I generally prefer manual transmissions, yet the traditional six-speed gearbox in the ATS didn't impress me one bit. Its gearing is too short (60 mph requires a shift to third) and its throws are very mechanical in feel. In execution, the shifts cannot be hurried as it only results in a rubbery response from the driveline. Many of my peers say the 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic (as we reviewed in our First Drive) is a much better powertrain choice. The driver in me finds that a bummer.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 183 Comments
      Danny
      • 1 Year Ago
      I love the look of a properly oriented engine under the hood of a car!
      BRKF06
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's disappointing. This car was the one I really, really wanted to try as my purchase in August came down to VW's GTI, the 328i and the ATS 2.0T. I could not find an ATS with a manual anywhere. I ended up with an F30, 328i with sport, 6 MT, etc. It's an okay car but hardly a grin machine. I was kinda hoping the ATS was awesome so it'd be easier to justify ditching the 3 series for an ATS. Guess I'll hold out hope for the pending 2 series and the M2 "gran coupe". Damn!
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      A little bummed I've only seen 1 of these on the road, and it was the 2.5. I figured in the tri-state area I'd see tons as I see a LOT of CTS's...
        Sir Duke
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        Matt, most people still don't even know about this car. New, un-established models always go through a longer ramp-up than established models. Usually, 6 months to a year.
      domingorobusto
      • 1 Year Ago
      Shame there isn't a serious model for performance enthusiasts yet. By all accounts the manual in these is borderline terrible, and 270 hp just isn't enough for that much heft. They need to hurry the V up. But I'd like to see a mid range enthusiast model to take on the 335i. The 2.0T 6MT is obviously targeted at the 328i M-Sport, as they are almost identically priced. I expect the V to be targeted at the M3 (4?) in price. So why don't they have a mid-range? Beef up the 3.6 to make 325 or so hp, put a good manual in it, and a nice stiff suspension for around $55k. Give those looking at the 335i 6MTs some options.
        Papi L-Gee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        "Beef up the 3.6 to make 325 or so hp" 321 HP isn't enough?
          domingorobusto
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Papi L-Gee
          Lol. I thought is was still making 305 hp, didn't realize they'd already bumped the power. So I revise my statement to be "Beef up the 3.6 to make 350 hp or so".
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          domingorobusto
          • 1 Year Ago
          Never said it was overweight. Said there wasn't enough power for what weight it had to be considered a true sporting model. 3500 lbs, while heavier than I'd like, isn't horrible. The ~12.5 lbs/hp power to weight ratio it has isn't terrible for a mid-range model. But it's not enough to go toe to toe with the enthusiast models of it's competitors, like the 335i that weights nearly the same but makes (an underrated) 300/300.
          domingorobusto
          • 1 Year Ago
          My whole point was that that this is aimed at the 328, same price, same power, same weight, same size, but that the 328 is not an enthusiast model. The 328 is the non-stripped (320i) volume model. The 335 is the enthusiast model, and Cadillac currently has no answer.
        Vinuuz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        Cadillac cannot price at the same levels as BMW if they are trying to win sales from BMW. We all agree BMW's pricing is a little over the top, and I seriously hope Cadillac doesn't go the same way!
      inthelv
      • 1 Year Ago
      I've yet to see one here in Vegas. All the other Cadillac models seem to do really well here, including wagons. I wish they'd expand their design language, and use names.
      Eta Carinae
      • 1 Year Ago
      Why doesn't nobody test the 2.0T auto transmission ?!?
        izzystash
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Eta Carinae
        All 3 engine types were tested in most of the reviews I read and the 2.0 was the most preferred.
      diffrunt
      • 1 Year Ago
      20k more is too much for a malibu with a Caddy grill
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        [blocked]
        Sebastian Lopez
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        A Malibu doesn't have a HUD, Magnetic Ride, chasis, or brembo brakes.
        Brad Buick
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        I didn't know the Malibu was RWD?
        Jerry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        You must be thinking of the XTS... That is on a stretched Global Epsilon platform, which is a variant of the Malibu's platform. ATS is GM's first car on the Alpha platform.
      Taint
      • 1 Year Ago
      pros: great ride handling compromise, good looks, nice steering Cons: Low fuel economy, slow acceleration, Unresponsive distracting CUE, questionable build quality, looks just like CTS, horrible shifter, buzzy engine, expensive Did I miss anything?
        A P
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Taint
        Questionable build quality? Please back that up with any facts.
          Taint
          • 1 Year Ago
          @A P
          Out of all the qualities I listed, thats the only one you refuted? I was going off the history of most other GM products. Lets be real.
      askroon
      • 1 Year Ago
      I sat in the manual trans ATS at the LA Auto Show, stomped the heavy clutch, and forced my way into first gear. Terrible, terrible, terrible transmission.
        tylermars.design
        • 1 Year Ago
        @askroon
        This is probably worse then people who complain about cars they haven't driven.
          askroon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @tylermars.design
          Why's that? I only drive stick and I have 7 manual transmission cars in my household. I've also driven probably 15 other manual trans cars in my life. I am at the point where I can get a good initial feel for a transmission before driving the car.
        Hazdaz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @askroon
        Your stupidity is showing. You are judging a transmission by shifting a non-running, stationary car into 1st while its parked at an auto show?? Wow you're dumb.
          askroon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Hazdaz
          Oh and I didn't JUST shift it into 1st, I also tested the amount of effort required to shift from, say, 2nd to 4th gear, and it was just ridiculous.
        askroon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @askroon
        All I'm saying here is that the car has a heavy clutch and a ridiculously notchy gearbox. You guys can say what you want about my ability to judge these two things when the car is off, but when you drive the thing for yourself you can let me know if I was right or wrong.
          twofingersneak
          • 1 Year Ago
          @askroon
          how about YOU drive the thing for YOURSELF and then report back to us how the thing actually operates when its not sitting on show display?
          askroon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @askroon
          After checking the car out in person and reading all the reviews, I have absolutely no desire to drive an ATS. The transmission is a make or break for me. And you guys seem to think that a manual transmission can suddenly go from being notchy and heavy clutched to being slick and effortless when you turn it on! What?? Have you guys ever driven a manual?
          caddy-v
          • 1 Year Ago
          @askroon
          Last time I went to the auto show I was able to determine which cars had the best sounding entertainment systems just by looking at the volume knob. I don\'t need to turn the power on, just look at eht knob.
      Terry Actill
      • 1 Year Ago
      It's nice until you get into it.
      lrx301
      • 1 Year Ago
      This car might be fantastic, but the $44,895 base price is a rip-off.
        Camaroman101
        • 1 Year Ago
        @lrx301
        base price with the 2.5 34k, base price with the 2.0l 35.8k, base price with the 3.6 42k. where do you get 45k from?
        Snark
        • 1 Year Ago
        @lrx301
        That's not the base price. Base is around $33k.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @lrx301
        [blocked]
      Denster
      • 1 Year Ago
      I fail to see how Cadillac can command such premiums without exclusively engineered powertrains. The 2.5L base engine in the ATS, is the same base engine in a Chevrolet Malibu. The 2.0L Turbo engine is the same engine that was offered in the Pontiac Solstice and Chevrolet Cobalt SS a few years ago, and can be had today in a Buick Verano for half the price. Lastly, the 3.6L V6 is ubiquitous as the base V6 in just about every Mid-size car and Unibody SUV that GM makes, from a base rental Chevy Impala, Camaro, Traverse, Acadia, etc. Kudos to GM for developing the lightweight, sophisticated RWD Chassis, but why the off-the-shelf engines and transmissions? I guess for the same reasons Cadillac sells Chevy Tahoes for a $30K premium. There has to be a huge profit margin in the ATS and I'm sure that was a goal of the bean counters, but Cadillac needs exclusive, truly premium and refined powertrains to be a serious contender.
        Adrian
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Denster
        Yeah, kind of like how the 2.0T in Audis isn't used across all of VW's product lines. Oh, wait....
          cgm9999
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Adrian
          You'd have a valid point if it wasn't for the fact that the 2.0T is smooth, refined, makes great noises for what it is, makes power throughout the entire RPM range, has hardly any lag, and has won many accolades to include being on Ward's Best Engines list many years in a row. Examine your statement. An Audi engine is being used in a VW product. That's called a great value. In this case, a Cadillac, one that's been touted as a 3-series killer, is using very mediocre engines from Chevys. See the difference?
        Psyclist
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Denster
        I suggest you do a little reading on the engine before making comments like this, the 2.0L is not the same engine as the Cobalt SS or the Solstice, same displacement does not equal same engine. It made Wards 10 best engines for 2013 list. No one is going to buy the 2.5, it was just put the to reach the lower starting MSRP to get people interested
        Jerry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Denster
        It is kind of like the Roger Smith years again...
        Macvicar24
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Denster
        "Failing to see" requires one having vision! Plus remove bias and it opens up a whole new world
        jtav2002
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Denster
        When you have very good engines such as the 2.0T and 3.6, you tend to use them elsewhere. Who cares? As far as your Tahoe comment, while they're not cheap, i hope you're exaggerating on your 30k premium comment. You don't really expect them to sell a fully loaded full size SUV for the $20k range do you. Oh no, you do don't you. There's no hope.