2013 Cadillac ATS | road test

Posted on Sep 13, 2013 by

Quick Review

GoodGood Sexy looks, Luxurious cabin, Lots of grunt
BadBadLack of steering feedback, rear interior space
SpecsSpecs3.6L, V6, 321 hp @ 6800rpm, 373 Nm @ 4800rpm, 6-Speed Automatic, RWD
PricePriceAED 177,000 (as tested)
RatingEditors Rating Four Star

The brawn and the beautiful


The 2013 embraces the sharp and edgy design keeping with the Art & Science theme

Nearly a year ago, launched its then new compact luxury sports sedan. With ’s typical Art & Science inspired angular design, it definitely scored high in the looks department. But it was meant to be more than just a good looker. This was America’s answer to the BMW 3 series, the Mercedes C- Class and the Audi A4.


Cadillac certainly managed to wow everyone at the launch, however you still don’t see as many Caddy’s on our roads as you would of its German competitors. We drove the car for a few days to find out how it compares against its competition. Our test car was equipped with the 3.6L, V6 meaning it is in direct competition with the BMW 335i, which we tested and loved. (Click here for the ) Head on against the Beemer, the Michigan based Cadillac does have a few things going for itself. This is so unlike what you would expect of a Cadillac. And we mean that in a good way.

2013 Cadillac ATS - Rear 2

Rear deck lid spoiler with an integrated brake light and dual exhausts make a good looking behind

As with all the new Cadillac’s, the design on the 2013 Cadillac ATS is absolutely fantastic. The angular edges, LED lights and overall lines make this a piece of modern art. The sharp design elements and the rear deck lid spoiler with an integrated brake light in the back and the pointed nose in the front make it seem a lot longer than it really is. Add to that a generous splash of chrome all around and you have a proper looker.



3.6 Litres of goodness

The 2013 Cadillac ATS is available in 2 engine variants. A 2.5L, inline 4 cylinder engine that makes a respectable 202 hp and 259 Nm of Torque. However, what we tested this week is the bigger, badder and louder, 3.6L, V6 that puts out a mighty 321 hp @ 6800 rpm and 373 Nm @ 4800 rpm. What that means is, if you mash the loud pedal, you will hit the ton in exactly 5.6 seconds. Yup, it is quick. With a curb weight of 1,504 kgs this is a pretty light car and the engine constantly feels like it is on a leash, egging you to let it go for the redline, every single time. As the revs climb, your ears are treated to a beautiful sounding engine note produced by the V6. It is loud enough to tell you it means business, without breaking its sophisticated character with a rowdy rasp. Classy. Just like a Cadillac should be. In all of this, Cadillac seemed to have ignored the transmission and what you get is a standard automatic 6 speed transmission. None of that fancy double clutch business. It is not the best or the smoothest tranny, but it does not give you too much to complain about.

2013 Cadillac ATS - Front 2

Sharp headlamps with Daytime Running Lights give it an aggressive stance.

With a weight distribution of 50/50 and short overhangs, front and rear, vehicle dynamics are as good as it can get. And that is not it, the car was developed at the Nurburgring, meaning this wasn’t exactly designed to just be a drag strip hero. Our test car was equipped with the magnetic ride control (first made popular on the CTS-V) front and rear that allows the driver to adjust damper settings. The ZF derived variable effort steering is power assisted and can also be adjusted based on drive modes.


Not a lot of legroom or headroom for the rear passengers

There are 3 drive modes. Touring, Sport and Snow. Touring is the equivalent of comfort mode. The steering is light, throttle response is relaxed and the suspension soaks up all the little bumps on the road making sure you don’t spill your drink at pretty much any speed. Perfect for cruising around town. Just what Cadillacs were built for. Switch to Sport and the car becomes a lot more edgy. The transformation isn’t wild, but the steering becomes slightly more heavier with a more responsive throttle response and eager transmission. The most drastic change however is with the magnetic ride control. The suspension feels like you’ve just woken it up with a crate of Red Bull. The ride is extremely stiff and even the slightest uneven surface feels extremely bouncy. That said, the steering in either mode is sharp and extremely precise. The ZF steering is extremely accurate and lets you throw the car into almost any corner with a surgeon’s precision. Only problem though was the lack of any feedback at all. At times it was so bad, the steering simulator on a PS3 felt like it had more feedback.


Cabin feels luxurious with high quality glossy finish all around and rich looking red leather.

 18 inch alloys wrapped in low profile rubber, cage the mighty Brembos which show no brake fade and have excellent stopping power. The 2013 Cadillac ATS is tail happy and all it needs is a little push on the throttle mid corner to break free into a slide. The traction control promptly kicks in and everything is soon under control but not without a little bit of drama. Add to that, the not so refined automatic transmission, which almost always downshifts more than a couple of gears and you instantly get a kick in your backside acceleration instead of a smooth gradual acceleration you were aiming for.


So it looks beautiful and drives like a champ. What about the cabin you ask? The 2013 Cadillac ATS comes with high gloss finishes everywhere. Our test car came with a red leather interior and genuine carbon fibre trim which was an excellent combination. There are a few flaws though. The CUE multimedia system is the same as in all the other new Cadillacs. While it scores full marks in the aesthetics department, functionality is compromised a little with all touch controls on the dash and the screen. The multimedia system can be a little slow at times which can get a little irritating. We also noticed, drivetrain vibration seeping into the cabin at idle which is hardly befitting for a Cadillac. The AC vents look stylish but are not placed perfectly for maximum effect which can be annoying during our excruciatingly hot summers. The placement of the Bluetooth microphone could have been better as it picked up a lot of the background and fan noise from the cabin making conversations a little tiresome. While up front, the sports seats with adjustable side bolsters are extremely supportive and comfortable the same can’t be said for the rear. Rear passengers have limited legroom and headroom, so it would be best to avoid long hauls with adults in the rear.


Real Carbon Fibre inserts with a Red leather interior make an excellent combination

So this goes against everything you’ve ever known Cadillac to be. The American luxury car maker has shifted its focus from just luxury and have invested a lot of time and effort in improving the drive and handling. So you get the Cadillac luxury along with great driving dynamics. At a price of AED 177,000 this seems like a rather reasonable offer by striking a nice balance between the two.


The German competitors better watch their back. The baby Caddy means business.

The point of a sports sedan is to give you a sense of excitement. To inject a shot of adrenaline into your drive even when you do boring stuff like going to the grocery store. Raw power is important, but handling is key. It is the joy you get when you conquer a corner, diving in clean, cutting the apex and catching the exit with a little twitch at the tail. The 2013 Cadillac ATS does all of that in pure luxury and class while looking like an object straight out of an art museum. The only problem is the lack of feedback at the steering. Most new cars have a lot of electronics introduced between the steering and the wheels and as precise as it may be, the feedback is lost. But in the ATS, it felt a bit too disconnected. The ATS could have easily been the best in its class, had it not been for muffled steering feel.

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