Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cadillac ATS ups ante, heartbeat

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

This review originally appeared in the May 2013 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Cadillac introduced the 2013 Cadillac ATS as an entry-level luxury sedan designed to crush the Euro competition without necessarily crushing your wallet.

Nice work Caddy Crew, because it works.

For an entry-level luxo liner, I sure was intimidated by my 2.0T Premium version of the ATS.  For starters, it’s one of SIXTEEN trim levels of the ATS available.  A Premium ATS starts at around $45,000 and can be had with rear-drive or all-wheel drive.

Secondly, the small 2-liter, four-cylinder turbobox puts out a pretty hard shot for an advertised 272-horsepower power plant.  I had to be careful not to leave rubber and vault myself over a VW Bug.  Likewise, you can sail up to 80 miles per hour on the freeway before you know it (not that you’d know if from the extremely quiet interior cabin).  Even so, gas mileage is pretty fair – around 25 miles per gallon in combined city/highway operation.

And then there’s the Cadillac CUE system, or comprehensive in-vehicle user experience.  It combines all the entertainment, data and high-tech device possibilities into one, and it’s managed via the center stack video screen.  Wow, I felt like I was taking basic computer classes all over again, but I finally mastered perhaps half of everything after a week.

So, you want to compete in the sedan world these days, you make a rolling computer that goes like a scalded cat and is offered in enough varieties to make a snap-decision-maker agonize over the best way to go.

Oh, and it looks good too.  It has the understated elegance of a Cadillac, but it has just enough swoop to give you a hint that it will scoot hard when the accelerator is nudged.  Interior luxury is decidedly Caddy-like, even though old-school Cadillac lovers might be taken aback by interior features with digital readouts instead of traditional buttons.

Cadillac has done so much on the techno end that it’s easy to lose track that the most enjoyable things about the ATS are robust performance, excellent handling, stop-on-a-dime braking and rock-solid slalom capabilities.

Two techno perks really got my attention.

For one, the heads-up display not only gives you your current speed but displays the current lawfully posted speed in an icon that looks exactly like a standard roadway speed limit sign.  Amazing!  OK, it isn’t always exactly correct and the speed limit number goes away on some side streets, but still cool, right?

Then there’s the lane-straying warning system and the “you’re getting too close to a really solid object” warning system.  In a Mercedes, you get the warning as a vibration in the steering wheel.  In the ATS, you get the vibrations in the seat of your pants.  I about went through the roof of the car the first time this happened.  Thankfully, if you have a weak heart and don’t like being goosed by your car, you can override it.

Overall, this new effort from Cadillac gets an A-minus grade from me.

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