Scaling back power, size and fuel consumption without scaling back the amenities is all the rage these days. You could say that’s the new Cadillac ATS’s sole purpose in life.
But would you go as far as to pick an ATS over a BMW 3-Series sedan? Or, for that matter, an Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti G37 or a Lexus IS? Along with their generally compact size, efficient and still-potent powerplants and luxury accommodations, all of them also offer all-wheel-drive.
Well, that’s what you can expect from the ATS, which arrives this summer. Although clearly Cadillac-looking, the stylists have done a good joy scaling down the brand’s visual identity. The result conveys plenty of elegance from every angle, especially around the grille and lower air intakes at one end and the abbreviated trunk lid and vertical taillight bars at other. The overall shape doesn’t dazzle and it’s far from ground-breaking, but it is quite appealing.
Compared to the larger CTS sedan (currently the only passenger car in the Cadillac garage), the ATS is about nine inches shorter, 1.4-inches narrower and vertically challenged by about two inches. It also surrenders four-inches in distance between the front and rear wheels, which could make for a slightly tighter cabin.
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Where the ATS excels is its reasonable 3,400-pound curb weight. That’s about 500 less than the CTS — and less than most of the competition — which should help when the official fuel-consumption numbers are announced closer to launch time. Part of the weight-reducing process involved the use of an aluminum hood, natural-fiber door panels and magnesium engine-mount brackets.
Although the ATS will be available with a relatively potent 318-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, Cadillac is making available two different four-cylinder offerings. Base cars get a 200-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder, while a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is optional. The turbo’s 270 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque would appear to trump similarly-sized turbo-fours employed in the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series and could give the ATS some all-important showroom cred.
All powerplants will be mated to six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift controls, but in keeping with its performance nature (and to sway Euro-sedan fans) the turbo four-cylinder can also be fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Regardless of drivetrain picks, the front-to-rear weight is a near perfect 50:50 split. Unlike front-wheel-drive cars, that should lessen the tendency to plow in a straight line when turning (called understeer) and make for a sharper driving experience.
That sporty demeanor will be amplified with an optional suspension package that includes driver-adjustable settings for the shocks, large Brembo-brand brakes and magnetic ride control that constantly adjusts the suspension characteristics, according to road conditions and driver input. As with some of its other models, Cadillac waltzed the ATS around Germany’s demanding Nürburgring racetrack, which is where the German marques also test their offerings.
On the luxury/tech front, the ATS will be offered with CUE (Cadillac User Experience) that manages the car’s voice-activated communications, infotainment, and mobile devices through an eight-inch touch-screen located atop the instrument panel.
The ATS would also seem to be matching its competitors, stride for stride, in safety with up to 10 airbags plus an array of the latest in collision-avoidance gear. Tech includes adaptive cruise control (maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front), lane-departure warning with blind-zone alert, adaptive lighting (headlights pivot as the car turns) and front and rear automatic brakes that use short-range radar to detect and prevent low-speed collisions.
No prices have been announced, but to maintain a certain spread below the $37,000 CTS and remain competitive with its classmates, you can expect the ATS to start in the $34,000 range. That should earn it the once-over and a double take from shoppers — luxury or not — looking to trade down in size without giving up all the comfort.