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2013 Cadillac ATS Urban Car of the Year Review By Steve Purdy

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2013 Cadillac ATS

Urban Car of the Year
By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

One of those glitzy events during the North American (Detroit) International Auto Show each year is the Urban Wheel Awards, and one of those awards announced at the event is the Urban Car of the Year, named by Decisive magazine. This year’s winner, as you may have gleaned from the title of this tome, is the new Cadillac ATS, small, rear-wheel drive luxury sport sedan from GM’s rebounding luxury division.

Having just reviewed the quick and stylish ATS I agree. If you’re an urbane, urbanite with a taste for a cool ride and a need for speed, this might be the one for you. There is no shortage of urban-oriented cruisers out there but this one is concise, efficient, fully modern and high-zoot. Our Premium level test car comes in at just under 50 grand but you can get one nearly as cool without some of the performance and technology enhancements for less than 35 grand.

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Let’s concentrate on our tester, though, since it has been so much fun this week.

The 2013 Cadillac ATS in its 16 trim levels (see all below) are built in Lansing, MI, and look very much like their larger siblings, CTS and XTS. The profile and stance along with crisp-edge styling and vertical shapes reflects Cadillac’s design DNA, a theme that has been around now for most of a decade but still seems fresh. With each new vehicle and update the design keeps up with trends and looks right at home with the competition. And that competition is mighty tough, for sure. The ATS is directly aimed a BMW’s iconic 3-Series.

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Stitched leather on the dash and fine materials all around the cockpit suggest a high level of luxury and refinement. The flat, piano-black touch panel that constitutes the center stack is just like the XTS we reviewed last week and the updated CTS as well. A head-up display shows your speed, the speed limit, tach reading and a variety of other data and is controlled by a switch on the lower dash, blocked from view by the steering wheel. I was unable to find, on this or the XTS, a readout for instant or cumulative fuel mileage. The 8-inch touch screen is adequate in size but I found it did not always recognize my touch the first time.

You may recall from my review of the 2013 Cadillac XTS, I’m not fond of the whole control panel arrangement and found many of the functions to be less than intuitive. It’s winter here in Michigan and you can’t trigger any of the touch functions with cotton gloves on. First thing in the morning that hard panel is mighty cold. It, too, did not always recognize my touch the first time. I would prefer a few knobs or buttons, I guess, but remember I’m not the guy for whom this car is aimed. Like most new cars with innovative controls, it would not take too long to learn everything and get used to it and it’s surely more intuitive for youngsters than for me.

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The ATS seats are firm but not as punishingly hard as the many of the German sport sedans. Decent lateral support holds us in place and the adjustability will allow a fit with nearly everyone. Though it is a small car with a low roof line I had no trouble getting in and out of the drivers door as long as the seat was adjusted to a low position. Rear seat room is limited but not punishingly cramped. This is essentially a compact sized car, after all, but it does not feel all that small from the driver’s seat.

Trunk space is a modest 10.2 cubic-feet, but the rear seat backs fold to add a bit more utility.

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The ATS is all about performance. It has the same direct-injected, 3.6-liter V6 as the big XTS but in a much smaller and lighter package. Acceleration is terrific, and at full throttle it makes a thrilling, throaty howl sounding almost V8-like. With 321 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque it launches like a true sports car. And with direct injection, variable valve timing and six-speed automatic transmission we can expect in the high 20s for highway fuel mileage. Brembo front brakes with the Cadillac name on the calipers give a good measure of stopping power and add a good measure of sporty-car cred.

The EPA rates fuel economy at 19-mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 22 combined on regular fuel.

Handling is excellent. Quick steering and firm suspension both adjust to speed and road conditions. All Cadillac’s now come with “magnetic ride control,” a sophisticated electronic system that makes subtle adjustments at nearly instantaneous speed. All the expected chassis dynamics like traction control, stability control, ABS, and rollover sensing will keep you out of trouble if you get a bit too exuberant behind the wheel.

The ATS is a great looking small sport sedan with amazing performance from a modest-size engine. If you would like to support a U.S. company building a wonderful small car here is one you’ll want to consider.

Cadillac’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles. One year of OnStar service comes with the car and after that a subscription is required.

In addition to the Urban Car Award nomination the ATS has just been named one of three finalists in the prestigious North American Car of the Year Award to be named at the upcoming Detroit auto show.

Bravo Cadillac!

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved