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2013 Cadillac ATS North American Car Of The Year Review By John Heilig

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SEE ALSO:Cadillac ATS Wins 2013 North American Car of the Year

Mid Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel


Model: 2013 Cadillac ATS 
Engine: 2.5-liter I4 
Horsepower/Torque: 202 hp @ 6,300 rpm/191 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm 
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 109.3 in. 
Length/Width/Height: 182.8 x 71.1 x 55.9 in. 
Tires: P225/40R18 Cargo volume: 10.2 cu. ft. 
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway/26.4 mpg test 
Fuel capacity: 16.0 gal. Curb weight: 3,315 lbs. 
Sticker: $42,225 (includes $895 destination charge, $3,740 in options 

The Bottom Line: A compact Cadillac? Who'd a thunk it? But Cadillac makes it work with a nice combination of traditional Cadillac style and luxury and decent power combined with good handling.

Imagine my disappointment. After watching these seductive Cadillac ATS commercials where two drivers get to flog an ATS over some of the world's most interesting roads, the version I get to test is the sedate one, powered by a 2.5-liter four putting out a good, but not terrific, 202 horsepower.

The other side of the coin is that I had the opportunity to drive the ATS that most people will buy, so I'll accept the trade-off. I will start lobbying for the job of test driver if one of the two in the commercials decides in a moment of insanity to quit.

Our tester was the Luxury Collection edition of the ATS, meaning that it was equipped with several luxury items that I'll be weren't on the car you see in the ads. We had leather seating surfaces, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, and the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) that included the navigation system, CD player and Bose surround sound, as well as a paint job that added another $995 to the sticker.

Let's start with the paint. It was Crystal Red Tintcoat and covered a beautiful body. Unlike the CTS, the ATS is less angular. This car has curves. It still has the signature vertical Cadillac tail lights that almost blind the driver behind you when you step on the brakes. I liked the "bustle bump" over the trunk that has become so popular in recent years.

Going deeper into the body, there is a 2.5-liter inline four up front with the previously mentioned 202 horsepower. We took the ATS on a long trip that involved a lot of Interstate driving as well as some winding roads. In the Interstates, the ATS behaved like a Cadillac; there was enough power to allow us to do essentially anything we wanted, while the engine was still small enough to deliver excellent fuel economy. The ATS has a 36-foor diameter turning circle which isn't great but is in the neighborhood of the competition. Inside the passenger compartment the experience is all Cadillac, if somewhat smaller than a Sedan DeVille, for example. The front seats offered good comfort on the long ride. We had head rest issues but I learned to cope. The problem was that the part of the headrest that interacts with the driver seemed to be thick and "intruded" on my head space.

The rear seats offer decent leg and knee room. It's about normal for a compact car, but we were still able to fit an adult and two children (11 and 9) back there. At 10.2 cubic feet, the trunk is about normal for a compact car. Our problem, though, was that we were using the car for a late Christmas celebration and we had to carry presents on our long trip. We folded down the rear seat backs and expanded the trunk to a size that accommodated all the gifts, plus our clothing and suitcases. The ATS is a nice driver. Even though it's a compact, you don't get the normal compact car ride roughness. This more closely approximates what the traditional Cadillac buyer might expect. The suspension smoothes out any roughness, making the car feel more like a mid-size. The 109.3-inch wheelbase doesn't hurt in this respect. We suffered with the HVAC system. It was either too hot or too cold. After many hours of trying to find a solution, we set it on "auto" and it all worked out fine.

The CUE touch screen controls were easy to understand, especially if you have iPad experience. There's essentially no learning curve, as there is with some similar systems. The audio system worked fine. Using the iPod we occasionally got error messages on start-up, but it all worked out in the end. There's a cubby behind the screen that houses the USB connection. If you have ham hands it's easy to hit the wrong area of the touch screen panel and lift the cover exposing the cubby. However, the USB connection is lighted, which is a big help.

Overall, the Cadillac ATS is a nice car. It's what you'd expect from Cadillac, even if you don't expect Cadillac to offer a compact car.

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