Cadillac’s reputation of building heavy luxo-boats set to sea a long time ago, but even the 556 hp CTS-V is a heavyweight compared to competitors from Europe.
Especially with hefty gas prices, automakers are revving up their engineering teams to slash weight out of their cars so they can meet fuel economy standards without sapping power as they did in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
A new Cadillac compact, the 2013 ATS, is taking weight reduction and agile performance to new heights with an incredible amount of technology thrown in for good measure.
The CTS did a credible job of carving sales away from the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Audi A4. However, its size places it right between the smaller Germans and larger models like the 5-Series, E-Class, and A6. It was a devil’s bargain of comfort that never quite made it on the track.
The truly compact ATS will change all of that.
“Being quick and agile are highly valued qualities in the compact luxury sport sedan segment,” said David Masch, ATS chief engineer. “We designed and engineered ATS’s all-new vehicle architecture to deliver a spirited driving experience that builds on Cadillac’s sport heritage and success with its performance-tuned CTS-V.”
Weighing in at 3,461 lbs., the ATS will be the lightest car in its class. To save mass, engineers opted for an aluminum hood and front suspension parts, magnesium engine mount brackets, and natural-fiber interior door coverings.
Intelligent use of straight steel links with weight-reducing holes were used over aluminum to balance cost and performance. To reduce sound, ATS utilizes an acoustically laminated windshield and windows that are lighter than traditional tempered glass while keeping wind and engine noise from the cabin.
Svelte proportions definitely pay off in performance. When equipped with the available 321 hp 3.6-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission, the car leaps from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds—faster than my 5.7-liter V8-powered ’89 Corvette!
In fact, the V6 produces nearly as much power as the first C5 Corvette with 2.1 liters less. For fuel economy of 22/32-MPG city/hwy., choose the available 202 hp 2.5-liter or turbocharged 272 hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines. The base 2.5-liter engine needs 7.5s to reach 60 mph from a start, but the turbo-4 almost matches the V6 at 5.7s.
Acceleration and fuel economy are only part of the ATS’ performance portfolio. Engineers tuned handling at racetracks around the world including Road America, Road Atlanta, Phoenix International Raceway, and the Nurburgring in Germany.
A perfect 50-50 weight balance front-to-rear enables agile performance, as does the availability of GM’s Magnetic Ride Control with real-time suspension damping. Aluminum 18” wheels and the car’s low weight enable Brembo brakes to stop the car in a brief 129 ft. from 60 mph.
To get the most of the car’s abilities, both 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions, as well as all-wheel-drive, will be on the options sheet.
Smaller Doesn’t Mean Boring
Just because the ATS is the smallest Cadillac does not mean it will be the most boring. Taking a CUE (Cadillac User Experience) from the just-launched XTS full-size sedan, the ATS will be available with Cadillac’s new infotainment system.
Using “capacitive touch” like smartphones and tablet computers (like those from Apple), the system is very intuitive and can be commanded with flicked fingers. CUE will easily connect phones and MP3 players to the cars controls and can also summon directions, restaurants, weather, sports scores, and movie times. It’s pretty amazing.
“With the ATS, Cadillac set out to deliver a leading compact luxury sport sedan that would be fun to drive year-round, while providing all of the amenities and advanced technologies that luxury car buyers expect,” said Don Butler, U.S. vice president of Cadillac Marketing.
“ATS provides a new entryway to Cadillac for luxury car buyers, and strives to become a compelling challenger in a segment dominated by Europeans. The only way to achieve that mission was to create an excellent driver’s car.”
Cadillac will finally have a compact sedan that can take it to the Germans, Japanese, or anybody else who dares challenge it—all without losing the style and comfort for which the brand is renowned.
Buyers will also find the ATS’ prices to be relatively lightweight given the car’s performance and standard equipment. Base models with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine start at $33,990. Step up to the turbo-four for $35,795 or the 3.6-liter V6 for $42,090. Besides the Germans, competitors include the Lexus IS, Infiniti G-Series, and Acura TSX.
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