Cadillac in recent years became a top contender in each of the segments they entered. The wide array of models they offer are high-quality and they all feel premium, making it the brand of choice for lots of people concerned about style, luxury and performance. They no longer make “land yachts”, their vehicles are now as good dynamically as every other rival. It all started with the re-designed CTS some 10 years ago, but it didn’t end there. The incredible CTS-V made its debut, and everyone lost their mind. This was a car which was able to match the best of the German sedans on their own turf, setting a faster lap time on the German racetrack Nurburgring than all of them, all the while maintaining unprecedented levels of luxury. The ATS is Cadillac’s midsize sedan, and as such, it’s arguably under the most pressure to perform.
It’s pitched against the 3-Series as well as the C-Class, and with brand new versions of both those vehicles, life for the ATS has never been harder. For 2017, Cadillac completely removed the 2.5 liter engine from the entire lineup. We’ll get to that later on in the article. Some of the ATS’ features have been updated (their availability), and the CUE system is now standard, and that makes a big impact. The new changes, coupled with the ones the car received last year (new engine, better transmission, stop/start) make the ATS one of the best buys in its segment.
Cadillac has been aiming for a mix of luxury and performance since forever, but it didn’t always seem to get
the combination right. At times, they even failed at providing the luxury part, let alone anything else. The ATS changed all of that. First of all, there’s the design. Styling is subjective, but to our eyes, it’s much more visually appealing than the “conventional” 3-Series, which no matter how much they change it, always remains understated and rather bland. The newly redesigned C-Class is more than able to give it a run for its money, but the ATS is one handsome brute.
If you know your Cadillacs, you’ll immediately say the ATS looks a lot like the CTS, but can you really fault it? Look at BMW and Mercedes. The 3-Series is not that far off the 5-Series, and it’s only with the recent C-Class that Mercedes was able to distinguish it from the larger E-Class, although the back is still similar. The BMW is the one which is the most different from its bigger sibling, but the styling is so conservative that you can argue it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
The ATS on the other hand is aggressive from nearly all angles. Most of the lines and shapes are angular, with lots of sharp edges and drop-offs. It’s a lot more aggressive than the BMW, and even the C-Class, but as a result, it isn’t as understated. We like to think it’s the perfect mix of the two, meeting somewhere in the middle. Wouldn’t you want a bit of character in, what is after all, a driver’s car?
The interior is Cadillac’s strong point, and yes, we’re aware of the fact that it’s good looking and that it drives well. The new design language is better than ever however. The ATS is full of high-quality materials creating soft surfaces throughout the cabin. The fit and finish is as good as the German counterparts, but it isn’t better. Overall, it’s a really nice place to be in, especially if you’re after something different than the already seen German cabins.
The CUE infotainment interface is, like we said, standard on all models from now on. It runs on a large 8-inch touchscreen display. It’s very user-friendly, anyone could learn how to use it in no time. It’s also ergonomic, and all of the buttons and layouts are laid out logically. You can tap, swipe or zoom with two fingers, so in a way, it’s close to your smartphone (it works like one at least). If you’re not familiar with how smartphones work, you’ll need a short adjustment period, but it’s much easier than iDrive for instance.
There are just two engines available for the 2017 Cadillac ATS. All of them come with the excellent eight-speed auto and all of them are rear-wheel drive in standard guise.
The 2.5 liter four-cylinder got dropped, so the slightly smaller turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder takes its place as the base engine. It makes 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It comes with the option of an all-wheel drive system and, provided you want it, a six-speed manual. The six-speed can only be had in rear-wheel drive flavor. The auto 2.0T returns 26 mpg, while the manual one manages 23. Auto version loses 1 mpg.
The more powerful engine is the 3.6 liter V6 developing 333 horsepower and 285 pound-feet of torque. It gets the same all-wheel drive system as optional, and it returns 24/22 mpg depending if its rear or all-wheel drive. The ATS-V is available for anyone wishing more performance, but it differs from the standard ATS a lot, so we’ll need an entire article for it.
The engines, great as they may be, are only part of the story. The driving dynamics of the ATS are superb. The ride is neutral and balanced, you can easily control the car just with the gas pedal. It doesn’t exhibit almost any body roll, and it loves the quick changes in direction. The steering is responsive, offering lots of feedback. The brakes don’t fade at all, and they too, like the steering, offer plenty of feedback.
No amount of praise can do the ATS justice. You have to drive one and feel for yourself.