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If you’ve been paying attention to Cadillac in recent years, you know that GM’s luxury brand is serious about re-establishing itself as a world leader in the premium segment. Cars like the CTS and CTS-V proved it was headed in the right direction, but its new ATS sedan is a clear shot across the bow of the BMW 3-Series.

That’s saying something, as the BMW 3-Series has long been the standard by which all other compact luxury sedans are measured. Many have tried to unseat the 3-Series as the segment leader, but none have really managed to pull it off (although the Infiniti G Series and the Audi A4 deserve recognition for coming close in certain areas).

Enter the 2013 Cadillac ATS, which brings with it a subdued take on the brand’s French-curve-be-damned angular styling, as well as a new level of interior refinement and infotainment technology. Thanks to CUE (short for Cadillac User Experience), dash knobs and buttons are replaced by a touch sensitive screen that understands tablet commands like taps and swipes.

Clean-but-familiar exterior styling, a nice interior and advanced infotainment systems aren’t enough to dominate in this highly-competitive class, so Cadillac went the extra mile in making sure the ATS sedan handles, too. Unlike Cadillac models of the past, the ATS is designed to be as light as possible, which aids in both performance and fuel economy. Three engines are currently offered, including a price-sensitive, fuel-sipping normally aspirated four-cylinder, a driver-centric turbocharged four with 272 horsepower and an available six-speed manual gearbox, and a maximum-thrust V-6 rated at 321 horsepower.

That’s enough grunt to get the ATS from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, with the turbocharged four taking a few ticks longer to get to speed. If you’re still doubting the ATS’ focus on handling, consider this: Magnetic Ride Control dampers, as used in the Cadillac CTS-V and the Ferrari 458 Italia, are an available option, and Brembo brakes are standard on all but base models.

The net result is a car that delivers BMW-like handling, while serving up generous portions of value and fuel economy, too. Climb inside and you’ll quickly notice that Cadillac hasn’t shorted the luxury, either; in addition to the previously mentioned CUE system, the ATS boasts rich leather upholstery and the buyers choice of wood, metal or carbon fiber trim. It’s chock full of safety features, too, coming with eight standard airbags and available accessories like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a rearview camera.

Is the ATS perfect? No, as it comes up short in a few areas, like rear seat legroom, which is slightly below the segment average. The trunk is on the small side, too, although this isn’t likely to turn away many buyers. What’s likely to attract buyers, on the other hand, is the ATS’ pricing, which starts from just $33,990 including destination charge. Opt for the turbocharged four, and the the sticker price begins at $36,795, while V-6 equipped models are priced from $42,090.

Minor gripes aside, the ATS represents a solid effort from Cadillac, and we can’t wait to see what comes next in the ATS model range. We’re not ready to proclaim the ATS as the new king of the compact luxury sedan segment, but if we were BMW we’d be very, very nervous.

UPDATE2013 Cadillac ATS: Best Car To Buy 2013 Nominee

As one of the top contenders for our Best Car To Buy 2013 award, the 2013 Cadillac ATS is one of the best smallish luxury sedans on the market. Read Update

UPDATECadillac Uses Brooklyn Bridge To Refine Radar Safety Tech For ATS, XTS

The 2013 Cadillac ATS and XTS will get some advanced radar-based safety technology, but first, the company had to weed out bad data. Read Update

UPDATE2013 Cadillac ATS Production Starts, Deliveries In August

Production of the 2013 Cadillac ATS is underway, with the first cars to reach dealers this August. Read Update

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