2013 Cadillac ATS: First Drive Page 2

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2013 Cadillac ATS

Best in rear-drive though all-wheel drive is an option, the ATS makes automatic transmissions a forgivable decision, with cool-touch magnesium paddle shift controls and shifts almost as quick as those from a dual-clutch transmission. We'll stick with the manual--it comes only with the turbo four--and its light shift action, though the clutch uptake could be smoother. We'd also stick with the ATS' Performance trim level; it doesn't get the Premium model's Magnetic Ride Control, but it's so low on body roll and high on grip from 18-inch run-flats to begin with, the driver-adjustable MRC system seems like a plush indulgence. In any case, you're looking at a very crisp-handling sport sedan with adjustable steering and throttle feel, exceptional straight-ahead tracking, and 0-60 mph times in the mid-5-second range.

Cadillac's cabin shines with CUE's ambient glow, and it's functional and handsome in a way that only Audi does better in this niche. But while the front seats are truly great for a day's worth of hard driving, the back seats are one of the ATS' few Achilles' heels. It has less legroom in back than all its competitors. Given its target market, it's probably fine, since it's likely to be used as a four-door coupe most of the time. The trunk's tiny too, though a couple of golf bags can be crammed inside.

Awash in high-tech safety options, including a seat that vibrates when you wander out of your lane, the ATS is the second Caddy to carry CUE. We've explained it at length in our full review, but in shorthand, CUE makes the German roller controllers look goofy, and shows how an extra year of development time lets engineers render everything more clearly than in Ford's fussy MyLincoln Touch system. We experienced a glitch or two with CUE, but it's no doubt the best of the mass-market infotainment controllers--and it bundles HD radio, Bluetooth streaming, SD card reader and USB ports, voice commands, and a handy bin tucked behind its flat-panel display.

The 3-Series has roundhoused all challengers over the years, but cracks formed a few years ago when Infiniti introduced the G35. Since then, the replacement cycle has grown worrisome for Munich. The Audi A4's only gotten better, as has the C Class. The Lexus IS is due for replacement, and there's also a new Infiniti G in the pipeline.

But it's the clear and present danger that should worry BMW the most. The 2013 Cadillac ATS is here. And it's the best driver's car the brand has ever built, shy of a letter V or two. Any bets on how long it takes to add one of those to its badge?

There's much, much more on the latest Caddy sports sedan. For more information on performance, styling, features, safety, and pricing, see our full review of the 2013 Cadillac ATS.

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