Compact American luxury cars have been lagging behind their European counterparts for generations. Lackluster design, anemic engines, front wheel drive platforms, and plasticky interiors were not enough to make them a true alternative to their competitors from the other side of the Atlantic.But now, Cadillac is hoping to finally change that with their new BMW 3-series fighter, the ATS.
The ATS is rear or all wheel drive, offers a range of engine choices, and is clothed in an attractive, angular body that is still 100% Cadillac.
Cadillac’s designers have continued the “Art & Science” design language that has been a hallmark of the brand for the last 10 years. Angular cars look incredibly fresh and modern when they are released, but they tend to become incredibly dated over time (Example: Lamborghini Countach). In the moment, this Caddy looks great but the real test will come a few years down the line.
The 3,400 pound ATS offers three engines. We aren’t excited about the base 2.5 liter four cylinder with 200 horsepower. However, the turbocharged 2.0 liter four with 270 horsepower or the 320 horsepower V6 have our interest piqued.
And Cadillac isn’t limiting these cars to automatic transmissions; a six speed manual will be available for those that want to row their own gears.
The interior looks to be just as attractive as the exterior. A selection of leather and wood surrounds the driver and the centre stack is dominated by a large touch screen with Cadillac’s CUE entertainment system.Much like an iDrive or COMAND system from a BMW or Mercedes, CUE’s intent is to reduce the number of buttons for key controls. In addition, it can accept voice commands and establish up to 10 simultaneous Bluetooth connections.
And there are even more safety features than before including blind spot detection, lane departure warnings, and a hill hold assist for manual transmission cars.
The sedan is coming first, but look for coupe and wagon versions to also join the lineup in the near future. We’re really looking forward to a high-performance ATS-V that will take on the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 AMG.
Pricing is not out yet, but expect the ATS to be very close to its competitors from Germany and Japan. It will just need to prove to a sceptical market that it is worth the price of entry.
Full disclosure: We would not be able to attend without Ford, who offered to fly us to Detroit and grant us access to the show as well as their design studios.