The V-6 immediately felt more nose-heavy to me than the four-cylinder cars. Cadillac says it shifts the weight distribution forward to 51.5/48.5 percent front/rear, versus 50.1/49.9 with the 2.0L manual. That might not seem like much, but it was my first impression both on the track and on the road.
In the CabinWithout a doubt, the ATS feels a lot like the recently redesigned 3 Series sedan, with comparable attributes inside as well. The backseat has more than an inch less legroom than the 3 Series, feeling similarly snug, and my legs were raised more than I would like. Mostly I noticed the 0.9 inch less headroom, which made it just workable for me at 6 feet tall. The long front-seat travel, however, provided legroom for people taller than me.
The cabin is well-appointed, with high quality materials like aluminum, wood and carbon fiber. The optional Cadillac User Experience system with its advanced touch-screen is sure to appeal to people wary of multifunction controller knobs, but I don't think history will be kind to the touch-sensitive "capacitive" non-buttons it also uses. I know I won't be.
SafetyIn National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests, the Cadillac ATS received top scores of five stars out of five in every category — frontal and side-impact crash tests and rollover resistance — for a five-star overall score.
As is required of all new cars as of the 2012 model year, the ATS has antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control. Also standard are frontal, knee and side-impact torso airbags for the front seats, as well as side curtains alongside the side windows. Side-impact torso airbags are optional for the backseat starting with the Luxury trim level.
Optional active-safety features include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, a backup camera, and front and rear parking sensors. OnStar is included with one year of free service.
Parents who might ferry children in the ATS should check out our Car Seat Check here. View all the safety features here.
ATS in the MarketOverall, Cadillac seems to have done a good job squaring up against BMW, for better and for worse. For example, you can get an advanced head-up display … and you can also pay extra for items like leather upholstery and a folding backseat. That's definitely meeting the competition on its own turf.
BMW's compact-luxury king has been "gone after," "gunned for" and "taken on" more than any model in the market, and still his highness remains on the throne, his anteroom littered with bones. We'll need more time with the ATS to know whether it's merely a pretender to the throne. So far, it looks as close as any challenger to date.