The first regular production 2013 Cadillac ATS sedans have left the line at GM’s Lansing Grand River assembly plant in Michigan. The cars will be headed for dealers in time for the sales launch next month.
The ATS is Cadillac’s latest volley in its efforts to compete with BMW’s 3-series, the perennial best-seller among premium models. Unlike previous, departed-but-not-missed, attempts at small Cadillacs, like the Cimmaron and Catera, the ATS isn’t another GM model with a new badge and grille. It has a new, clean-sheet front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Alpha platform with a 50/50 weight balance and “targets nimble, quick and fun driving performance.” All-wheel drive is also available.
The new junior Caddy ATS weighs in at less than 3,400 pounds, making it one of the lightest cars in its segment, and features a new five-link independent rear suspension; multi-link double-pivot MacPherson-struts with separate lower links are fitted up front. There’s a driver-adjustable sport suspension with Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control real-time damping. Cadillac tested the ATS on roads and race tracks around the world, including a turn at Germany ’s Nürburgring.
Customers will be able to choose from three engines, a base 2.5-liter four producing 202 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 190 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm; an optional all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four rated at 272 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque available from 1700-5500 rpm and Cadillac’s 3.6-liter V-6, estimated at 321 horsepower @ 6800 rpm with 274 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, but a six-speed manual is available with the turbo four.
Stopping power comes from discs all ’round with four-channel ABS. Brembo brakes are an option with the turbo four and the six as are high-intensity discharge headlamps with adaptive forward lighting.
Exterior colors choices include: Radiant Silver Metallic, Black Raven, Black Diamond Tricoat, Crystal Red Tintcoat, White Diamond Tricoat, Thunder Gray ChromaFlair, Opulent Blue Metallic, Glacier Blue Metallic, Silver Coast Metallic and Summer Gold Metallic.
Inside are all the amenities expected of a Cadillac. Depending on their tastes and wallets, customers can select from the base ATS, which starts at $33,900, or upgrade to Luxury, Performance or Premium trim levels.
THe ATS comes with CUE (Cadillac User Experience), which accepts data from up to ten Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices or USBs, SD cards and MP3 players and integrates it with an infotainment system that reduces complexity and distraction with customized information, voice commands, larger, easier-to-hit icons and fewer buttons. Cadillac says some competing systems have as many as 20 buttons while the Cadillac has just four.
To produce the new ATS, GM invested $190 million on upgrading the Lansing Grand River plant, which also builds the CTS and CTS-V coupe, sedan and station wagon. The company says the ATS is responsible for 600 jobs.
“The new Cadillac ATS represents an investment in Lansing and our workforce,” said Tony Francavilla, Lansing regional plant manager. “A successful launch needs a great process and a great product, but at the heart of it all are the people, and the care they put into each and every vehicle.”
Cadillac needs a hit: GM’s premium marque, and America’s the best-selling luxury brand for 50 years, is sagging in the market. For a number of years, Cadillac was fourth in the luxury segment, behind Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but it has now fallen to sixth, passed by Acura and Audi. Cadillac sales have fallen 17.5 percent in the first six months of the year, the largest deficit of any upscale brand. Much of the shortfall is due to discontinued models like the DTS and STS, but every current model has missed its numbers from the first half of 2011. In fact, the ATS’ target, the BMW 3-series, has already hit a sales volume equal to nearly three-quarters of Cadillac’s total sales.
However, if the ATS can live up to its specs, it could be the shot in the arm Cadillac’s been needing. Early impressions are positive and actually exciting. We can’t wait to get some wheel time in one.