Cadillac’s compact doesn’t look or feel all that small. With the new V6 and eight-speed automatic on tap, ATS qualifies as an authentic sport sedan, while exuding hints of performance-ready Cadillacs of the past.

Pricing and Equipment

Starting at $34,210 (plus a $995 destination charge) in base form with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the possibilities reach all the way up to a super-performance ATS-V. My ATS Premium sedan came with a 3.6-liter 335-horsepower V6 engine and rear-wheel drive. The MSRP was $49,105 (including destination charge), but options boosted the total to $55,430.

Standard equipment for the model tested included:

  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Performance Algorithm Tapshift
  • Magnesium paddle shifters
  • Performance suspension
  • Magnetic Ride Control
  • 18-inch aluminum wheels
  • Leather seating surfaces
  • Keyless start

Performance Pros

Cadillac ATS Pair
  • Acceleration is strong. Despite a slightly heavy feel when starting off, the V6 springs into action with enthusiasm, sometimes almost leaping ahead.
  • Well-controlled handling produces a sense of full confidence, as if you’re driving a Cadillac. Which you are. To enhance surefootedness, that mildly heavy feel is a benefit.
  • Quietness. You might not hear the proverbial pin drop; but with windows shut, not much sound from the engine or outside makes its way into the well-sealed cabin.

Performance Cons

  • Transmission operation. An occasional low-speed shift arrives with a bit of a jolt. Not much or often, but the transmission is a little too evident at such times.
  • Ride quality. Because the ATS is usually smooth-riding, helped by Magnetic Ride Control, periodic harshness comes as a shock. Literally so, when I hit a railroad track or encounter one of those nasty Midwestern potholes.

Interior Pros

Cadillac ATS Interior
  • Digital speedometer and head-up display. They’re easy to read at a glance, which is more than I can say for some analog instruments, notably the backward-reading fuel gauge.
  • Comfortable, supportive front seats. Not only is headroom plentiful in these serious seats, but getting in and out doesn’t require the head-ducking demanded by a lot of today’s sedans.
  • Navigation screen is among the clearest and easiest to read, though troublesome controls detract from its worthiness.

Interior Cons

  • Rear-seat space. Getting into the back is the first hurdle, demanding some squirming through the low, narrow opening. The seat platform protrudes forward, stealing some foot room. Worse yet, headroom is skimpy even for outboard occupants. Roof indentations add a little space, but I’d hate to be sitting there when hard braking causes my vulnerable head to jerk sharply forward.
  • Controls. Cadillac’s CUE system has endured considerable criticism, and I’ll add my voice to those complaints. Trying to use the combination of touchscreen and ambiguous buttons (which have little tactile feel) made me wish for ways to avoid using the controls at all.
  • Over-the-shoulder visibility is impeded somewhat by wide pillars and bulky headrests.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

This is a bit of a toughie, because nothing really stood out during my week of testing, apart from performance. So, let’s give that spirited, zesty response our seal of somewhat surprised approval.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Let’s be blunt: the Stop/Start system, intended to improve fuel economy, proved to be inconsistent, unreliable, and annoying. Typically, the engine stopped or started with a shudder and shake. Few such “intelligent” systems work perfectly, but the ATS version is especially dense. All too often, the engine failed to shut off when it should have (waiting at a railroad crossing), or stopped too soon, abruptly (when pulling into a parking spot, before reaching the desired position).

The Bottom Line

In this category of sport-luxury, annoyances make a difference. Even though the ATS behaves masterfully in general, especially on the highway, bothersome flaws make it hard to issue a resounding note of approval.