This is the Cadillac ATS, the brand’s first foray into the entry-level compact saloon segment since the truly horrid Cadillac Cimarron of the early 1980s.
Cadillac is working up a wide range of new offerings — including an all-new flagship based on the delicious Ciel concept — but this down-market saloon is the product likely to provide the foundation for any Cadillac comeback.
Cadillac still sees itself as the ‘standard of the world’, although that really hasn’t described Cadillac since the days of its finned land yachts. But after years watching its European (primarily German) competitors redefine the luxury segment, Caddy is finally determined to challenge the status quo. Could this be the car to do just that?
The new ATS isn’t a badge-engineered Chevrolet but a handsome, surprisingly competent saloon largely achieving everything it set out to do. Its biggest flaw is the image of the Cadillac brand itself.
The look of the ATS will be familiar to anyone who has followed Cadillac since the CTS introduced us to the Art and Science design language a decade ago. Though 215mm shorter than that car, the compact model maintains the basic angular look, albeit a little less edgy and slab-sided than its bigger brother. There is also a swooping coupé which is up against the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5.
Perhaps the most notable detail is the fact that the ATS weighs in at just 1530kg for the base 2.5-litre car. That's substantially less than the CTS and nearly 68kg under the BMW 330i, despite being within 25mm of the Bavarian sedan’s dimensions in every direction.
'Lightweighting' was a key goal for the ATS engineering team and a key reason they got their own new platform, internally known as Alpha. The good news is that by using advanced adhesives and welding techniques instead of shoring the chassis up with brackets, the ATS is both light and rigid – which became abundantly clear during a long afternoon at the Atlanta Motorsports Park.
Inside, the new saloon is far more refined than might be expected in this segment. Traditional luxury details, such as chrome and carbonfibre accents, are complemented by a range of hi-tech features including the new Cadillac Cue system, arguably the most user-friendly infotainment system on the market.
There are four coupé trims - ATS coupé, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Premium Performance. Entry-level models get 18in alloy wheels, a Brembo braking system, keyless entry, a reversing camera, and Cadillac's 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat nav, Bluetooth, smartphone integration, OnStar and a Bose sound system.