ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I really want to get into a comparable BMW 3-series, because it seems that Cadillac is nipping at their heels, or possibly surpassed them, at least with this 2014 ATS 2.0T Premium Collection.
Granted, it’s closer to $50K than $40K, which seems a little pricey for entry-level luxury. Still, on the consumer site, it says that the 240-hp BMW 328i starts at about $37K, the base price of the 272-hp ATS is about $33,000.
This car is probably the best-looking in Caddy’s stable. The lines the run from the headlights give the car some shape, the squared-off teardrop headlights look good and the rear says luxury, at least to me. I love the overall shape, too. I’m not sure if we’re calling it pyramid or what, but the widest part of the car is the bottom lower lip. It makes a car looks stable and planted.
Power is great from the turbo four, but I do wish the exhaust sounded a little deeper. It doesn’t have to be louder or more sporty, it just sounds tinny to me. Thrust off the line in first gear is great, but like all turbos, you have to keep it in the right range to have continuous power. You may be in second or third going around a turn and if you boot it, it still takes a second to get moving.
I do like the shifter action, it’s smooth, not notchy, and the stick doesn’t flex in your hand. The clutch pedal is good, too, just the right amount of spring. I can’t tell if the steering is better than BMWs, but it’s definitely not worse. I think I like the thicker wheel in the Bimmer, but accuracy and immediacy is very close.
One big problem: the clutch pedal is too close to the dead pedal. Several times I tried to press it fast, only to be stopped by the dead pedal without getting it down all the way. Needs to be moved.
The interior looks clean and uninterrupted. I like the black on black. The radio works pretty well, but those sliding capacitor buttons still need some work. I hate the electronic parking brake too. Otherwise, everything worked great.
I didn’t climb in the back, but space looked pretty good with two average-sized adult males in the front.
BMW might still have Caddy’s number, but boy, it’s getting closer every day.
When's the last time you drove a new sedan and thought, “This car feels 500 pounds lighter than it is”? A rare occurrence indeed in these days of dimensional creep, yet the Cadillac ATS ...
The 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Premium Collection starts at a base price of $46,020 with our tester topping off at $48,055.
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: We’ve been big fans of Cadillac’s ATS from the very first drive, and my enthusiasm remains strong. Other than the buzzy exhaust Jake mentioned, I always enjoy driving it, and driving it hard. It perhaps feels even lighter than its listed 3,400 pounds, and is in fact very reminiscent of the BMW 3-series driving experience. I’ve yet to drive a comparable 3-series and ATS back-to-back, but I’m beginning to think the ATS just might be even more nimble and darty on the limit, so impressive is its on-road handling.
Quick steering and quick chassis reactions make for a grand ol’ time clipping apexes and powering out of corners. You can carry impressive speed confidently through switchbacks, and unlike Jake I never had a problem with clutch-pedal placement when heel-toeing downshifts and driving quickly. Likewise, the six-speed manual feels positive moving from gate to gate; with relatively short throws -- and a big thank you to Cadillac for offering the ever-scarce manual gearbox.
The brakes are strong, the seating position nice, interior materials and build quality very nice. I still can’t say I like the haptic-touch controls, and I don’t like the positioning of the music track up/down buttons on the steering wheel: they are too far toward the steering wheel’s center hub, which causes me to either really stretch my right thumb to toggle them, or take my right hand off the wheel completely and actually move it over to the buttons. I don’t have large hands but they are not freakishly small, either, so I’m sure plenty of people will encounter the same little problem as me.
The 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Premium Collection is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 272 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Jake may have unintentionally highlighted one of Cadillac’s biggest challenges: There’s the perception that its cars represent “entry-level” luxury, the cheaper American alternative to what the Germans do better.
Thing is, I’m not sure the “Germans doing it better” notion is true on all fronts today. OK, OK, the top-of-the line Caddy V6 is no BMW turbo I6, and I’d prefer a 3-series so equipped to any available ATS if cost were no object.
I wasn’t hugely sold on the 2.0-liter turbo -- you have to keep it cooking to stay on the power, and even then it isn’t exactly symphonic. Such is the nature of these small powerplants; at least it isn’t trying too hard to assert itself with a canned bark like some high-strung German turbo-fours.
The V6 doesn’t sound much better, but I’d like to give that one a shot with a manual for it just for comparison purposes. Alas, that configuration is not an option.
Either way I like the car’s steering -- light where it needs to be, weighty where it needs to be, but always direct -- compares favorably to a 328i on the road, which would seem to me to be a good thing. (I suspect I ding the 328i unfairly because of the existence of the 335i, but few editors here seem to have trouble evaluating it objectively.)
Content-per-dollar-wise, the Cadillac is leagues ahead of the BMW. Ever experienced an “entry-level” BMW interior? It ain’t pretty, or pleasant to the touch, or worth the hefty price tag.
Set two brand-unconscious buyers in the BMW, then the Cadillac, and see which they pick at a given price; I suspect they’d go with the Caddy, CUE system and all. But buyers are brand-conscious, so Cadillac still has its work cut out for it. If it keeps building cars like this (maybe add that big rear-wheel drive sedan while they’re at it) instead of losing the plot on ever-more-pointless crossover variants, perceptions will change.
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