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Growing up in a world where big was frequently associated with better, the Cadillac, any Cadillac, was typically a stylishly large vehicle that was universally admired.

If you happened to own a “Caddy” or even were a passenger in one, it was a very cool thing. A division of General Motors, Cadillac was a luxury vehicle for many decades. Cadillacs were big, powerful, had great curb appeal, and also were known as huge gas hogs during a time when no one really cared because gas was relatively cheap.

Like many vehicles, once gas prices skyrocketed in the late 1970s, the Cadillac went into downsizing mode.

It’s a shame in some respect that the Cadillac is no longer universally admired. However, that doesn’t mean this GM division produces mediocre vehicles. I’ve always admired the look and performance of the Cadillac CTS and was pretty impressed in my recent introduction to the ATS.

Haven’t heard of the Cadillac ATS? That’s understandable, since its coming out party was this year. The ATS is an appealing looking, five-passenger, luxury compact sport sedan. From a selling standpoint, it appears that Cadillac is offering an alternative to the popular BMW 3 Series.

Offered in four trims (base, Luxury, Performance and Premium), the ATS has many desirable qualities. The front-wheel ATS provides considerable performance, offers a comfortable and confident ride, delivers acceptable gas mileage (21-33 mpg), and will turn heads with its elegant design.

The base model ($33,095) is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder with 202 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. If that’s not enough power, the two other engine options should solve that issue.

One can’t go wrong with either the turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder with 272 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, or the 3.6-liter, V6 that produces 321 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque. The latter accelerates from 0-60 mph in a swift 5.7 seconds, while the turbo model covers that same distance in 6.3 seconds.

In any engine configuration, the athletic ATS is fun to drive. The vehicle corners with great agility and the responsive braking helps give the driver an overriding feeling of confidence, even at high speeds. 

The ATS interior includes wood and carbon fiber material that definitely adds a touch of class. The driver and front-seat passenger will enjoy the better-than-average head and legroom.

That’s not the situation for anyone in the back seat, where the space is much more confining. The trunk area is also limited, offering just 10.2 cubic feet. But fold the 60/40 split-folding rear seat back and the storage space improves dramatically.

If zipping past the BMW 3 Series is the goal, the Cadillac ATS still has a ways to go. But for a first-year luxury vehicle, the ATS has a good starting point in the chase to catch BMW.

2013 Cadillac ATS

  • Performance2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 202 horsepower; turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 272 horsepower; 3.6-liter, V6, 321 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate range: 21-33 mpg
  • Price: $33,095 to $44,895
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain 6 years/70,000 miles; roadside assistance 6 years/70,000
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