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2014 Cadillac ATS Overview
The 2014 Cadillac ATS compact luxury sport sedan rolls into its second year in production with a number of minor updates, including available Intellibeam automatic headlights, a new available leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and new Phantom Gray Metallic, Mocha Steel Metallic, Majestic Plum Metallic and Red Obsession Tintcoat exterior colors. In addition, the ATS gets a redesigned frameless interior rear-view mirror, a variety of new available wheels, a new available sport grille and several new optional packages, giving buyers a choice of brushed aluminum, dark olive ash, natural Sapele wood or red-accented carbon-fiber interior trim.
The ATS has received quite a bit of acclaim since it launched in 2013 as Cadillac's answer to lightweight, compact luxury-oriented competitors like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. It was named the North American Car of the Year upon its debut and was also named Car of the Year for 2013 by Esquire Magazine. In addition, the ATS was named a Top Safety Pick in 2013 by the IIHS.
Early reviewers and owners were highly impressed with the ATS's agility and overall handling, due in part to its cutting-edge platform and suspension. Rather than borrow a platform from larger, heavier vehicles like the CTS, General Motors designed an entirely new lightweight platform, called the Alpha, which saw its first use on the ATS. GM plans to migrate the new platform to other vehicles like the CTS and the Chevy Camaro in the coming years. The Alpha has an ideal 50/50 front-to-rear weight balance and serves as both a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and an all-wheel-drive (AWD) platform, ensuring good handling and versatility for Cadillac's newest, lightest vehicle.
For the first time on one of its vehicles, Cadillac equips the ATS with a 5-link independent rear suspension featuring components made from lightweight high-strength steel, which keeps the weight down while providing a solid, capable feel. Up front, the ATS comes equipped with a multi-link MacPherson setup with a direct-acting stabilizer bar. An available limited-slip differential provides sport-oriented handling, while optional Magnetic Ride Control uses unique shocks with magneto-rheological technology, as opposed to mechanical valves, to adjust damping in milliseconds, improving stability and smoothing out road surfaces.
Three different engines power the 2014 ATS, which comes in entry-level 2.5L trims at Standard and Luxury levels, mid-range 2.0T trims at Standard, Luxury, Performance and Premium levels, and performance-oriented 3.6L trims at Performance and Premium levels. The 2.5L trims come only with RWD, while the 2.0T and 3.6L trims are available with either RWD or AWD.
A base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine powers the 2.5L trims. Featuring direct injection and variable valve timing, it generates 202 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque peaking at 4,400 rpm. Fuel-economy numbers for the entry-level engine check in at 22 mpg city/33 highway. Stepping up a notch in power, the 2.0T trims receive a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which made its debut with the ATS in 2013. Also featuring direct injection and variable valve timing, the 2.0T powerplant includes a twin-scroll turbocharger, which provides up to 20 pounds of boost for quick acceleration and passing maneuvers, with negligible turbo lag. Horsepower jumps to 272 and torque increases to 260 lb-ft. Fuel economy numbers check in at 21/31 for RWD trims and 20/30 for AWD trims.
At the top of the heap, the 3.6L trims continue to receive a 3.6-liter V6, which pumps out 321 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque. It posts fuel economy numbers of 18/28 for RWD trims and 18/26 for AWD trims. All engines mate to a HydraMatic 6-speed automatic transmission with a tap-shift manual mode, which comes standard, although owners of 2.0T RWD trims can opt for a 6-speed short-throw manual shifter. Magnesium steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard on 3.6L Performance and Premium trims and available on 2.0T Performance and Luxury trims. Trims with paddle shifters get the new leather-wrapped sport steering wheel for 2014.
The ATS sits on a 109.3-inch wheelbase and weighs in at 3,315 pounds. That compares to a wheelbase of 111.7 inches and a weight of 4,006 pounds for the Cadillac XTS sedan, and 113.4 inches and 3,860 pounds for the CTS Sport Sedan. Noticeably smaller than its siblings, the ATS still displays a dynamic exterior design that makes it stand out in a crowd, thanks to its wide stance, aggressive lines and distinctive Cadillac grille, emblem and crisp styling. Daytime running lights, heated power exterior mirrors and an LED rear center brakelight come standard on all trims. Standard and Luxury trims get halogen headlights, while Performance and Premium trims receive HID headlights. All 2.0T and 3.6L trims get active grille shutters, which open and close automatically to improve aerodynamics and airflow to the engine. Performance and Premium trims also get Rainsense automatic wipers, heated auto-dimming exterior side mirrors and dual exhaust tips. All trims ride on 17-inch painted or polished aluminum wheels, with a variety of optional 17- and 18-inch wheels available.
Inside, the 5-passenger ATS features a driver-focused cabin with flowing lines from the dash to the doors and from the center stack to the console. The front seats are comfortable, with plenty of headroom and legroom, while the backseats and trunk are limited in space. However, high-quality materials and good overall fit make the cabin a comfortable place to spend some time, though overall the interior styling comes off a little too sedate for such a sporty-looking car, some reviewers say.
Cadillac equips the ATS with a long list of standard features, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, dual-zone automatic climate control and remote keyless entry. The Standard trim also includes leatherette upholstery, 6-way power-adjustable front seats and a 7-speaker Bose audio system with a 4.2-inch color display, dual USB ports, Bluetooth and SiriusXM satellite radio. Luxury trims gets 8-way power-adjustable front seats, while the Performance and Premium receive 12-way power driver's seats and 10-way power passenger seats.
Luxury, Performance and Premium trims upgrade to leather upholstery and memory settings for the driver, and replace the 4.2-inch color display with the automaker's CUE connectivity system, which includes an 8-inch display with swipe and haptic feedback features. Occupying a center position on the dash, it resembles an on-board iPad and provides access to the audio, climate, OnStar, phone and navigation systems, as well as to HD radio, music streaming and mobile apps. The CUE system with navigation comes standard on Performance and Premium trims, while new packages for 2014 add a variety of available wood and carbon-fiber interior trims.
Eight airbags, including knee and side-impact airbags, are standard on the ATS, along with the StabiliTrak electronic stability control, traction control and 4-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist. All ATS trims except the Standard get front Brembo performance brakes, as well as a rear-view camera, which integrates with the CUE system. In addition, the standard OnStar system includes such safety services as automatic crash response, stolen vehicle assistance and roadside assistance. Performance and Premium trims also include forward collision alert and lane-departure warning systems.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.