2018 Cadillac ATS Review


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2018 Cadillac ATS Overview

The Cadillac ATS entry-level compact sport sedan receives only minimal updating for 2018, as it nears the end of its first generation. Fast, stylish, and comfortably luxurious, the ATS made all the right moves when it roared out of the starting gate in 2013. Created as GM's answer to the compact upscale sport sedans coming out of Europe, the ATS mimicked the dimensions and light weight of the BMW 3 Series, and challenged it and similar European sport sedans on the track as well. Since then, GM has made year-to-year updates to the ATS, which continue for 2018, as it gets a number of minor tech, communication, and personalization features intended to help it keep pace as it faces off against newer, more capable competitors. Although its drawbacks remain, like its small trunk and tight rear-seat legroom, the ATS still delivers plenty of power, nimble handling, and a well-equipped cabin, and still receives positive reviews from buyers and critics alike.

The 2018 updates for the ATS include an all-new next-generation CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system, which debuted in the 2017 CTS mid-size sedan before showing up in the ATS. It features a revised user interface, which makes it more intuitive to use, and a new Summary View providing easy access to audio, climate, navigation, and phone applications, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition, it gives drivers and passengers the ability to create and customize personal accounts for individual operation, and to integrate their Apple Watches with the CUE system via the myCadillac mobile app for iOS. When integrated, owners can use their Apple Watches to locate the car in a crowded parking lot, start and stop it remotely, lock and unlock the doors, and operate the horn and lights.

Also new for 2018, Cadillac replaces the previous year's heated steering wheel with a new automatic heated steering wheel, which warms up depending on the ambient air in the cabin. The front heated seats get the same functionality. Finally, the automaker offers a new Satin Steel Metallic exterior color for 2018, while ending options like the Carbon Black and Black Sport Appearance packages.

Cadillac continues to offer the ATS at Base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Premium Performance trim levels for 2018, with a choice of two engines. Standard power for the Base and Luxury trims comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant, which delivers 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque available over a broad range, resulting in strong acceleration. The engine links to either a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control. An auto start/stop function ensures decent fuel economy, which checks in at 22 mpg city/31 highway/25 combined for the sedan's standard rear-wheel-drive (RWD), automatic transmission configuration. Optional all-wheel drive (AWD) reduces the numbers slightly, to 22/30/25.

The Premium Luxury and Premium Performance trims upgrade to a potent 3.6-liter V6, which boosts hp to 335, while torque drops to 285 lb-ft. It mates to the 8-speed automatic transmission only, with upgraded magnesium paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The V6 also features auto stop/start and Active Fuel Management, which keep fuel economy numbers at a still-respectable 20/30/24, with a similar slight drop when AWD is optioned.

All ATS trims except the top-level Premium Performance ride on a sport-tuned suspension, which provides agile handling and plenty of stability for aggressive driving maneuvers while ensuring a comfortable ride on straightaways and around town. Electronic variable-assist ZF steering, tuned for performance driving, comes standard on all trims, along with Brembo front brakes and GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system. As its name implies, the Premium Performance trim gets an upgraded adaptive performance suspension with Magnetic Ride Control, which continually makes adjustments to each individual wheel to ensure optimal ride and handling on all types of road surfaces. GM also includes a limited rear slip differential with the Premium Performance's suspension package, as well as a larger engine cooling system.

Outside, the 2018 ATS barely shows its age. It continues to stand out from the crowd, thanks to its bold exterior design, highlighted by a wide stance, aggressive lines, and the iconic Cadillac emblem and chrome-accented grille out front. Located directly behind the grille, active shutters automatically close at higher speeds to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics. Automatic headlights, daytime running lights, and heated power exterior mirrors come standard on all trims. The Premium Luxury and Premium Performance trims receive such additional features as HID headlights with adaptive forward lighting, illuminated door handles, and rain-sensing wipers. All ATS trims ride on 17-inch alloy wheels except the Premium Performance, which gets 18-inch wheels.

The ATS's five-passenger cabin continues to pamper its occupants with high-quality materials and comfortable seats, although some would like to see a sportier interior design. There's plenty of headroom throughout the cabin and legroom in the front, though taller passengers will find a tight fit in the second row. All trims except the Base include 60/40 split-and-fold rear seats with a center armrest and a pass-through to the trunk, while the Premium Luxury and Premium Performance trims get upgraded front sport seats with powered side bolsters. Cargo space in the trunk measures 10.4 cubic feet, which comes out on the short end when compared to the cargo capacities of 13 cubic feet offered by both the BMW 3-Series and the Audi A4.

All ATS trims come equipped with such standard features as push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and a 10-speaker Bose premium audio system. The Base also gets 6-way power-adjustable front seats with leatherette upholstery, while the other trims upgrade to 10-way power-adjustable heated front seats with memory settings, as well as leather upholstery and the automatic heated steering wheel. The new CUE system in all trims includes such features as an 8-inch touchscreen, three USB ports, wireless charging, and HD and satellite radio. In addition, all trims except the Base get navigation as part of the infotainment system. Other features in all trims include a 5.7-inch driver-information screen as part of the instrument cluster, while all except the Base include such additional standard features as remote start and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Premium Luxury and Premium Performance add sport aluminum pedals and a sunroof, while the top-line Premium Performance gets a powered tilt/telescopic steering wheel and a head-up display.

The Base and Luxury trims come equipped with eight airbags, while the top-end trims add two additional side airbags for second-row passengers. All trims except the Base get a front and rear parking assist feature, while the Premium Luxury and Premium Performance receive such additional safety features as forward collision alert, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. OnStar comes standard on all ATS trims. The NHTSA awarded the ATS a top-level 5-star safety rating.

ATS sales numbers have slipped a little as it nears the end of its first generation, but overall it has held up well. There are certainly areas for improvement, which will no doubt be addressed when the next generation arrives, but as it stands, the 2018 ATS still has a lot to offer discerning buyers who gravitate toward domestic luxury sedans.


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 California.

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