For Better and Worse

Without a doubt, the ATS feels a lot like the recently redesigned 3 Series sedan, with comparable attributes inside as well. The backseat has almost a half-inch more legroom than the 3 Series, but it's snug, and my legs were raised more than I would like. Mostly I noticed the 1.7 inches less headroom, which made it just workable for me at 6 feet tall. The long front-seat travel, however, provided legroom for people taller than me.

The cabin is well-appointed, with high-quality materials like aluminum, wood and carbon fiber. The optional Cadillac User Experience system with its advanced touch-screen is sure to appeal to people wary of multifunction controller knobs, but I don't think history will be kind to the touch-sensitive "capacitive" non-buttons the industry is adopting. I know I won't be.

Overall, Cadillac seems to have done a good job squaring up against BMW, for better and for worse. For example, you can get an advanced head-up display ... and you can also pay extra for items like leather upholstery and a folding backseat. That's definitely meeting the competition on its own turf.

BMW's compact-luxury king has been "gone after," "gunned for" and "taken on" more than any model in the market, and still his highness remains on the throne, his anteroom littered with bones. We'll need more time with the ATS to know whether it's merely a pretender to the throne. So far it looks as close as any challenger to date.

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