Light weight, power-dense engines

Cadillac XTS / Reviews / 2013 Cadillac ATS Review / Light weight, power-dense engines

There are many reasons for the ATSs impressive driving dynamics, though it begins with light weight. Cadillac has boasted since the cars reveal six months ago that at 3,315 lbs its the lightest vehicle in its class. Hardly an apples-to-apples comparison, that base curb weight for the ATS is for an entry-level 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, a model well below what any of the German competition would even consider offering. A fair matchup comes with the Cadillacs mid-range 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine, and surprisingly the Cadillac retains the title, weighing 3,403 lbs or less with the automatic transmission.

If Cadillac had a base engine ATS with its 202 hp and 7.5 second 0-60 time on hand, we didnt see it, and only the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and brawny 3.6L V6 were on track duty.

Here, each impresses in its own unique way, the 2.0T equipped with a manual transmission is more a precision tool and the 321 hp 3.6L V6 mated to a six-speed automatic (sadly the only way it comes), an equally dynamic performer but more of a blunt instrument by nature of its muscular engine and stab-the-throttle automatic. To be fair, however, the 6-speed auto-box shifts quite fast with the paddles, though its best left to its own devices with the car switched into sport mode, it eagerly gearing down under long braking to prepare the car for the next straight.

And the sound! We didnt know GMs V6 could sound this great, though the downside being it emphasizes just how little character the exhaust note of the turbocharged engine has.

On the track theres simply no replacement for changing gears yourself, however, and while the six-speed stick is smooth and quick, it also requires a more methodical operation, completing a heel-toe in steps, rather than one fluid action.

The ability to ride the top of a gear as the tires dance on the edge of friction is blissful and the ATSs near 50/50 weight distribution (as close as 50.1/49.9 on this particular model) makes it an easy task to achieve and sustain.

Remarkably similar to the 2.0-liter powertrain in the new BMW 328i, it makes 32 hp more for a total of 272 hp at 5500 rpm. Full torque arrives slightly later at 1700 rpm, but the 260 lb-ft of it is steady to that max power rating meaning its always supplying the exact amount of torque, delivering a consistency to the driving feel that we thought only BMW could offer.

Steering is precise and responds immediately to inputs. While the many turns on this short 1.8 mile track test its abilities to act quickly, an extensively long sweeping section on the back side showcases its subtleties, with no change in steering input resulting in a perfect arc if youre brave enough to stay on the throttle.

Helping to eliminate dive under braking or even smooth out your highway drive is Cadillacs latest generation Magnetic ride system, which comes equipped on the top level Premium package. (Trim levels include: Standard, Luxury, Performance and Premium). At a speed of 60 mph it can read the road every inch and fully react in the space of just 5-inches.

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