Handling

The ATS' handling is the car's claim to potential fame. Several Cadillac models have been introduced since the 2003 CTS sedan set the company's new tone for world-class athleticism, yet none has come close Ч until now. With its balanced weight distribution, light weight (hardly a GM strong suit) and meticulously tuned suspension, the car has great reflexes both on the road and on the track.

I took a few blistering laps in a 2.0L manual and a 3.6L automatic at Atlanta Motorsports Park, the latest entry in our country's growing members-only racetrack phenomenon. The Bridgestone summer tires were fantastic and very well-matched to the cars, both of which had the MRC suspension.

Robbing the ATS 2.0L Turbo of its composure was like trying to get a reaction out of a Buckingham Palace guard. I kept adding more and more speed through the hairpins, trying to unsettle it, with limited success. Only with the added power of the V-6 was I able to induce some under- and oversteer. Were it not for the electronic stability system's Competition mode Ч a provision only of the MRC suspension that allows more sliding Ч the dynamics would have been so good as to be boring.

The V-6 immediately felt more nose heavy to me than the four-cylinder cars. Cadillac says it shifts the weight distribution forward to 51.5/48.5 percent front/rear versus 50.1/49.9 with the 2.0L manual. That might not seem like much, but it was my first impression both on the track and on the road.

The electric power steering is precise and well-tuned Ч not the best feedback I've experienced, but certainly not the worst. The brakes were similar Ч not the best feedback and pedal feel, but fine controllability, very linear on application and decent on release, both with the standard and Brembo brakes.

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