Skip to main content

The 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.5L Luxury: Finally a World Class Luxury Compact Sedan from GM

General Motors has attempted to enter the luxury compact segment in the past but with the 2013 Cadillac ATS, the General finally has a small luxury sedan that can truly hang with anything else sold in the segment in the USA.


The 2013 Cadillac ATS enters a brand lineup that has grown beautifully over the past few years with models like the XTS sedan, the SRX and the CTS lineup so this new small luxury sedan faced some big expectations. GM has introduced models in the compact segment in the past but vehicles like the Cimmaron but that car was little more than a leather clad, chromed out Chevy Cavalier which – not surprisingly – didn’t do all that well. After that, GM hasn’t made an attempt at the compact luxury sedan segment but with such strong competitors in so many luxury segments, it was time for Cadillac to offer up a great compact sedan to rival the BMW 3 Series…and the ATS is that car.

Typically, the vast majority of the test vehicles handed out by the automakers are heavily loaded and that makes sense as they want to put their best foot forward but my 2013 Cadillac ATS was powered by the base 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and that means that it is only available in the Standard and Luxury trimline. In other words, the ATS that I spent driving for a week was just one small step over being a pure base model but the level of comforts and quality in this low priced Caddy is a testament to just what a great car GM has with the new ATS. My ATS 2.5L Luxury model carried a base price of $37,590, the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) system for $1,295 and the $995 upcharge for the White Diamond Tricoat paint joining the Destination charge to bring the final price as tested to $40,775. That makes this particular ATS comfortably the least expensive car in the Cadillac lineup but that low price doesn’t require you to be without the expected luxury amenities.

The Exterior
Where past Cadillac compact sedans have fallen short in looking like a proper luxury car, the 2013 ATS 2.5L Luxury sports a similar exterior design to the rest of the Cadillac brand and that equates to one great looking car. The tall, thin headlights flow back into the fender lines with the help of LED trim above an HID projection setup that both looks great and provides great illumination for nighttime driving. There are no fog lights included in this package but the black filler panels in the lower fascia openings that flank the familiar, angular grille that presents a sporty, luxurious look with the help of some sort silver accents around black grille mesh.

ATS Front

The 2013 Cadillac ATS has a comparable (yet smaller) silhouette to that utilized on the successful CTS and XTS that features a long hood, a low greenhouse and a very short trunk lid area. This gives the ATS a very fast feel while the large greenhouse and short trunk maximizes headroom without killing cargo space in the trunk. 17 inch polished aluminum wheels with matching trim around the windows and along the door handles give the ATS a subtle luxury feel with the low stance and sharp angles of the sidelines give this Caddy compact sedan a very sporty look that fits into the modern luxury segment perfectly.

Out back, the 2013 Cadillac ATS features tall, LED taillights and a large V shaped LED third brake light surrounded by tons of sharp angles to a punctuated, aggressive feel. The only chrome out back is the trim piece that rests below the license plate and the single exhaust tip but the design of the taillights and the basic form of the ATS’ rump makes it very clear that this is a luxury sport sedan – even though it doesn’t have tons of chrome of the “V” logo.

ATS Rear

The best thing about the exterior design of the 2013 Cadillac ATS is that it looks so much like the other larger vehicles in the current Cadillac lineup. This car takes all of the aspects of the CTS that have made it so popular for so long and it fits them onto a smaller sedan with great looking results.

The Interior
My 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.5L Luxury model may be towards the lower end of the luxury spectrum in relation to what else is available from the Cadillac lineup but there is still a ton of content that makes this a great car to ride in and drive. My test car had was fitted with a plush “Light Platinum with Jet Black interior layout that includes plush leather off-white seats and matching trim on the door panels and dash with the rest of the interior finished in black for a very luxurious looking two tone interior. Finally some glossy wood trim on the dash and silver accents throughout the cabin finish off this interior well enough that it is tough to believe that this is almost a “base model”. This trimline wears the name Luxury and that is a very appropriate title even with the relatively low price.

ATS front seats

While the 2013 Cadillac ATS is a “compact” luxury sedan, the long roofline and large cabin provides plenty of interior space for those seated in the front and rear. The front seats offer a ton of adjustability with 8 way power control and headrests that adjust so that you can actually rest your head on them while driving without staring at the headliner. All of this adjustability means that the ATS can accommodate both very tall and very short drivers with gobs of leg, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder and head room up front. While the back seat is a bit tighter in the area of leg and knee space, there is enough room for a 6’3” passenger to sit comfortably without crushing the front passenger or driver against the dash. Mind you, I don’t think that a 6’3” rear rider would want to spend the entirety of a cross country trip back there with a driver or front passenger who is also 6 feet tall but this is a vehicle that can very comfortably seat four adult of average to above average height. Finally, even with enough space to seat four adults or two adults and three children, the ATS still has a nice sized trunk that will hold lots of cargo.

ATS rear seats

In terms of technology, the 2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury comes with a ton of content for a vehicle that is priced so low relative to the rest of the luxury segment and the centerpiece of the whole packed is the Cadillac User Experience infotainment system or CUE for short. CUE integrates the controls pretty much every function of the interior into the large, high mounted touch screen and a small collection of touch sensitive “buttons” in the center stack below the touch screen. The sound system, the navigation system, the integrated phone system, the climate control, the interior settings and the main Onstar menu are all accessed through the touch screen and as part of the CUE system, many features are accessible via voice controls. In those cases when you don’t want to bring up the proper control screen – such as quickly turning the radio down or adjusting the fan speed of the air conditioning system, the center stack has controls for both the stereo volume and most of the HVAC controls that are changed via touch which takes some getting used to but it really is a gorgeous system once you get the hang of everything. Finally, while the 2013 ATS Luxury doesn’t have a fancy customizable gauge cluster like some other Cadillac models, the three basic analog gauges are joined by a small information screen that will display navigation directions, vehicle speed, what is playing on the radio and a variety of other bits of information like temperature, compass direction, etc. Oh, there is also a spread of buttons on the steering wheel to activate the voice control systems, the sound system and the cruise control.

ATS dash

The 2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury is a compact sedan only in name with plenty of front and rear passenger space, an impressive amount of cargo space and a long list of standard amenities even though the Luxury trimline is just one step away from being a pure “base model”.

The Drive
My 2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury is powered by the base 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that delivers 202 horsepower and 191lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. This peppy 4-cylinder engine provides plenty of power to help the ATS cruise down the highway at speeds well above most posted speed limits but the smallest of the ATS engines is a bit soft in the area of acceleration from a stop. In other words, I couldn’t have hoped to win many drag races in the 2.5L-powered ATS…it wouldn’t even spin the tires on wet, smooth blacktop. However, this small engine packs plenty of power for the average driver so you won’t have a hard time merging into fast moving traffic – you’re just not going to blow away any sport sedans in the process. Fortunately, the ATS is also offered with a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder and a 3.6L V6 so those who demand more power can opt for one of the larger engines while those drivers who aren’t worried about smoking fast 0-60 times will find this base engine more than adequate. In the long run, this small engine offers enough power for the ATS to soar along the highway with enough gusto to step out of line and pass slower moving vehicles without any struggle.

ATS coerner

While the 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.5 Luxury isnt going to win many races for straight line acceleration, it does offer handling capabilities that make this compact luxury sedan tons of fun to drive while still offering an incredible smooth ride. The tightly sealed cabin allows for very little wind noise even when blasting down the highway at higher speeds while the suspension and chassis help to keep any of the noise that comes from the rough road surface out of the cabin. This car is very, very quiet when driving with the windows up and very smooth on almost every driving surface (unpaved roads excluded) but GM was able to achieve this quality of ride without killing the positive driver’s feel. Many luxury cars soften the suspension and do whatever they have to in order to prevent any noise or vibration from making from the road to the cabin but they do so at the expense of driving fun with suspension setups and chassis designs that make the drive very numb. On the other hand, the ATS gives the driver a great feel for the road while still providing the kind of ride quality that you would expect from a luxury brand that wants to take on the best in the world.

Spirited driving dynamics is a plus but let’s be honest – most people who buy a near base model 2013 Cadillac ATS will likely be as interested in fuel economy as they are cornering ability. The window sticker for my ATS test car told me to expect 22 miles per gallon in the city, 33 on the highway and 26 combined. In the real world, I found that I was getting closer to 20 miles per gallon around town but on a very long drive with mostly highway driving and no traffic or stops of any kind, I was able to average 34.2 miles per gallon. Also, over the course of that long day trip, I averaged 31.6mpg on one tank of gas while my overall average was right around 27mpg.

ats side

The 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.5 Luxury is a great car to drive whether you are cruising down the highway on a long road trip or cutting through the curves of a winding country road. The steering and pedals (both brake and throttle) allow the driver to get a great feel for what the car is doing on the road and most drivers will feel very connected to the car on the road where other luxury cars provide a very vague feel. The ATS provides similar feedback through the steering wheel and chassis to some sports cars so while being a comfortable car for a family of five; the ATS is also a fun car for dad (or mom) to drive every day.

The Final Word
The 2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury enters a segment that has historically been dominated by the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz. General Motors has attempted to break into the compact luxury sedan segment in the past but with the previous entry being little more than a plush Chevy Cavalier, that project had no place trying to compete with a vehicle like the BMW 3 Series. However, the new Cadillac ATS is everything that a luxury car needs to be in order to compete with the BMW 3 Series or the Audi A4 and it achieves this with a price just over $40,000 – making it one of the least expensive options in the luxury segment.

If you are into a great driving luxury sedan that has plenty of interior space, all of the luxury amenities that you really expect, the ability to get better than 30 miles per gallon on the highway and sharp exterior styling all for a price around $40,000, it is hard to look at any vehicle other than the new 2013 Cadillac ATS. This is a small luxury sedan that can and will compete with the best that Europe has to offer – further pushing the Cadillac brand towards the top of the luxury segment here in America. While those who want big power and tons of acceleration would be best to opt for one of the ATS sedans with either the 3.6L V6 or the turbocharged 4-cylinder, those who are more concerned about a comfortable ride in a true compact luxury sedan will love the new ATS.


Gilbert (not verified)    May 23, 2014 - 4:30PM

Not impressive fuel nubrems. The 3.6L has always been a gas hog. The BMW 3-Series sweeps in on fuel economy across the engine spectrum with larger engines; Cadillac has to resort to the small engine in the ATS to get BMW highway mileage nubrems. However, I do like the ATS and feel it is the will do what the first-generation CTS did for Cadillac. The ATS is the only Cadillac model worth owning today. I came away from the XTS feeling it was more a higher-end Buick than a Cadillac. The XTS would have made a better Buick Electra or LeSabre than a Cadillac. Oh well.