Disclaimer: This is being reviewed by someone that a) has certified short-term memory loss, so I'm forgetting more as I go, and b) drives a Lotus 7 as a DD, so everything is seen through, I dunno, maybe a number 14 welding lens.
The other week, someone posted the Cadillac "Test Drive a Car and Get a $100 Gift Card" event. I looked it up, and entered my information to test drive a 2014 ATS 4 Performance 2.0T. I was sick that week, and I missed the call from the local dealership. I called back a few days ago, and said I'd try to make it there today.
I live about 2-3 miles from a Caddy dealership (Cole Valley, in Warren, Ohio), so it was pretty easy to get there. I debated on taking the Seven, as it's considered a 2012, but I knew it'd be a PITA for them to enter it into their form for the gift card, so I took the Subie.
Since I never called in and verified for 2:00, I had to wait a little bit when I got there around 2:15. Chris was talking to a customer, so I looked around. I didn't see any CTS-V wagons, sadly....
Once Chris finished with the customer, I told him I was there to test drive an ATS, as discussed over the phone. I was honest up front, and I told him I was not going to be buying a car any time soon, but I'd like to still drive it, and I'd post what I thought here. He was courteous and polite, and had no problem with me driving it anyway.
We went outside and got into a 2013 ATS 2.0T. While it wasn't one of their "Collection" trims, it was basically the same. I had discussed the differences while we were inside, and apparently "Performance" trim doesn't change the performance itself, everything is aesthetic, other than the "performance seats".
I looked around the car before getting in. For someone who is used to small cars (Lotus, Mini, Subaru), it was larger than I'm accustomed to. It has the oversized appearance the last few years has taken over each manufacturer. This model was white, which may have something to with it's not-particularly-sporty look. The rear is pointy, which is a little strange. The front has the large Cadillac grille, while the headlights remind me of the Nissan GT-R R35 Concept a little. Not a bad thing.
And then this... can't unsee:
Not sure what to think of the "boattail" back end.
Overall, it looks like a sedan. I am a little particular to my 07 Impreza, with the distinct wheel arch flares, and the "jet intake and wings" grill. Side by side, the Impreza seems much smaller, and a lot more performance-oriented. The Cadillac ATS looks far more of an executive car.
I'd put it at a 6/10 for appearance. Not a "look at me" car, but a perfect car for the businessman.
The ATS has the "quiet click" of quality doors. My Mini and my current Subaru both are "doorslammers", meaning the doors are pretty obvious when they're closed. The ATS felt and sounded more like my father's 2001 Honda Insight's aluminum lightweight doors—quiet and smooth.
The car was already running when I got in, and the dashboard caught my attention immediately. There's a LCD display under the gauges, which looks good, and the gauges themselves, while they traditional gauges, they have enough depth and appearance for me to have to look closely to make sure they weren't all part of a big LCD display.
Everything is laid out pretty well. The display is controlled from the steering wheel, and you can have the same information for your stereo on the display, as well as many other features. I didn't stop to go over everything it had, so I am not completely sure what everything is available there. I'm used to having the speedometer on the left and the tach on the right of the Subaru, so having the tach on the left and speedo in the middle took a mintue to get used to, but other than that, it was fine.
The seats were comfortable, but they weren't Recaros. I would like to try the "Performance" seats. Still, they were decent, and I was able to adjust to a comfortable position.
The trim has a quality appearance. No cheap plastic or Naugahyde feel, even though the model I was driving was leatherette, compared to the leather interior of the "Performance" trim. The console is sleak and modern, and resembles the Cadillac grille.
Overall, I would give the interior a 9/10. In my opinion, were I to purchase one, I would feel that I was getting what I was paying for, quality-wise.
Since it was an automatic (manual is a customer-picked feature on the Performance trim only, so there were none on the lot), I had to ask where the gear indicator was on the dash; it is on the right of the LCD. The transmition has a "Sport Mode", which was on, this obviously puts it in the "Tiptronic"-style push-pull "shifter" mode. I was comfortably surprised at the response of the push-pull mode. The responses were quick, and I didn't have to fight with it on which gear I wanted to be in. I have driven a Mini Cooper with their version of the "flappy paddle/Tiptronic" automatic, and it was slow at the gear changes, and it had to go through sub-committee before it decided weither or not I deserved the gear I was trying to get into. Not so for the Cadillac. It felt like a true sequential, sharp and crisp, unobtrusive. The only time I noticed it changing the gears was when I stopped at one point, and forgot to downshift from third to first. I looked down at the indicator, and it was in first.
The suspension was far smoother than the Seven, or the Subaru (which is riding on aftermarket springs and struts). It handled the bumps and potholes smoothly, without wallowing. Steering was precise, and it went where I pointed, but personally, I prefer the visceral feel of non-power steering, so it was a lot softer than I am used to. Still, I didn't have to check for fillings when I got back to the dealership.
When he started the engine, it sounded... small. To me, it sounded like maybe an early 2000's Kia should sound. No deep burble, no WRX noise... Just a "small car" sound. However... Once I got to the on-ramp to get on the freeway, it moved. I was doing 60-something in third gear, with plenty of RPMs to go, and I wasn't really pushing it. I was paying attention more to traffic than performance, so when we took the back roads for the drive back, I stopped, waited for traffic to clear, and stomped it, using the "Tiptronic" setting. Acceleration was quick, shift changes were fast, and it kept me in the seat. Without having the two side-by-side to compare, I would consider it moderately quicker than my non-turbo Impreza. The turbo is pretty small, maybe 14G-size, but that means immediate response with no turbo lag. I was surprised at the quickness of the 2-liter moving a 3500lb-range vehicle. It definately did not feel as large as it is.
Overall vehicle performance, I would give it a solid 8/10. It's no supercar, but it has a feel of power in a field of bland. While I did not get anywhere near as much time driving it as I'd prefer (It'd be nice to drive it for a day before reviewing, but that's not what I was there for), it felt more powerful than my Subaru, although I wouldn't put it up against the Seven.
You can barely see the turbo:
Aww! It's a baby turbo! The wastegate actuator dwarfs it:
Does It Baby?
The ATS has a decent amount of room for a medium sized sedan. I did not get a chance to bring my two kids; I wanted to put their seats in it and find out how they fit, but it was not in the cards. Just from looking, however, I would say I would be able to fit both of them with plenty of room. When I drive my Subaru with everyone in it, I have to have my daughter behind me, and she has to put her feet by the console because there is not enough room between my seat and hers. In the ATS, the extra few inches should be enough for her to sit normally, and I would still be able to retain my comfort zone in the driver's seat. Ayrton's baby seat would be of no problem.
ATS (note, I was seated further back than I normally would; I didn't spend much time adjusting the seat):
The trunk is spacious, although I don't know if the wheel arches are larger than the ones in my Subaru, or if it is just a optical illusion from the deeper space in the back of the trunk.
I still think the arches are a little bigger than the Subaru's.
A lot of this is going by asumptions. I only had maybe half an hour to go over it and drive it before I was finished. I needed to do some shopping and get back to the house, so I couldn't do a longer drive and really go over everything. However, from what I saw, this was an above-average sedan. Again, I would see this as a businessman's car. Comfortable, spacious, well-handling, while retaining a sporty feel.
I would give it an overall of 7.5/10, maybe an 8/10. Maybe Car & Driver would give it higher ratings, I'm going by what I think. I do understand that I am going across "genres" as it were, I'm more of a racing-pedigree oriented person, where this is smack in the middle of the luxury group; it is somewhat like a symphony critic reviewing a Nine Inch Nails concert...
Chris Cole was polite, answered any questions, and was still courteous in spite of knowing that I was not going to buy a car. I've been to other dealerships in the past, BMW, Porsche, and given the cold shoulder since they knew I wasn't buying anything, but this was a nice change. I would recommend Cole Valley Cadillac if someone were interested in that market. I'd also recommend test driving a Cadillac, even if just for the $100. It was fun doing something I'd never do normally.
Chris Cole, Internet Sales Manager
The Cadillac Offer: