The 2014 Cadillac ATS is a red-blooded American sports sedan with a distinctly Cadillac look. It stands out in the crowd, its handling characteristics were developed on some of the world's toughest tracks, it offers powerful 4-cylinder and V6 engines, and includes Cadillac's exquisite CUE infotainment system. With rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), the ATS is going after the market that's been dominated by such gems as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Infiniti G (now Q for 2014) sedans. There's a new player in town, and it's a Cadillac. That's why we named the ATS one of the 10 Best Luxury Cars Under $40,000 for 2014.
You'll Like This Car If...
The Cadillac ATS is a first: an entry-luxury sports sedan with rear-wheel drive and great performance from an American manufacturer. If that appeals to you, head down to the local Cadillac store and give it a try.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Here's a reason not to at least give the 2014 ATS some consideration: It lacks a BMW emblem. It's the newest entrant in the field, and you may want one of the recognizable standards.
Introduced just last year, the Cadillac ATS has few changes for 2014: Intellibeam automatic high-beam control is added to a couple of packages, some models get a 110-volt outlet, a larger-diameter leather-wrapped steering wheel is included with paddle shifters, plus a few new colors and a new assortment of dealer-available accessories.
Driving the ATS
Three distinct personalities can be assigned to the 2014 Cadillac ATS, and each is determined by one of the three available ATS engines. At the practical level, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder...
... powerplant gets the job done with 202 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission, but isn't for the enthusiastic driver. At the high-performance end is the 3.6-liter V6 and its 321-horsepower contribution to autobahns and boulevard cruising. The V6 power makes the 6-speed automatic's job easy, but that's not the combination we'd recommend – even if you can afford it. For the enthusiast that lurks in many of us, we recommend the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder – with the 6-speed automatic if you must, but with the available 6-speed manual transmission if you want to give BMW's 328i sedan a run for pavement glory. The 272-horsepower 2.0-liter delivers determined acceleration and legitimate lightweight sports-sedan handling, aided in no small measure by the available FE3 suspension with "Magnetic Ride Control," a term that did not strike us in the least as an overstatement either on the road or at the track. We bet you've never driven an American production 4-door sedan that worked as sweet as this.
FIRST-CLASS HANDLING DYNAMICS This is the entire premise behind the ATS: Can an American manufacturer build a sports sedan that matches up to the best of the fabled European and ascending Japanese models? The answer is yes. The ATS is proof. That's why it exists. Point made.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINE If we could convince you of only one thing in this entire review, it would be to at least try out an ATS with the 2.0-liter engine. This is an easy-to-drive engine with class-leading power and class-comparable fuel economy.
2014 Cadillac ATS Details
Offering a well-finished assortment of real wood and supple leather and leatherette trims set off with plated-metal and carbon-fiber accents, the Cadillac ATS features a wraparound dash, driver-centric controls, LED gauges and subtle ambient lighting. While in no danger of putting Audi out of business, the ATS cabin is much more elegant than might be expected, which is a very good sign in a luxury-car interior. Front-seat legroom is adult-sized, but headroom can get cramped with the sunroof. In classic compact-sedan fashion, rear legroom can be described as iffy, but not excruciatingly so.
Boldly angular bodywork set off with Cadillac's signature LED-infused vertical lighting elements gives the ATS an aggressive edge. Posed curbside, the sedan shows a confident, well-planted stance. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels and optional 18-inch upgrades add even more visual intensity to the mix. It looks pretty snappy from any angle.
The standard equipment content on the 2014 Cadillac ATS expands as you move from the base (Standard) model up through the Luxury, Performance and Premium grades, but even the Standard ATS comes with a full range of attractions. Want the easy life? Power-assist everything, dual-zone automatic climate control, 7-speaker Bose audio and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity are all yours. Want peace of mind? Eight airbags and Front and Rear Automatic Braking that can prevent low-speed impacts are looking out for you. The magical Cadillac CUE infotainment interface and Bose Cabin Surround Sound system adorn higher-grade ATS versions, with navigation included as standard on Premium models.
As with the standard features, available extras for the ATS are somewhat trim-grade dependent. Beyond available all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission on the rear-drive 2.0-liter turbo model, key ATS upgrades include a comprehensive array of safety-oriented features, including Full-Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control, Adaptive Forward Lighting, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert and Brake Pre-Fill Automatic Collision Preparation.
Under the Hood
The 2014 Cadillac ATS offers three different engines, with the Standard trim models getting a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. The Turbo versions have the impressive 272-horsepower turbocharged four. The top-line models get a 321-horsepower V6. Except for the rear-drive ATS turbo that will be available with a 6-speed manual transmission, all other versions of the Cadillac ATS will come with a standard 6-speed automatic.
The 2014 Cadillac ATS has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2.5-liter Standard model starting at around $34,000. Opt for a fully-loaded V6 Premium variant with all-wheel drive and that figure can top-out at over $50,000, but you'll be checking off just about everything on the options list. If your budget insists that you keep your Caddy under $50K, that won't be a problem. When it comes to resale value, Kelley Blue Book expects the ATS to hold its own against Audi and Mercedes-Benz, but to do less well compared to the always-strong BMW 3 Series and various Japanese entrants from Infiniti, Lexus and Acura. To help make your smartest deal on a new Cadillac ATS and see what others in your area are paying, always check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price.