There’s plenty to like, even love, about the Cadillac ATS. But to come up with a list of dislikes took some thought; if we’re being completely honest with each other, however, the five listed features below are definitely blemishes to an otherwise amazing vehicle.
After a combined three weeks with the Cadillac User Experience system, we can honestly say that it’s not that great. You’ve probably read elsewhere that it’s slow and constantly demands your eyes on the screen (rather than the road) to be sure the proper command was implemented. All of that is true, and more. We’ll have a full review exclusively on CUE coming soon, so we don’t want to spend any more time here spoiling it for you.
2. No Manual Currently Offerred In V6/AWD Models
GM trolls hard sometimes. A perfect example is giving the Cadillac ATS an optional 321 horsepower 3.6L LFX V6 engine, and mating it exclusively to a six-speed slushbox. Yet the much cheaper Chevrolet Camaro V6 etches out a marginally higher 323 horsepower from the same engine and receives a manual transmission, standard. Want a manual transmission in the ATS? You’ll have to settle for the mid-range, 272-horse 2.0T model with rear-wheel-drive… and that’s it. Then there’s the lack of a stick shift for the all-wheel-drive variants. If you want a manual all-wheel-drive sport luxury sedan, you’ll have to visit the Audi dealership.
3. Underdog Automatic Transmissions
The Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series both offer eight-speed automatic transmissions, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class cradles a seven-speed. Meanwhile, the compact Cadillac underwhelms with a six-speed automatic gearbox. While it’s smooth, and shifting is relatively quick, the ATS falls behind in fuel economy because of this. We know that the ATS is still very young in its product life cycle, but a transmission upgrade needs to happen as soon as possible… be it in the form of an eight-speed auto, a seven-speed manual, or even some sort of fast-shifting dual-clutch unit. An “eco” mode or perhaps even start/stop technology could be factored in here to give the ATS a fuel mileage edge, as well.
4. Exhaust Note
At least with the turbocharged 2.0L engine, the exhaust note in the Cadillac ATS sounds like it’s wailing in pain, rather than yelling a war cry, at high RPMs. While the bellowing drone below 3,000 RPM sounds alright, it’s hard to get over the sound at or near the rev limit, especially during spirited driving… which happened a lot. Hopefully an exhaust tune can fix this.
5. Subdued Looks
We can’t help but look at the Cadillac ATS’ rear fascia and feel that it’s a carbon copy of the first-generation Cadillac CTS. What’s more, the sharp headlamps seem to contrast the otherwise rounded edges of the ATS’ design up front. And there’s still too much chrome. We understand that the brand is looking to appeal more universally to consumers, but well-behaved designs rarely make history. Or something like that. It’s a good thing the ATS redeems itself with alluring nighttime lighting, and it’s lucky that the rest of the competition isn’t currently all that good-looking to begin with.