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Detroit show: Cadillac’s 3 Series fighter

Wholesale change: The rear-wheel-drive Cadillac ATS – built on an all-new lightweight vehicle architecture – will go on sale in the US in the third quarter of this year.

GM vows to change status quo of Euro-led compact luxury segment with Caddy ATS

9 Jan 2012

GENERAL Motors’ unveiling of the Cadillac ATS in Detroit this week signals its long-awaited assault on the lucrative high-volume small-medium prestige sports sedan market dominated by the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-class and Audi A4.

The rear-wheel-drive ATS – built on an all-new lightweight vehicle architecture – will go on sale in the US in the third quarter as a 2013 model before expanding into Europe, China and other key markets as a challenger to the “world’s best premium cars”.

It will not be sold here in the foreseeable future, although Australian designers, engineers and other executives are understood to have played a role in the vehicle’s development.

Former Holden chief and now GM North America president Mark Reuss told GoAuto in November that the new wave of Cadillac models, including the soon-to-be-released XTS large sedan, remained off the agenda for Australia, where GM Holden had planned to reintroduce the Cadillac brand before the global financial crisis hit.

Australian drivers should, however, gain access to the all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is debuting in the ATS and will slot into other models in the GM stable.

Preliminary specifications released in Detroit show the all-aluminium 16-valve DOHC 2.0-litre turbo engine, which also benefits from direct injection and continuously variable valve timing, will produce 201kW of power at 5300rpm and 353Nm of torque from 2400rpm.

163 center imageBookending the ATS powertrain line-up in the US will be an entry-level 149kW/255Nm 2.5-litre direct-injection VVT four-cylinder petrol engine and a 237kW/362Nm version of Holden’s 3.6-litre direct-injection V6.

A six-speed Hydra-Matic 6L45 torque-converter automatic with sequential-manual shift control is the standard transmission across the range, with a six-speed Tremec M3L TR3160 manual gearbox also offered on the 2.0-litre turbo.

Diesel engines are certain to be offered in Europe, but these – and right-hand-drive availability – are still to be confirmed. Ditto for acceleration and mileage figures on the petrol engine line-up announced today.

GM is pitching the ATS as an unequivocal driver’s car, pointing to its 1542kg kerb weight – claimed to be one of the lowest in the segment – and its dynamic performance, in addition to engine muscle, modern design and hi-tech cabin features that include the new CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system.

“Designed with quick, nimble and fun-to-drive dynamics, ATS expands Cadillac’s portfolio into a crucial global segment,” said Cadillac marketing vice-president Don Butler.

“More than just another new entry, the ATS aims to change the status quo of the European-dominated segment. That is why our approach in all elements of its development is so extensive and focused.”

The ATS features Cadillac’s first five-link independent rear suspension and, at the front end, a multi-link double-pivot set-up based on a MacPherson strut design. The front/rear weight balance is said to be 51/49.

Driver-adjustable FE3 sport suspension with Magnetic Ride Control and a mechanical limited-slip differential will be available, along with all-wheel drive.

Steering is via a ZF-sourced rack-mounted electric variable-assist system, with a 15.3.1 ratio on the FE3 (standard: 16.8) and, likewise, fewer turns from lock to lock on FE3 at 2.86 compared to 3.16.

A high-performance Brembo braking package with fixed callipers latching on to 321/315mm front/rear discs will also be available, beyond the standard set-up of four-wheel discs with sliding callipers and 300/315mm front/rear rotors.

The standard alloy wheels are 17-inch, rising to 18s for FE3-equipped models and with 19-inch rims also available as an option.

Run-flat tyres have been developed across the range, spanning 225/45-section front/rear in the 17s to 225/40 front and 255/35 rear in the 18s and, on the 19s, Z-rated 225/35 front and 255/30 rear rubber.

The ATS rests on a relatively long 2775mm wheelbase and measures 4643mm in overall length, 1805mm in width and 1421mm in height, with front/rear wheel tracks of 1512mm and 1548mm respectively.

By comparison, BMW’s forthcoming new-generation 3 Series will employ an even longer 2810mm wheelbase but is slightly shorter at 4624mm. The tale of the tape also shows the new 3 to be 1811mm wide and 1429mm high, with front/rear tracks of 1531/1572mm.

Keeping the weight of the Cadillac ATS down is an aluminium bonnet, magnesium engine mount brackets and natural-fibre door trim panels, while GM claims it achieved better fuel economy with a cast-iron differential rather than an aluminium version.

Eight airbags are fitted standard (another two can also be specified), along with the StabiliTrak traction and stability control system and ABS brakes.

Curiously, commonly seen safety features such as brake assist, hill-start assist and a rearview camera are options, along with adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot assist and adaptive headlights.

Drag-reducing design features include underbody shields and active grille shutters that close at highway speeds.

Unsurprisingly, the cockpit design focuses heavily on the driver, with highlights being well-considered switchgear and pedal placement, LED instrument lighting, heavily bolstered seats, keyless entry/start and a head-up display.

Bona fide wood, plated metal and carbon-fibre trim is also used.

The CUE system is accessed via an eight-inch touch-screen and includes Bluetooth phone connectivity with voice recognition, plus USB, auxiliary and SD memory card ports. A Bose stereo is standard.

The ATS will be produced for the US market in Lansing, Michigan.

As GoAuto has reported previously, a high-performance variant called the ATS-V is expected to be launched in 2014.

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