This is the American sport sedan that will take on the German luxury brands. Let battle begin.
Just a few days before Christmas, automakers began to shut down their operations for the holiday. However, Cadillac's new car test team was at the Nord Schleife, the famous picturesque track around the Nurburgring castle in western Germany. They brought with them a prototype ATS with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 270hp and a second ATS packed with a 3.6-liter V6 equipped with the second- generation Cadillac Magnetic Ride Control suspension.
Two weeks before the opening press day of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, the test run on the Nurburgring, the home track and development center of German luxury brands, further clarified a point that became even more evident before its Detroit premier: the ATS is going to beat the Germans at their own game. "The ATS marks the debut of this brand's new rear-wheel drive architecture that's been optimized for agile, quick and fun driving dynamics," said David Leone, global vehicle line exec at Cadillac, adding that this platform was fine-tuned on Germany's Nurburgring. "We spent countless hours behind the wheel of this vehicle perfecting the final execution."
Going fast round the Nurburgring requires a lightweight car combined with a potent engine and an able suspension system. And the ATS is committed to fulfill each of those requirements. When it goes on sale in the second half of 2012, it will be, according to Cadillac, the lightest car in its segment with curb weight of 3,400 pounds. It will also have a sophisticated suspension system that will be offered in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. The bottom line is that the ATS is based on a new platform that will hopefully give Cadillac a better shot at their German rivals.
Weight reduction was achieved through the use of an aluminum hood, magnesium engine mount brackets and even lightweight, natural-fiber door trim panels. "Low weight helps enable the ATS's driving experience, making it feel more nimble and controllable," said Dave Masch, ATS chief engineer. "Mass efficiency helps the car respond more immediately and precisely to driver input, and improves fuel efficiency." The ATS's exterior design betrays its segment origins: its shape is more angular than any comparable German car.
The grille is almost rectangular and the headlamps are modern but, unlike their competitors, are in a portrait position rather than a landscape one. The interior design also carries Cadillac hallmarks and it should be nothing less, since the ATS is still an all-American car, after all. The aluminum-intensive powertrains not only help to minimize overall weight, they are instrumental in favorable power-to-weight ratios that contribute to the ATS's willing feeling of performance. The 3.6-liter V6 is constructed of cylinder block and heads that are cast in aluminum.
A composite intake manifold saves approximately 5.5 pounds and an integrated cylinder head/exhaust manifold design saves approximately 13 pounds. The connecting rods are made of powdered metal with a higher ratio of copper, which makes them stronger and helps to reduce weight even more. The pistons are made of lightweight cast aluminum, which means there's less reciprocating mass in the engine for less inertia and greater operating efficiency. At first, the ATS will be offered with three engines. A 202hp 2.5-liter four a 270hp comes standard and there's another, but more advanced, 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo with more of a European flavor.
And finally there's the familiar 320hp 3.6-liter V6 as the more traditional American engine. The smallest engine, the 2.0-liter turbo, will be available with either a six-speed manual while a six-speed automatic transmission remains an option. The latter gearbox is standard for the 2.5 and 3.6 versions. What's clearly still missing is an optional diesel engine. Mark Reuss, GM North America president, has promised that a diesel will soon be available. And in a very short time, we'll know for sure whether Cadillac has done their homework properly and whether they can truly reestablish themselves as the standard of the world.