Posts Tagged ‘BMW 3-Series’


If you’re like me, you’ve read all the glowing reviews of the all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS, the entry level Caddy that was created to slay the mighty Germans, with the BMW 3-series directly in the engineers’ cross-hairs.

The first 2013 Cadillac ATS rolls off the assembly line. It was a great moment for GM's luxury division.

The first 2013 Cadillac ATS rolls off the assembly line. It was a great moment for GM’s luxury division.

I certainly was skeptical. After all, the Bavarian Motor Works has been honing its 3-Series for decades and it’s the de-facto benchmark by which all compact sports sedans must be compared. Cadillac’s engineers tore apart the 3er to see what makes it tick and then built the company’s all-new rear-drive Alpha platform to meet, match or exceed the standards of BMW.

The short answer is that Cadillac has succeeded in making a competitive, first-rate compact sports sedan. Is it a BMW? No, it’s not, but it’s a great freshman entry. It’s not quite carved from one block of granite and doesn’t convey the decades of engineering experience and crammed trophy cases that paved the way for the current (internal code) F30 BMW is built.

A BMW 328i sedan - the benchmark for all compact sports sedans and the target of the 2013 Cadillac ATS.

A BMW 328i sedan – the benchmark for all compact sports sedans and the target of the 2013 Cadillac ATS.

Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve owned at least one or more cars from all the German manufactures. Perhaps I’m predisposed to expect mediocre product from the Wreath and Crest division of General Motors. However, in the ultra-competitive luxury car market, brand image is vital and perception translates into sales reality.

GM’s luxury division is going to have to work magic to get BMW, Mercedes or Lexus owners to cross shop – particularly in a region like Southern California where a Caddy is joke punch line, not something you drive. Cadillac’s customers skew much older and attracting youth to the brand – youth that will appreciate the driving dynamics of the ATS and who will know how to use all the electronic gizmos – will be key to the future of the brand.

I’d like to get past the styling before we get to the actual driving experience. The ATS wears a conservative, toned-down version of Cadillac’s decade-old Art & Science theme. I like the way the vertical headlight array sweeps up the front fenders and the mini fins in back are a Cadillac hallmark. The rear center brake light is nicely integrated into the trunk lid. The whole package works well, but color choice is very important to the overall look.

2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury Sports Sedan

2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury Sports Sedan

Detail of the 2013 Cadillac ATS'  headlight module. Note how the vertical LED running lights sweep up and over the front wheel fender. A nice touch.

Detail of the 2013 Cadillac ATS’ headlight module. Note how the vertical LED running lights sweep up and over the front wheel fender. A nice touch.

The rear of the 2013 Cadillac ATS. You can still see vestiges of fins in the vertical taillights and the center brake light is nicely integrated into the trunk spoiler.

The rear of the 2013 Cadillac ATS. You can still see vestiges of fins in the vertical taillights and the center brake light is nicely integrated into the trunk spoiler.

The ATS’ Alpha chassis is text book sports sedan: Front engine, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel independent, multilink suspension, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and optional all-wheel drive. Like all modern cars, to save weight and engine drag, the ATS uses the latest-generation electric power steering unit from Germany’s ZF.

Cadillac offers three engine options: The base unit is a Chevy 2.5 L four-cylinder unit with direct injection making 202 hp. Next up is a 2.0L turbo four, also with direct injection, making 272 hp and the most potent engine (before the inevitable ATS-V makes its debut) is the familiar 3.6L direct injected V6 good for 321 hp.

The standard transmission on all trim levels is GM’s aging 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. You can get a 6-speed manual transmission only on the 2.0 turbo models. GM always seems late to the party on transmission. Its competitors have been using 7- and 8-speed automatics for a while now. However there is hope. The just-introduced 2014 Cadillac CTS, which also rides on the Alpha platform, will use an Aisin (aToyota affiliate) 8-speed automatic on some models with V6 engines. The 8-speed should migrate to the ATS in the next model year. Problem solved.

I drove the ATS 3.6 Luxury with a base MSRP $42,090 – much more than the standard ATS 2.5 that starts at $34,000. Aside from the V6, 6-speed automatic and an assortment of other goodies, it come standard with the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system (sans navigation). My tester had the optional $845 Driver Awareness Package and nothing else.

Morello Red leather with Jet Black accents is an optional interior on the ATS

Morello Red leather with Jet Black accents is an optional interior on the ATS

The ATS was a delight to drive. If this was around in the Roman times, Mercury wouldn’t have needed wings on his shoes. The 3.6 has plenty of power and a very broad torque range. It effortlessly flew up hills and down wide boulevards. This was a happy time for my right foot; just don’t watch the instant fuel economy readout.

The ATS felt light and nimble, even in “Luxury” trim wearing only standard 17 inch wheels and all-season tires. And I do mean light. The V6 ATS weighs around 3,400 – about 100 pounds less than the comparable BMW 335i. It’s also balanced nearly 50-50 front/rear, long a BMW bragging point. It easily tosses into turns and straightens out without feeling like the mass is still moving in the opposite direction.

A cutaway of the 2013 Cadillac ATS shows how weight was saved by using aluminum and high-tensile steel.

A cutaway of the 2013 Cadillac ATS shows how weight was saved by using aluminum and high-tensile steel.

Fortunately, the Cadillac doesn’t use run-flat tires like almost every BMW. Even on highway braille bumps and uneven surfaces, the chassis was calm, quiet and composed, facilitating a sporty but comfortable ride. It was a joy.

Steering is light, well balanced with commendable road feel. Much can be attributed to the ZF EPS unit, but Cadillac’s engineers really spent bundles of time and untold computing hours tuning the steering – and it shows. There was no drift, and it tracked laser straight and small movements yielded exacting results. I wished for slightly better on-center feel. That said, I wished for the same things when I drove 2012 BMW 328i and it’s the benchmark.

Cabin quality was on par with the competition, but not to the level of Audi. Materials felt rich, plastics were mostly soft to the touch (with a few glaring exceptions) and I liked the French stitching on the dash. Some switchgear felt cheap.

The cock pit of the 2013 Cadillac ATS sports sedan. This one has CUE, Cadillac User Experience, the brand's high-tech infotainment system.

The cock pit of the 2013 Cadillac ATS sports sedan. This one has CUE, Cadillac User Experience, the brand’s high-tech infotainment system.

For me, the cabin was a bit claustrophobic – I’m 6’1” tall, 180 pounds. While I fit in the seat, and I liked the electric adjustments, side bolsters and the manual thigh support extension, I just felt like the passenger and I were too close. There was an unconscious jousting of elbows for the slim center arm rest.

And with me in the driver’s seat, the back seat is good only for small adults or children. There was barely room for our two dachshunds. The BMW 3 seemed to have more space. Trunk space was on par with the others in this category. If your idea of weekend fun is Swedish meatballs and flat-packed furniture, buy an SUV.

Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system is frustrating and might be enough to kill the deal. I’ve driven many cars with more responsive touch screens. I believe Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system that mixes a more responsive touch-screen with old-school knobs and buttons is far superior. While CUE’s haptic feedback is nice, I always felt a hesitation when I punched a function on the slick 8 inch full color screen. It was slow enough to make me almost want to touch the control again. Like many others, I’m used to the instant response of an iPad screen and CUE feels like the design predates the iPad which is already on its third generation.

The capacitive sensing touch screen of CUE.

The capacitive sensing touch screen of CUE.

I also don’t like the lack of physical knobs for things like volume or climate control. While I’m sure you’d get used to sliding your finger over the slick center panel to raise or lower volume, I’m willing to bet users will elect to control that kind of stuff with the redundant hard buttons on the steering wheel.

The center dash touch panel of the 2013 Cadillac ATS has no knobs or physical buttons. Everything is touch sensitive. It's easier to turn the knob to turn the sound up or push it to turn the system off.

The center dash touch panel of the 2013 Cadillac ATS has no knobs or physical buttons. Everything is touch sensitive. It’s easier to turn the knob to turn the sound up or push it to turn the system off.

The very fact that the 2013 Cadillac ATS exists is a minor miracle and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for something different from the standard issue (in LA) BMW 328i, Audi A4 or Mercedes C250. But for me, it’s really the Almost There Sedan from Cadillac. It would only be attractive on a heavily-vented short-term lease. I have high hopes for the ATS, particularly when it matriculates to its 2nd generation. Maybe then, some of its freshman flaws will be exorcised and we can call it the All There Sedan.

[Editor's note: March 2013 sales were announced two days ago. Cadillac's March 2013 sales were up 55%. The ATS had its best month since launch, with 3,587 units sold - outselling the Audi A4/Allroad, but still a distance from the BMW 3-series with nearly 9,000 unit sales. Ward's Automotive reports that 70% of ATS sales were "conquest sales" from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.  Fifty percent of ATS sales were with the 2.0T engine, with the remaining half split evenly between the base 2.5L I4 and the 3.6L V6 engines. ]


I though it would be a good idea to aggregate the 2012 Super Bowl “Big Game” XLVI (46) commercials from the car companies. So far, there are a few clear winners.  Before “The Big Game,” these were the top three commercials that “went viral” ensuring a good return on investment:

  1. Acura NSX (a car that won’t be available for 2-3 years) – “Transactions” with Jerry Seinfield and Jay Leno
  2. VW Beetle Prequel – “The Bark Side” featuring an amazing chorus of dogs barking out the Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme Song) from Star Wars.  John Williams is probably laughing and cashing the check with earplugs firmly in place.
  3. Honda CR-V – “Matthew’s Day Off” in which Matthew Broderick reprises his immortal role from 1986′s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The all-new Toyota Camry is so important to Toyota’s recovery after a disastrous 2011 that it earns itself two excellent commercials.  “It’s Reinvented” is decidedly un-homophobic and refreshing while “Connections” tugs at the heart strings. Toyota wants to steal Chevy’s theme, “Chevy Runs Deep” and “Connections” is as close as it gets to remind Generations X and Y that they grew up with 7 million Camrys and it’s part of their DNA.

Volkswagen is back with two great ads for the 2012 Beetle (just don’t call it the “New Beetle”).  “The Dog Strikes Back” takes doggie aerobics to a new level with a tinge of Darth Vader while its prequel, “The Bark Side” needs a few seconds to warm up before you catch the tune.

I love the new Chevy Sonic “Stunt Action” spot not just for its amazing stunts but for its use of the  infectious anthem to youth, “We Are Young.”  It targets more than 70 million Generation Y/The Boomerang Generation/The Millennial Generation (~1982 – 2000) that automakers so desperately are courting.  The song sort of burst out from nowhere on the December 7, 2011 episode of Glee, as the song was used to end the episode in anthem form.  The YouTube clip has been viewed more than 4.6 million times.  Since GM/Chevrolet is a big sponsor of Glee, the tie in makes perfect sense. The Sonic commercial uses the original song from an album to be released on February 21, 2012 by the previously-obscure group, Fun.

Chrysler had to come up with a follow up to last year’s sensational “Born Of Fire” feel-good, edgy ode to the Motor City featuring hometown rap superstar Eminem.  That didn’t happen.

However I think “It’s Halftime In America,” (below) featuring Clint Eastwood, was a fitting tribute to the American auto industry and that it hit the right tone for a reborn Chrysler.  Here’s a portion of Mr. Eastwood’s narration:

This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.

I’m a big Eastwood fan – both his acting and directing – and I liked his gritty, aged voice that called for unity and moving forward.  In his simple, beautiful, powerful 2008 film Gran Torin, Mr. Eastwood played a retired Ford auto worker who felt out of place in his hometown, Detroit, once the center and symbol of America’s industrial worldwide dominance. He not only directed himself, but wrote the music for this tragic and touching story.

The haters are already filling the blogs with disdain and jeers; but I’m in the mood to be sentimental about the vital importance of a domestic auto industry with good, middle-class wages and benefits. It may not last, but I’ll hang on to that fantasy for a little bit longer.

Acura NSX: Transactions (Extended Version)


Audi: Vampire Party


BMW 3-Series: The Close Call


BMW 3-Series: The Big Grab


BMW 3- Series: The Perfect Seat


BMW 3-Series: The Entertainer



BMW 3-Series: The Twins


BMW 3-Series: The Score


Cadillac ATS: Green Hell


Chevrolet Corvette: Chevy Driving Academy – Man to Driver


Chevrolet: Half Suit – Rainn Wilson


Chevrolet Cruze: Long Day


Chevrolet Camaro: Happy Graduation


Chevrolet Silverado: 2012


Chevrolet Silverado: 2012 – Rainn Wilson Commentary


Chevrolet Sonic: Stunt Anthem (“We Are Young)


Chevrolet Sonic: Joy


Chevrolet Volt: Aliens 1 – Come on


Chevrolet Volt: Aliens 2 – Who told?


Chrysler: It’s Halftime in America (Clint Eastwood)


Fiat 500 Abarth: Seduction


Honda CR-V: Matthew’s Day Off (Extended Version)


Hyundai: All For One


Hyundai Genesis Coupe: High Power Business Tips – Gaining an Edge


Hyundai Veloster Turbo: Cheetah


Hyundai Genesis R-Spec: Faster Acting


Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec: Think Fast


Hyundai Elantra: Victory Lap


Kia Optima: A Dream Car. For Real Life. [Extended Version]


Lexus GS350: Beast


Mazda: Revolution


Suzuki Kizashi: Sled


Toyota Camry : It’s Reinvented


Toyota Camry Hybrid: Two Worlds


Toyota Camry: The Camry Effect: Connections


Volkswagen Beetle: The Dog Strikes Back


Volkswagen Beetle: The Bark Side (Teaser for The Dog Strikes Back)