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Cadillac: It's Hunting Season

The 2013 Cadillac ATS

The car once touted in its advertising as “the standard of the world” still thinks pretty highly of itself. Only now the competition isn’t cushy Lincoln Continentals and Chrysler Imperials. No, the new 2013 Cadillac ATS has one car in particular in its gunsights: the BMW 3 Series.

Check out a few specs. Both have:

• a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, direct-injected engine (a 2.5-liter non-turbo is standard on the ATS, but the ATS’s available 2.0-liter turbo has 32 more horsepower than the 328i);

• rear wheel-drive;

• and interior and exterior dimensions which are mostly within an inch of each other.

Then, there’s price. The ATS has a starting price of $33,990. The cheapest BMW 328i lists for $36,500. Adding the turbo to the ATS brings it up to $35,795. A difference of $195 for the comparably-equipped turbos is peanuts. So you have to start figuring in other things. Like value. Like reputation. Like what you like.

These days, the value and reputation parts of both lines are on a high. So if you’re shopping luxury sport sedans, what’s to like about the new Cadillac? Looks, they say, are subjective. Parked side-by-side, on this one I’m going with the ATS. BMWs have always been handsome cars, for the most part. Cadillacs have at best a spotty history in the styling department if you go back far enough. But the past 10 years or so they’ve plotted a new course, forgoing the flash of the old hump-backed Sevilles and chrome-laden Eldorados for the sophisticated look of the CTS, which has lent styling cues liberally to the rest of the lineup.

I stopped over at Keyser Cadillac last week to check out the new ATS, and was greeted in their new, under-construction showroom by Jack Taggart and Brad Fryling. No, they weren’t fighting over me, but with desks within an arm’s reach of the front door. you’d have to make an effort to miss them as you come in. This week’s subject was a Crystal Red Tintcoat 2.5-liter model, with a Jet Black interior. And again, I’m finding that the black interiors on many of the current crop of cars is just too black. The dash and door panels have something called “oil-rubbed Bronze Appearance Trim” which is near black. Cadillac offers other trims in wood grains, carbon fiber, and brushed aluminum which I think work much better.

The front seats, covered in leatherette, were very comfortable and shaped well to hold you firmly in place. This isn’t your grandfather’s Sedan de Ville. There are adjustments aplenty for the driver’s seat and steering wheel for just about anyone to find a comfortable driving position. With the seat set for my six-foot frame, I was still able to comfortably seat myself in the back (although the door opening isn’t exactly what I’d call generous). And (luckily) the sunroof doesn’t intrude on rear seat headroom.

If I were writing a Cadillac review 25 years ago, here I’d be going on about the 1987 Brougham d’Elegance’s multi-buttoned seating and adjustable rear-seat reading lamps (which, on the Fleetwood Seventy-Five limousine, were prefocused). The ATS’s brochure leads off with the fact that it was perfected at Germany’s Nürburgring, the famous high-speed driving complex. The ATS is more driver-focused than the old “standards of the world” used to be. Brembo brakes are available; standard is a four-wheel independent suspension, 17-inch aluminum wheels, a Bose Premium seven-speaker sound system with USB and card reader, push-button start, automatic climate control…need I go on? It’s a Cadillac, fer cryin’ out loud. Still with a long list of equipment. Trying, once again, to be the standard of the world.

More info at cadillac.com.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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