February 12, 2013

Cadillac is Back


2013 ATS luxury sport sedan aims high and hits a bull’s-eye

BY ANDREW McCREDIE

Hard to believe it’s been a half-century since Cadillac was the gold standard for car design. For a couple of decades following the Second World War, the General Motors luxury division was far and away the global design leader, introducing such revolutionary concepts as tail fins – inspired by the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft – and Dagmar bumpers – artillery shell-shaped bumper guards – that would become part of the design language of the automobile in the mid-20th century.

But then, as the saying goes, the wheels came off Cadillac for a few decades, with complacency and uninspired design damaging the brand’s once stellar reputation. So highly regarded, “Cadillac” the word became part of the English language lexicon, an adjective used to describe the very best of something. As in, “the Cadillac of refrigerators/steak knives/golf clubs.”

“The four-door, five-passenger rear-wheel drive ATS is everything and more Cadillac set out to produce.”

It’s taken a while, but Cadillac has clambered its way back to design excellence in the form of the 2013 Cadillac ATS, a luxury sport sedan built from the ground up to take on the best such vehicles in that class from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. In particular, the BMW 3 Series was used as a benchmark. Skeptics scoffed at the prospect of GM designers and engineers being able to pull off such a feat – after all, they’d many times stated that as their goal in the past 20 years only to achieve woefully disappointing, often embarrassing, results.

Not this time.

The four-door, five-passenger rear-wheel drive ATS is everything and more Cadillac set out to produce. Its exterior and interior designs are, if not class-leading, in the lead pack; its performance and handling leave much of the German competition in the rearview mirror; and its price is thousands, if not tens of thousands, less than its competitors. And its trophy case is quickly filling up. In October it was named Best New Luxury Car by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and is up for Canadian Car of the Year honours, and at last month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, it took the prestigious award as 2013 Car of the Year. And not a tailfin or Dagmar bumper in sight.

Andrew McCredie is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and writes for The Vancouver Sun Driving and Travel sections.

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