CADILLAC ATS ••• LEXUS ES350
By Kelly Foss, MyCarData.com
Starting price: about $33,900
Cadillac continues to expand its product line and reveal to the public what the brand is evolving into. In quick succession, Caddy has introduced a larger front wheel drive luxo-cruiser, the XTS, and a compact rear wheel drive sport sedan, the ATS.
According to Cadillac, the new ATS is aimed directly at competing vehicles like the Mercedes C Class and the BMW 3 Series, both perennial favorite premium compact sedans. Clearly, Cadillac is serious about producing a genuine competitor in this tough class and the ATS is that vehicle.
The styling is stunning. The simple lines are skillfully crafted to position the ATS as possibly the best looking Cadillac yet.
The body structure of the ATS is both lightweight and rigid. This provides excellent ride and handling characteristics. The ATS attains a near 50/50 weight balance meaning the car is neither nose nor tail heavy, thereby enhancing the car’s handling capabilities.
The ATS also boasts the first-ever 5 link suspension setup in a Cadillac. Add to that the optional driver adjustable FE3 Sport Suspension and you’ve got a vehicle with outstanding driving dynamics. The centerpiece to this advanced suspension is Cadillac’s MRC or Magnetic Ride Control. This magical technology uses electronically controlled shock absorbers fill with iron particles in a fluid that are controlled by magnetics. This Formula 1 technology allows both outstanding handling characteristics and an accommodating ride.
Another indication of Cadillac’s seriousness about the ATS’ sporting creds is the 4 channel Brembo braking system on the vehicle. Clearly the ATS is designed as a world car. Many countries have higher speed limits and therefore the need for more braking power than we typically do in the USA. The underbody aerodynamic shields designed to manage air flow are further evidence of the autobahn readiness of the car.
The ATS’ variable effort power steering is one of those technologies that is easier than ever to deploy because of the integration of electronics into vehicles. This feature allows very light steering effort around town at low speeds which is highly desirable in busy traffic and parking lots. As the car speeds up, steering effort is increased as the driving focus shifts to straight-line cruising with a solid on-center feel.
Power for the ATS comes in the form of a totally new standard 2.5 liter inline 4 cylinder engine delivering 202 horsepower, replacing the EcoTech 2.4. Optional engines include a turbo 2.0 inline 4 cylinder with 272 horsepower and the top of the line 3.6 V6 with 321 horsepower.
Though the 6 speed automatic transmission will be the most popular, a manual is also available. The all-wheel drive option will be appreciated by those who live in snowy climates.
Clearly Cadillac has expended enormous resources to develop a vehicle that is designed from the ground up to be a serious compact sports sedan. Good for them.
The sixth generation of the very successful Lexus ES350 sedan is about to be launched. The ES model is a midsize near-luxury car with a V6 engine and front wheel drive. It is roomy and comfortable and totally redesigned as a 2013 model.
Historically, the ES has been the best- selling car in the Lexus lineup. It started in 1989 as the entry Lexus model. It was about the same size as its Toyota counterpart but has luxury or at least premium features and accoutrements. Now five generations later, the ES continues its popularity and winning ways.
The new model offers some significant changes. The biggest is the addition of a hybrid model the ES300h. Hybrids have come a long way in recent years. Originally they were vehicles that accentuated their unique “hybridness” with special dial and gauges informing the driver of all the complex activities that were taking place under the hood.
To that end, the astonishing thing about the new ES hybrid is that unless they were told, most people would not even realize that they were in a hybrid car. For Lexus, that is a big win. The engineers have tweaked the drivetrain to the point that the car delivers seamless power, confidently and quietly without drawing attention to itself.
The new CVT transmission now bridles the engine so that the previous engine rpm spikes that took place when the gas pedal was floored are not gone. There is a more direct connection between these two major components and the transmission now fully converts the torque of the engine into acceleration rather than uncontrolled revving. It’s a major step forward.
Yet Lexus has opted to use their ultra reliable nickel-metal hydride hybrid systems as opposed to the more advanced lithium ion technology used in their plug-in hybrid units.
The nickel battery system is much more cost-effective than the lithium system. It manages to deliver an EPA economy rating of 40 mpg city and 39 mpg combined compared with the ES350 V6 gas model ratings of 21 and 24 mpg respectively. The V6 gas engine numbers are competitive in this segment but the hybrid numbers are astoundingly high for a vehicle of this class.
The new ES is styled to look remarkably similar to the current LS model from certain angles. Additionally, the vehicle is slightly larger with significant gains in the rear seating area. The interior is redesigned with a totally different styling theme. Because of the more rigid body structure, vehicle control is improved and the ride, though not choppy, does feel more controlled.
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