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2013 ATS 2.5 -- Review


dwightlooi

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OK, the Jaguar XF 5.0 Supercharged got into an accident and I got an ATS 2.5 from Hertz as a loaner until it gets fixed. Here's my impression after a couple of days with it.

THE GOOD

  • Cabin appointments are better than the SRX or the Gen II CTS. Tight, nice textures, sharp (HD) displays, very good seat comfort and even the base car's BOSE stereo is very decent. And, for the first time they are not cutting corners and under tucked that headliner between it's edge and the screen! The aluminum trim with brushed, bead blasted and polished textures all on the same piece is as nice as they come. The overall perceived interior quality and posh is better than the F30 3-series.
  • Extremely good posture and handling; excellent suspension tuning and very solid chassis. This chassis is phenomenal (even compared to very decent cars like the Gen II CTS). It is a small car and it feels even smaller around the corner without feeling harsh. Between an A4, a C-class and the 3-series, this is the best handling car. Not punishing around town, confident at 8/10ths, completely unflustered with the tail stepping out and the front tires in counter steer (uh... don't tell Hertz that).
  • It's a very good looking car in Radiant Silver Metallic and I suspect it'll be even better in Silver Coast Metallic or White Diamond Tricoat. The car is stunningly handsome in person, especially in front and over the front quarters. The rear is clean and nice enough albeit not immediately making a huge impression. Sides are clean enough. The chrome accents work very well and compliments silvery and white paint very well, but I suspect won't be as matching with dark colors.
  • Doors close with solidity, trunk is properly lined, save for the navigation system, the base car is not basic at all -- unlike bimmers which can be really, really, basic... I mean even the arm rest, leather and power seat adjustments are options of lower series bimmers (you can get a 1-seires or 3-series that is worse equipped than a Honda Civic EX).
  • The 6-speed is actually not bad. Doesn't hunt around as much as it's reputation had me expect. Shifts fast enough and never had me wanting more gears.

THE BAD

  • The 2.5L Inline-4 (LCV) sounds like a lawn blower on steroids and revs like a tractor engine. Forget about what you read on magazines; some of which has relatively positive things to say about this engine. It is half as refined in perceived NVH as a Toyota Scion or Camry 2.5 or the Acura 2.4 -- twice as noisy, half as fast reving as the altter, and bellows it out groans and grit for the sound track. I don't expect it to be high performance, but I did expect it to be refined. It is anything but. This is a step backwards in refinement over -- let's say the old 2.2L in the base Cobalt or the port injected 2.4L. I suspect the increase in stroke length and the direct injection clatter being the culprits. The only good thing is that if you keep in under 2000 rpm and 25% throttle, its muted enough to ignore.
  • CUE gets more and more annoying the more you use it. It's not really that it is a touch screen per say, but how they handled the little things. This thing starts up with a musical passage very much like Sony's DTS intro you hear in movie theatres. It's as louder than your playback volume from the stereo and after the first few entries gets positively annoying -- and YOU CAN'T TURN THAT OFF. Or, at least I can't find an option to disable the boot up disturbance after 20 mins of mucking around the UI. Things like audio cue preset bar in the system options do not auto repeat or drag -- you cannot hold down to the + or - sign, or click and drag, you have to repeatedly tap them umteen times -- that's just retarded. What is the point of having dedicated button "locations" on the console outside of the touchscreen when those are touch based anyway? And the tactile feedback feels like an electric shock. OK, it's fancy, but that wears thin in 15 mins. The ATS would have been better served with traditional buttons like Buicks have. The screen is big enough that there are plenty on "empty space" on most sub menu screens. Why isn't there a consistent row of direct clicks in the same places to other menus instead of having to rely on the "back" button? OK, as a saving grace, this is no worse than Ford's (Microsoft) SYNC setups... but that's about as bad as it gets. GM needs to go hire an Apple guy or two to design their UI, hey pay them a $1 million a year salary, it'll be worth it.
  • I am used to HIDs and at this price point, those $100 discharge tubes and ballasts should be standard. Yellow and dim halogens just seem out of place on this car -- especially next to the whitish LEDs flanking the headlights.
  • Wind and road noise isolation is below average. This stand in stark contrast to other GM products like the LaCrosse which is exemplary in this regard. By that I mean it is worse than a 3-series and defintiely worse than a c-class. Honestly, it's only about as good as a TSX which is... well... not much better than a Civic. This would have been forgivable if the sound track from under the hood is anything to look forward to, which for the V6 TSXes are actually quite enticing, but for the ATS 2.5 the lawn blower waking up is something you don't want to hear. At 22,000 miles this rental already have a few rattles which is sooner than I expect in luxury sport sedans.
Edited by dwightlooi
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Pretty good write up. I thought all along that the 2.5 liter doesn't belong in a Cadillac. I haven't used CUE but everyone that does says it is frustrating, they need to rethink that. I like having dedicated buttons, and not everything on a screen. If anything climate control could be all on the screen, because with automatic modes you can set a temperature and forget about it, but radio stations and volume that you might change a lot need physical buttons I think.

I think the ATS interior feels more cramped than the German trio, not by much, but it just seems like there is a little more space in the German cars, especially in the back seat. New C-class next year, so it will be interesting to see what they do, and it should have a 9-speed transmission, the ATS is going to need an upgrade quickly.

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There are also little details which they need to fix... like the fact that the auto brightness on the instrument cluster is useless. The ATS cluster is behind smoked plastic and relies on back-light to be readable day or night. Cars that do this usually rely on a light sensor on the dash to modulate the brightness during the day. The problem with the ATS is that the sensor is far back enough on the dash that unless the sun is in front of you it always reads a dark. And the instrument cluster gets dimmed to near your night time settings which is unreadable. Yes, you can manually turn it up but then it becomes blindingly bright at night. This is both a poor sensor location and a calibration issue. Anyone into photography will know that even the shaded cabin in daytime is a heck of a lot brighter than the night time environment. The sensor should have been calibrated such that even in the shade in the day it would have put the cluster in full brightness and it is when it reads nearly no light -- as in pitch black -- would it turn the brightness down to the minimum set by the user for night time driving. Simple things like that simply is not in good order on what is otherwise America's best effort to date for a luxury sport sedan.

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Interesting to compare notes. In my 2.5 test drive, I found the 2.5 to be decently acceptable for a base car. I believe for cheap lease cars and those who are turbo averse, the 2.5 is fine. I thought the NVh overall was alright. Perhaps Cadillac should offer the 2.0t standard by next year but if they do that, they should bump up the tune on the cars Above the base car.

Overall the ATS is really good. While I don't think the 2.5 should be widely available, if it allows some entry into the brand I think it's fine in limited application. Someone like my dad would not want a turbo. Plus, the mpg on the 2.5 is about 15-20 percent higher real world than the turbo.

The ATS I tested did not have CUE.

A 2.5 ATS rwd is the perfect cheap small getabout for a well to do widowed older woman with a small garage. Etc. or a nice commuter for someone who doesn't want a cheap midsize bit still wants mpg.

Edited by regfootball
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Interesting to compare notes. In my 2.5 test drive, I found the 2.5 to be decently acceptable for a base car. I believe for cheap lease cars and those who are turbo averse, the 2.5 is fine. I thought the NVh overall was alright. Perhaps Cadillac should offer the 2.0t standard by next year but if they do that, they should bump up the tune on the cars Above the base car.

No, what they really need to do is build two versions of the 2.0T -- a Performance Version (the current engine or a higher output derivative) and an eXtreme Fuel Economy (XFE) version. Both engines will cost about the same, but the 2.0T XFE will actually out miser the 2.5L in terms of fuel economy.

The Performance Version is basically a 2-stage VVL equipped version of the 2.0T with a better turbo than the Mitsubishi TD05 and air-to-water intercooling. 300 bhp / 270 lb-ft should be achievable with no increase to boost or compression. The current turbo runs out of breath at about 5200 rpm if you simply maintained that maximum torque of 260 lb-ft to 5800 rpm you get 287 bhp. In reality though, when compressor and turbine efficiency is increased, the maximum torque number at the same boost level will increase slightly in addition to stretching itself over a wider plateau. That plus the superior efficiency and lower pressure drop of an air-to-water IC should easily achieve another 28 hp and 10 lb-ft with no increase in boost, compression or fuel requirements. Actually, I think I am be very conservative with those numbers. Another side benefit is that because the pressurized volume of an air-to-water setup is much lower than with a front mount air-to-air IC the turbolag is also markedly reduced. A Honeywell-Garrett MGTX-2860R is a perfect match for this application.

The XFE Turbo engine differs from the performance version in having pistons that raises static compression ratio from 9.5:1 to 13.6:1. They get an intake cam grind which keeps the intake valve open for the initial 30% of the compression stroke. The result is an effective displacement of 1.4 liters and an effective compression ratio of ~9.5:1. Boost levels are about the same (20~22 psi) and but the turbo itself can be smaller because mass airflow is about 30% lower. Something like a Honeywell-Garrett MGTX-2056 will be perfect for this role. While cruising or pulling along at light loads (hence off boost) the VVL system switches to a cam grind that shortens intake period such that only 10% of the compression stroke is negated and raises the compression ratio to a healthy 12.2:1 while still maintaining a little compression/power stroke asymmetry for superior MPG. Output will essentially be about 200 bhp / 200 lb-ft, but fuel economy will be about 15~20% better than the 2.5L and kissing Cruze Eco numbers ~26 (City) mpg / 40 (Hwy) mpg.

Basically, the customer is given a choice of two refined, turbocharged, engines of two liters displacment. They are asked if they prefer performance or fuel economy. It's the same price.

Edited by dwightlooi
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Interesting to compare notes. In my 2.5 test drive, I found the 2.5 to be decently acceptable for a base car.

But is it good enough to be in a Mercedes or BMW? GM often does this "good enough" thinking or cuts corners because they think it is acceptable. But being better than previous Cadillacs isn't the goal, being better than Mercedes and BMW is the goal.

I agree with Dwight, 2 versions of the 2.0T would make sense, that is what BMW is doing with the 3-series. Plus the 3-series has a diesel that if a buyer is looking for MPG as a top priority, the ATS is in trouble as the 328d and 2015 C250 Bluetec get 45 mpg. So perhaps 2.0 diesel is in order more so than two versions of a gas turbo four.

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Interesting to compare notes. In my 2.5 test drive, I found the 2.5 to be decently acceptable for a base car.

But is it good enough to be in a Mercedes or BMW? GM often does this "good enough" thinking or cuts corners because they think it is acceptable. But being better than previous Cadillacs isn't the goal, being better than Mercedes and BMW is the goal.

I agree with Dwight, 2 versions of the 2.0T would make sense, that is what BMW is doing with the 3-series. Plus the 3-series has a diesel that if a buyer is looking for MPG as a top priority, the ATS is in trouble as the 328d and 2015 C250 Bluetec get 45 mpg. So perhaps 2.0 diesel is in order more so than two versions of a gas turbo four.

Well, it is distinctively less refined than the Acura 2.4 i-VTEC or the ubiquitous Toyota 2.5 VVTi (both of which have the advantage of NOT being a DI engine which helps with refinement). It is also less refined than the BMW or Audi 2.0Ts which have the advantage of having lower displacement and, most importantly, shorter strokes. I haven't sampled the Mazda Skyactiv 2.5 but it is less refined than the Mazda 2.3 and about the same as the Nissan Altima 2.5. Is that good enough to be in a Cadiilac? You decide.

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to me, its like what percent of the ATS will come with that motor. If it's ten percent, I think the 2.5 is just fine. Like I said, a lot of older Caddy fans are turbo averse. And they won't want a large six.

Honestly... 'll rather they put a Non-turbo version of the 2.0T (LTG) engine in the base car. With a 86 mm stroke (vs 101 mm) the vibrations will be much less pronounced. With 11.5:1 compression (vs 9.5:1) it'll reasonably easy to cam it to make 170 hp (85bhp/L) ~6800 rpm & 150 lb-ft @ ~4800 rpm. The base car doesn't have to be fast... it's not fast with the 2.5 anyway. And, I'll take a shot in the refinement direction over a few extra hp. Besides, 2.0L is the threshold between a low tax bracket and a higher on in most countries that have a silly displacement tax. This is why manufacturers don't build 2.1 or 2.2 liter engines. Being 2.0L helps with many markets outside NA. And, for goodness sake, put isolators, blankets, baffles and everything you have to on those injectors and fuel rail to quell the DI racket. GM sucks in this department. Yes, DI engines are generally less refined and noisier than port injected ones because solenoid or piezo valves slamming shut at thousands of psi is inadvertently noisy. But, VW/Audi, M-B and BMW all quelled it better than GM. VW/Audi is almost universally on piezo injectors so they have an edge there, but BMW is not so no excuses there.

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Interesting to compare notes. In my 2.5 test drive, I found the 2.5 to be decently acceptable for a base car.

But is it good enough to be in a Mercedes or BMW? GM often does this "good enough" thinking or cuts corners because they think it is acceptable. But being better than previous Cadillacs isn't the goal, being better than Mercedes and BMW is the goal.

I agree with Dwight, 2 versions of the 2.0T would make sense, that is what BMW is doing with the 3-series. Plus the 3-series has a diesel that if a buyer is looking for MPG as a top priority, the ATS is in trouble as the 328d and 2015 C250 Bluetec get 45 mpg. So perhaps 2.0 diesel is in order more so than two versions of a gas turbo four.

Well, it is ... about the same as the Nissan Altima 2.5. Is that good enough to be in a Cadiilac? You decide.

There's no way the GM 2.5 and Nissan 2.5 are the same NVH!

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The turbo battle is heating up in this segment (2015 C Class coming to the party late). Cadillac would be wise to have a replacement for the 2.5 and 3.6 soon in some turbo form.

I agree with two tune modes for the 2.0T or 1.6T as the base engine. Cadillac needs to replace the top dog 3.6 with a turbo motor.

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Interesting to compare notes. In my 2.5 test drive, I found the 2.5 to be decently acceptable for a base car.

But is it good enough to be in a Mercedes or BMW? GM often does this "good enough" thinking or cuts corners because they think it is acceptable. But being better than previous Cadillacs isn't the goal, being better than Mercedes and BMW is the goal.

I agree with Dwight, 2 versions of the 2.0T would make sense, that is what BMW is doing with the 3-series. Plus the 3-series has a diesel that if a buyer is looking for MPG as a top priority, the ATS is in trouble as the 328d and 2015 C250 Bluetec get 45 mpg. So perhaps 2.0 diesel is in order more so than two versions of a gas turbo four.

Well, it is ... about the same as the Nissan Altima 2.5. Is that good enough to be in a Cadiilac? You decide.

There's no way the GM 2.5 and Nissan 2.5 are the same NVH!

I've driven the Altima and Malibu. The Altima is a buzz saw in comparison.

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The turbo battle is heating up in this segment (2015 C Class coming to the party late). Cadillac would be wise to have a replacement for the 2.5 and 3.6 soon in some turbo form.

I agree with two tune modes for the 2.0T or 1.6T as the base engine. Cadillac needs to replace the top dog 3.6 with a turbo motor.

Agreed the 3.6 will be thirsty and overpowered soon, it is old news. Mercedes announced the C-class engines today, along with a 220 lb drop in weight and claimed 20% improvement in fuel economy. But the C300 gets weak mpg now, so 20% better than that isn't too big a deal.

2.0 turbo 4 with 235 hp, 273 lb-ft

3.0 turbo V6 with 329 hp and 354 lb-ft

The 2.1 liter diesel with 200 hp and 369 lb-ft is expected to be added also.

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You know that so called 20% drop is almost 680 lbs. That will make it lighter than the CLA or a Mazda 3. I will believe it when I see it.

A car that is bigger than the CLA and an AWD to be lighter than the CLA, that is fictional. Structural components' weight might have reduced by 20%, but then that is 25% of the car weight, so we are looking at a drop of 5% or 170 lbs, that is more palatable.

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220 lbs, the body structure of the new C-class is 154 lbs lighter than the current model, I assume part of that weight drop would be C300 going from a V6 to a turbo 4. That would make the C300 4Matic about 3500 lbs with 24/32 mpg numbers assuming 20% gain over 20/27 that it currently gets.

If they take 220 lbs off the C350 rwd then they are at 3400 lbs, which would be quite good with the turbo V6, that thing would fly. But I fear they'll put 4Matic on everything, which adds weight.

I just don't think the 2.5 liter does the ATS any good. They should make the 2.0T the standard engine, the 3.6 V6 is dated is almost time to replace that with maybe a smaller turbo V6, and they need a diesel or hybrid, preferably a diesel.

Edited by smk4565
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There are three technologies I believe GM should pursue because it'll make enough of a difference to matter and they are not difficult to attain.

(1) Reverse Flow heads for Vee engines. These puts the exhaust on the inside of the Vee instead of the flanks of the engine. Reverse flow heads allow one to use a single turbo instead of two smaller ones. Larger turbos are more efficient and having one is cheaper.

(2) SOHC or COHC (Concentric; cam-in-cam) heads. These make the heads narrower which helps with (1) and they are more efficient than DOHC heads because there are less cam sprockets and bearings leading to less parasitic frictional losses. With COHC you still get independently variable intake and exhaust cam phasing.

(3) Flywheel Integrated Generator/motor. Basically, you replace the flywheel with a 5 hp DC induction motor. This replaces both the alternator and the starter. Essentially it turns every car into a mild hybrid with smooth idle-start-stop functionality, a little bit of regenerative braking and a tiny bit of assist. It takes up no room and if you use a 12V electrical system won't cost that much more than current engines. For more significant hybrids simply replace the FIG with a 30hp unit, stuff a 115V Li-Ion pack somewhere and you have what is essentially Honda's IMA system. Unlike other arrangements, the transmission and other systems remain unchanged making it very easy to add a Hybrid option to any car. Also, because the motor is coupled to the crank, if you have a sufficiently powerful one (say a 30hp unit) you can simply eliminate the torque converter. The car cannot idle and it always shut the engine down with the VVL system closing all valves when you get to 600 rpm or below. It always pull from a stop on electric power with the engine kicking in smoothly at 600~1000 rpm.

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