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September 22, 2023 9:19 pm by

2013 Cadillac ATS: Used Car Buyer’s Guide

2013 Cadillac ATS exterior front view

Quick Take

  • Pros: athletic handling, premium interior, powerful optional engines
  • Cons: cramped rear seat, limited cargo space, infotainment system can be frustrating to use

The 2013 Cadillac ATS is an appealing pick for those in the used luxury sedan market who prioritize driving excitement. Its sharp handling and refined road manners make it a worthy competitor to established European brands. Moreover, its luxe interior showcases the automaker’s attention to detail, featuring high-quality materials that give the small Caddy a distinctively upscale vibe. While its base engine is nothing to write home about, the ATS offers powerful four- and six-cylinder units on its upper trims.

On the downside, the rear seat and the trunk in the ATS are both smaller than most rivals. Additionally, Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system was cumbersome even back in 2013 and feels quite dated today.

2013 Cadillac ATS driving through town


  • The ATS debuts as an all-new model
  • Four available trims: Standard, Luxury, Performance, and Premium
  • Three available engines, including a 321-hp V6

2013 marks the inaugural year of the Cadillac ATS, launching its first and only generation (2013-2019). The compact luxury sedan arrived with a mission to compete directly with European stalwarts in the segment, such as the BMW 3 Series. It largely succeeded thanks to a combination of athletic performance, sharp styling, and interior quality.

Cadillac sold the ATS in four levels, including the base Standard, the well-equipped Luxury, the sporty Performance, and the fully loaded Premium. The Standard and Luxury trims come standard with a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, while the Performance and Premium are upgraded to a 272-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or an optional 321-hp 3.6-liter V6.

Rear-wheel drive is standard on the ATS, but all-wheel drive (AWD) was offered with the available turbo four-cylinder and V6 engines. Notably, the turbo four could be paired with a six-speed manual transmission, rare for a Cadillac. Otherwise, the 2013 ATS is fitted with a six-speed automatic.

2013 Cadillac ATS driving on highway

Driving Impressions

  • Lightweight, agile chassis
  • Strong acceleration with optional engines
  • Available high-performance brakes

The 2013 Cadillac ATS feels eager on the road. With a relatively low curb weight (3,400 pounds) and nearly 50/50 weight distribution, it makes the most of its standard multi-link front and rear suspension, handling corners with ease while also delivering a smooth ride. Opt for the FE3 Sport Suspension package (included on the Premium trim), and you’ll also get the benefit of the automaker’s sophisticated adaptive suspension, dubbed Magnetic Ride Control. It offers a range of settings, including a Competition mode, which firms things up substantially and also dials back the car’s stability and traction control systems to let you have more fun.

Acceleration varies depending on which engine you go for. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder generates 202 hp, which is adequate for most daily driving but won’t blow you away. Step up to the 272-hp 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, and you’ll find the ATS becomes a much different animal, delivering quick off-the-line sprints and assertive highway passing. This mill can also be paired with a six-speed manual, adding to its performance credentials. Those craving even more oomph should opt for the 3.6-liter V6, which pumps out 321 hp and transforms the ATS into a bonafide sports sedan. However, enthusiasts should note that the V6 can only be paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Braking performance on the ATS is robust as well. All but the base trim comes standard with beefy Brembo units, which provide solid and consistent stopping power. This adds an extra layer of confidence in spirited driving.

2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0-liter Ecotec engine

Fuel Economy

  • 18-22 mpg city and 26-32 mpg highway, depending on the engine and drivetrain
  • Average fuel efficiency for the segment
  • Optional 2.0-liter turbo beats expected highway mileage, according to owners

EPA estimates for the 2013 Cadillac ATS vary based on the engine and drivetrain configuration. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder earns EPA ratings of 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The more powerful 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder achieves 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with rear-wheel drive, but these figures drop slightly if you opt for all-wheel drive or the available six-speed manual transmission. The range-topping 3.6-liter V6 comes in at 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive and drops one mpg in both categories when equipped with all-wheel drive.

These ratings are on par with competitors like the BMW 3 Series or the Audi A4. The ATS doesn’t lead the pack, but it isn’t at the bottom, either. ATS owners report getting similar numbers to the EPA estimates in most situations, though notably some have found that the 2.0-liter turbo four can achieve even better highway mileage, especially on longer journeys.

2013 Cadillac ATS interior with red seats

Interior and Features

  • Upscale design and materials
  • Tight rear seat
  • Dated CUE infotainment system

The cabin of the 2013 Cadillac ATS features strikes a balance between sportiness and luxury. Its modern and attractive design employs premium materials throughout, including soft-touch surfaces, real wood and metal accents, and available leather upholstery (with the Luxury and higher trims).

The ATS accommodates up to five passengers. The front buckets offer good support and an array of powered adjustments. However, long-legged passengers may find the rear quarters a bit cramped. Additionally, the trunk is among the smallest in its class, offering just 10.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Those who frequently haul larger items should opt for the Luxury or Premium trims, which provide 60/40-split folding rear seats. The other trims have a fixed rear bench.

In terms of features, the ATS is well-appointed, even in its base form. Automatic climate control, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, and an 8-inch display are standard. However, the touchscreen-based CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system, included with all but the base trim, is notorious for its fussy controls and dated interface. Unfortunately, the 2013 ATS also lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but at least a USB jack is standard.

2013 Cadillac ATS cutaway view of safety cage


  • Standard safety features include airbags, ABS, and stability control
  • Advanced safety tech is optional
  • Good safety ratings from established agencies

The 2013 Cadillac ATS comes with a long list of standard safety features, including front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability and traction control. Higher trims go even further. The Luxury trim adds a rearview camera, while the Performance trim includes the Driver Awareness package, a safety suite with forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure warning. For all the bells and whistles, look for examples with the Driver Assistance package, which bundles everything in the Driver Awareness package along with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and forward collision mitigation.

When it comes to safety ratings, the 2013 ATS earns high marks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2013 ATS a five-star overall rating, its highest score. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn’t fully evaluated the 2013 ATS; however, the agency did give it a rating of Superior in front crash prevention when equipped with the available Driver Assistance package.

It’s also important to bear in mind that safety standards have evolved over the years. While the ATS was considered safe for its time, it may not offer the level of protection you’d find in more modern vehicles.

check engine light


  • Electrical and infotainment issues are the most common problems
  • Occasional coolant leaks and oil consumption with optional 2.0-liter engine

Reliability for the 2013 Cadillac ATS is something of a mixed bag. The vehicle performs reasonably well in terms of engine and transmission longevity, especially when regularly maintained. Owners give the car a solid 4.0-star overall rating on Edmunds consumer reviews. However, there are a few areas where potential buyers should tread carefully.

The most significant concerns with the 2013 ATS are related to its electrical system and infotainment features. Numerous owners have reported glitches with the CUE infotainment system, including unresponsive touch controls and delaminating screens. Some of these issues may require expensive repairs or replacements, so it’s essential to thoroughly check the system’s condition and functionality during a test drive.

It’s also worth noting that some owners have reported coolant leaks and excessive oil consumption with the optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The latter can be a sign of a turbocharger on its last legs.

Given these concerns, it’s a good idea to secure a comprehensive vehicle history report and a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic before you finalize a purchase of a used 2013 ATS.

2013 Cadillac ATS driving on track

Which One to Buy

Best Overall: Luxury Trim with 2.0-Liter Turbocharged Engine

For most buyers, the Luxury trim with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers a well-rounded package that melds performance, comfort, and features. You get a potent 272-hp powerplant along with a generous list of amenities, including leather upholstery and a rearview camera. This trim also provides the option for all-wheel drive, enhancing its appeal to those who live in areas with sometimes challenging weather conditions. It can also be equipped with a six-speed manual if you like to row your own gears.

Enthusiast’s Choice: Premium Trim with 3.6-Liter V6

For driving enthusiasts or those who simply want the best the ATS has to offer, the Premium trim with the 3.6-liter V6 is the one to go for. With 321 hp under the hood, this variant transforms the ATS into a sports sedan without sacrificing comfort. Additionally, the Premium trim comes with the FE3 Sport Suspension package, which includes Magnetic Ride Control. This setup allows drivers to switch between a comfortable ride and sportier dynamics at the touch of a button.

Budget Pick: Standard Trim with 2.5-Liter Engine

For buyers on a budget who still want to dip their toes into the luxury market, the base Standard trim with the 2.5-liter engine is a sensible choice. Although it doesn’t offer many driving thrills, it still comes decently equipped with features like an 8-inch display and a seven-speaker Bose audio system. Plus, it isn’t saddled with the outdated CUE infotainment system. It also benefits from the best fuel economy figures in the 2013 ATS lineup, making it easier on your wallet in the long run.

Photos courtesy of Cadillac and IIHS


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