Cadillac detonated its notion of old luxury back in 2003, when it dropped the first CTS and "Art & Science" styling on an unsuspecting world. Since then, the theme's been much discussed, sometimes maligned, but always a point of distinction for the GM brand when it sorely needed anything to call its own.
With the 2013 Cadillac ATS, Art & Science gets milled down even more from its exuberant, raw beginnings into something less divisive. Put through the bench grinder one more time, the edge is almost honed off its now pint-sized grille and what used to be the boxlike folds of its fenders. The extreme graphic tension of the first CTS and even its follow-up act has been completely relaxed; the ATS' corners are smoothed like a contour sheet, and the roofline angles off into the Infiniti realm. Outright aggression is right out, but the ATS outlines a confident aura with long tapered headlights, LED fillips, deeply sculptured flanks, and a stance that's so close to that of the current C Class, it's not so much an homage, it's a flat-out challenge.
We're all about a theme, but the current CTS' "V" fascination creates some horrible ergonomics. The ATS lets function take over, without letting the form suffer. The sweep of wood or metal trim pieces wouldn't be out of place in a BMW or an Infiniti, but no other brand's so transformed the interior of their cars as completely as Cadillac does with CUE--though Ford comes close with MyFord Touch. CUE, which we'll talk about in our Features section, replaces many of the ATS' controls with a touch-sensitive screen. The layout resembles the one found in, say, a Lincoln MKX--but the beautifully rendered screens are a cut above those in Fords and Lincolns, and the gauge and center-stack screens coordinate better with each other, too.
Like Lincoln, Cadillac's made great leaps in fit and finish, and the ATS' cabin is warmer and better executed than any of its luxury competitors, save Audi. Stitched dash trim pieces, a choice of wood trims and finishes--or metal or carbon fiber--give the ATS the flashes of character you'll find in the latest A4, though the ATS' dramatically curved dash is more interesting than the Audi panel.