It has been a while since we had a proper rivalry in the compact sports car segment. While the people at BMW would not (at least publicly) hesitate to brush-off any attempts by Cadillac to claim a piece of their brand’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” image, the people at the crested shield for for all intents and purposes are serious. The critics have taken note, and whether or not BMW is on board, the battle between the Cadillac ATS and the all-new BMW 3 Series is on!
The ATS bring plenty to the table — a lighter curb weight and engines that produce more horsepower. The new 3 Series brings to the table a proven track record for delivering, well, the ultimate driving machine. Very exciting, yes, but it would be premature to label either car as the better performer without a proper test drive. What we can do, however, is have a face off between the aesthetics of each car, and that’s always fun.
On the design front, both the ATS and 3 Series bring a little bit of the old to the table, and by a little, I mean a lot. Starting with the 3 Series, its exterior design looks virtually identical to that of the previous 3 Series. Sure a revised front fascia and tail-end (especially the lights) add a touch of freshness to the overall package, but you would otherwise be hard pressed to distinguish the new from the old model.
On a similar note, despite being all-new, the Cadillac ATS manages to look like a shrunk-down CTS, just more classier and less “in your face”. That’s not a bad thing. Much of the design cues found on the CTS find their way onto the ATS — vertical front and tail lights? Check; an abundance of sharp and angular lines, especially at the rear end? Check. The front grille, a distinguishing factor on the CTS, is more subdued on the ATS, adding to its classier looks.
Open the door of either car and that’s where things get interesting. The interior of the new 3 Series easily shames the drabness that was the old model’s interior. More colors, higher quality materials, more technology and an overall better design make it a more inviting place for occupants, especially the drivers. On a similar note, as attractive as the CTS’s interior is, the ATS’s more modern interpretation renders it less appealing to the eye and more gimmicky with its retractable infotainment display. The ATS, featuring Cadillac’s new CUE system, does away with conventional buttons and replaces it with a tactile touch-sensitive screen, in addition to what looks to be some very precise voice command features. The silver-painted plastic on the CTS’s center console is replaced by a classier piano black trim in the ATS. Aptly put, the ATS is a generation ahead of the CTS.
Rounding out my assessment, despite both cars featuring rather uninspired exteriors, the CTS manages to look more modern, especially from the side profile, giving it the win in that regard. It’s more of a toss-up inside, as the ATS has a classier looking interior while the 3 Series has a sportier looking one. The interior of the 3 Series, especially in black, has a more youthful look, giving it the nod in my book.
Of course, debating a car’s design is akin to debating which fruit is tastier, an apple or an orange. We all have our opinions. Have a look at the side-by-side comparison of both cars below and let us know which car — the ATS or the new 3 Series — is the most aesthetically pleasing in your book. Leave a comment.