The Cadillac ATS shines: CNET On Cars, Ep. 11Cadillac finally does a small car right, online sleuthing for a used car that doesn't suck, and Top 5 technologies in your car that obsolete!
-Cadillac finally does a small car right. Online slooping for a used car that doesn't suck. And top 5 technologies in your car that are obsolete. I have to check the tech. We see cars differently. We love them on the road and under the hood, but also check the tech and are known for telling it like it is. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET on Cars. -Hello, everybody. Welcome to CNET on Cars. The show all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. We open up this episode with the redemption of Cadillac, a company that has strived for 30 plus years to make a small car anybody cared about. Go back to '82 where you'll find the Cimarron, a great gilded disaster of a thing. Ninety-seven brought us the Cadi Catera, a rebadged Opel that was marketed by a duck. Not as successfully as Aflac, I should say. Finally, they get it right with the 2013 ATS. This latest edition to their alphabet soup pretty much nails it. Here it is, the all new Cadillac ATS, the baby Cadillac, with a very simple mission: get out there and settle the score with the 3 series and the C class or don't come home. Let's drive this 2013 ATS all wheel drive Sedan and check the deck. And ATS has got pretty similar proportions to the 3 series or C class. The look is like neither it's got a little of that swoopy rounded stuff of the 3, a little bit of a resemblance to a C in the front, but there are so much other Cadillac DNA going on, and I really like how the shoulders flow down over its hips, as you look at it from front-cross section. To my eye it's the most clean, honest and modern Cadillac out there. It doesn't have all that baroque excess you still find in the Escalade. Notice it have that kind of Doey Machismo Tommy Bahama look of the CTS and its other siblings. It's a clean, honest, urban-looking car. Now, the Cadillac design language is carried over inside the vehicle but not quite to the degree of excess you see in some of their other cars, which I kinda like the way it's dialed back a little. I don't get quite so many of these sort of trapezoidal shapes. The steering wheel is very Cadillac. The crest still is gonna put some people off as fuddy-duddy. The main effect, of course, is this guy right here. See what happen when I did that, look, pull my hands away and the Cadillac CUE User Experience goes to a relatively clean screen after a few moments. But as I approach the screen, other options come up on the top and bottom ribbon. That's one of the keys to what they do here. Proximity sensing, to keep things clean when you don't need to have additional details up there. Navigation is not in every CUE head unit. Just because you have this interface doesn't mean you have net, bear that in mind. It's basically an $800 differential to get it on top of CUE. They rave a lot about how this nav interface like a tablet. You can pinch in zoom and they wish. The response is so much more poor than an even a cheap tablet. They shouldn't make that comparison 'til they've got more horsepower behind it. They rave about natural voice command, everybody does. Let's see if they're serious. -Say a command or say help. -Address. -Say the address in California or say the command change state if your address---- -1000 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. -1000 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. Is that correct? -Damn right it is. Now, let's go to our audio source. That's the key part of this thing. Notice you've got audio and Pandora both surfaced here. I wish to find that kind of Dolby, it's like, just put all the audio together but a lot of systems do that. Under media, you're gonna find your fun stuff, you can get your disc which is over here in the glove box, you've got an optical drive there. My iPad hooks up through a USB here or a USB here onto this kinda weird little lift-up, they put a blue light on it, those what's easy to find, that's nice. Streaming of course via my smartphone, same way I do my calling and do my contacts integration. We got the fancy Bose system in the sky, you can center on driver rear seat, center point which is their DSP setting and you've got pretty basic tone controls beyond that. Notice I can drag these presets up and down if I wanna see a bunch of them or just one ribbon at a time or not at all. Similar flexibility goes to this little display here in the speedometer. Using this rocker switch on the wheel, I can either expand my fuel information there or put different information in that window. Go to the middle, and there I can show my phone, settings, go after navigation. On the left, I can show my digital speedo, expand that, or my odometers, as well as fuel range. Now, because we've got the V6, we'll talk about in a minute, one choice only on the gear box, automatic transmission right here, shiftable gear on the left. You probably saw the pedals on the wheel, hard to miss them. It's a Cadillac, they're chrome and they're big and they're on the wheel, so they're all in the wrong place when you want them. Now when and if you get the hood up on this car, we had three smart guys work on it for like 5 minutes and the three of us for ten more [unk]. World's cheapest little sheet metal lever ever, note to Cadillac. Here's the big model that they sent us, 3.6 liter direct injection V6. Does some good numbers, 321 horse, 274-foot pounds of torque, moves this 3300 pounds Sedan of 16 about 5354, we have the all wheel drive here, by the way. MPG is 2228, I mean, not bad all things given but that's where the other two smaller engines intrigued me more. There's a 2.5-liter 4 the bore 4 white [unk]. The middle engines, the cool one, a 2-liter 4 with a twin scroll turbo and direct injection, gets a just right 272 horse and 260-foot pounds of torque and delivers a full 30 highway MPG, plus you can get that guy with a 6p manual, like the other little motor, it can't in this guy. This is a great engine. It's a lighter engine, a 3.6 V6 and this car is plenty of power. And the power comes on just beautifully. The problem is the transmission gets in the way. Remember, automatic only on the 3.6 V6 and that's too bad because you know, any of the automatic modes, it's a bore. It falls on its face and misses shifts and haunts too high too often and it pisses me off. What you can do of course is not in the manual mode, shift it yourself and it basically gets out of the way at that point. The shifts are pretty tight when you're doing them. Great exhaust note and I like the combination in this car of handling and compliance, they've done a great job dialing in comfortable ride which you've gotta have in a Cadillac, and good handling without being punishingly harsh that keeps it upright in turns. And I could ride this little car all day, it doesn't feel as heavy as a CTS. I didn't even bother to compare the weights. I'm sure there's a couple hundreds, 300 pounds difference between them. There's a 9-inch difference, I can tell you that, this car is significantly shorter and it feels more sprightly and joyous. Bottom line, the ATS is a success with this engine, but you gotta get around the gear box. That's why I'm so intrigued by that 2 liter DI turbo 4, and I can't wait to drive one of those to compare. Now the price of this ATS, I'm talking about the V6 in this particular case, $42,090 is your basic V6, but you gotta add about $5500 on top of that to go seeing that style. That means you get to what they call the premium level that rolls in navigation, surround sound and a variety of nice things including magnetic ride control suspension. But how's the ATS gonna do in general? I think what we've gotta watch here is doesn't have enough to pry people away from outstanding German Sedans. If you equal someone who's already got a big lead in front of you, that may not be enough. This car has to play on a few coins. First of all, better value, second of all, buy American, third, a different look that I finally think Cadillac can say is actually better. The real secret on the ATS is that Cadilla finally crack the code of creating a car that prints young and urban, yet still seems like part of the rest of the Cadillac on. They could never figure that out before. That said I would still never buy an ATS. Nothing against the car but it's a new car. I don't buy new cars anymore. I am really into used cars because the way they've been building new cars the 10 or 15 years, when they come on the market used, they tend to still be bulletproof and a way better value. Unless you get one with a sketchy passed and the tools you use to prevent that are a great interest to the smarter driver. The team at State Farm and I agree some of the tools for separating the good from the bad are vehicle history reports, based from the car's VIN number. Some of the things they'll tell you are, how many people have owned the car and where, hard weather or somewhere dry, does the odometer history look solid, or are there troubling gaps. Was it ever a fleet or rental car? You know how you treat those. Was it ever totaled for collision or flood damage? Quite a few with those lately. Has it had any problems passing emissions and was regular maintenance done? You know the big names, Carfax and AuthoCheck, they charge as much as $30 to $40 for a single report, but I bet you don't know about the Federal Motor Vehicle Title Information System. You can find it at vehiclehistory.gov. You can buy reports there for as little as $2.50 per car. Now, not all states are reporting in just yet and the big boys in the car history business will argue this government database isn't as complete and they're right, vehiclehistory.gov is mostly about title history, not detailed service history. Oh, by the way, another insider's database is the National Insurance Crime Bureaus Tool or you can check any VIN number for free, to determine if it's been reported, stolen or totaled. That NCIB free database and the low-cost federal lookups are a great way to rule out cars when I'm shopping, then I'll run one of the pricier reports if I get serious about one car. And by the way, no matter what report you run, there's still no substitute for a good independent check before you write a check for that used car. And when you take it for a check, try and go to a shop that has a body shop as well, because they'll have one of these. This is a digital paint thickness gauge. Kinda pricey, I don't think you wanna buy one of these for yourself but look what it tells me. On this Porsche, if I go back here on the rear, take a reading, this is mills of thickness of paint, 4.6. That's considered in a factory range, very thin. Come around here to the rear quarter, look what changes. Now, I'm in the 6.1 range, little further up, getting higher, 6.3. So this is telling me there's a very good livelihood, this car had collision damage, body repair, and yet it's got a perfectly clean Carfax that doesn't show that. When we come back, the light says check engine, but you see open wallets. I'll show you some technology to tell you figure out how bad it's gonna be, when CNET on Cars continues. Welcome back to CNET on Cars. I'm Brian Cooley, coming to you this time from Cars Dawydiak in downtown San Francisco. You know, cars today are just about as much computer as they are machine, and that means they're always telling you a little story about their condition, what's going with them, where they need attention. But you can't read it unless you have a code reader and that's our Car Check 101. They're the twin insults of modern motoring. The engine like and the check engine like. Both tell you almost nothing on their own. That's why you need one of these, a code reader to decipher what that yellow and red blinking is supposed to get you nervous about. Now, in the other end of this sky's cable, you find this distinctive connector, that's called an OBD-II port connector. It goes to an OBD-II port on your car. OBD stands for On Board Diagnostics and this is generation II. Any U.S. car made from 1996 on has one of these. They came a little later in Asia, Europe, Australia, but modern cars have OBD-II connectors. You'll find that under your steering wheel, buried under the dash. I think it is [unk] within like 2 or 3 feet of the steering column or something like that is the regulation. Mine is right here, very easy to see, it's even set off in a fuchsia color to make it easy to locate. Connect the reader, power up the car and watch as it holds the various systems. Then you can scroll from the codes that indicate what is wrong. See where you have errors or just read various status updates on the car. There's a wealth of information here that it pulled from the chips, the processors and the sensors all over your vehicle. Now the paraphrase may west, I've had cheap code readers and I've had good code readers and I preferred good code readers. One of the main reasons is, the more expensive ones will give you verbose result. In other words, they'll spell it out in English as supposed to having to get some cryptic code and Google it or look it up in some book they give you, and not good. Also, the better readers are better at clearing those codes, which will make the check engine like go away at least for a while but not forever if you don't fix the problem. And this one has the button here where you can press it and find the most common fixes based on a history of mechanics facing the same issue. So, spend a little money. And by the way, even if you never work on your car at all, it's a good idea to have and use a code reader, because it'll keep your mechanic honest. If you walk in for a repair and casually mention that you coded out the car and it's throwing off an 0430 for example, sounds like 02 sensor or catalyst, doesn't it? They immediately know you're not one of those who comes in with your eyes all big and your check book open. Oh, by the way, if your car was made before 1996, pretty much back through the 80's, you can still use a code reader but you've gotta get one that's got a specific connector for your make of car, 'cause back then they didn't use a standard OBD-II connector. When I come back, I'm gonna show you top five ways that the tech in your car is betraying its age, when CNET on Cars continues. You may think this Honda Insight was the first Hybrid, but it was about 99 years too late for that title. The first series Hybrid car was this Porsche, the Semper Vivus. It debuted in 1900 at the Paris World Expo. Two gas engines generated electricity did not drive the wheels, they fed the batteries and the electric motors, which by the way were mounted inside the wheel hubs at front, and all of that done without the modern electronics that today manage basically the same layout found in the Chevy Volt or Fisker Karma, except they go a little faster. I'm Brian Cooley. Welcome back to CNET on Cars. One of the unintended benefits of covering the latest in car tech all the time is that you develop a pretty good eye for what's no longer the latest. So here is my top five list of technologies in your car that are going obsolete right before your eyes. Never have cars advanced as rapidly as they do today, which is a nice way of saying you should probably put some duct tape over that casette deck. I'm Brian Cooley with the top five things that are next in line to make your car look like one Isenhour drove. You don't know who he is, do you? Number five, the test drive. Not exactly a technology but a time honored technique for deciding if you want a particular car but a recent survey by IBM found 21 percent of recent new car buyers or lessees never actually drove the car they bought before they bought it. I think by the time they did all that internet research, they were probably sick of the thing. Number four, gauges. You know, those things that look like that watch you don't wear anymore. From top dollar Land Rovers and Jags to a humble Chevy Spark EV, LCD screens are taking over, giving car makers real flexibility in information display. I applaud the trend but not necessarily my prospects from that whole module dies at once. Number three, rear seat entertainment, you know, those backseat DVD systems, they were never technically elegant and they were always too much money. Plus your kids were always bored with that handful of scratched up DVDs or wedge in the seat back pocket. Now, they just have their iPad and you just saved a couple grand, which you'll spend on data fees for their iPad. Number two, iPad connectors. Cars used to have an iPad connector for the cool kids and an aux jack for the losers. Things have changed. Now, it's all USB ports that work with all kinds of portables and car makers don't have to care what connector Apple just changed to. The number on thing that is going obsolete in cars and fast is the CD player. Never mind that it's the best sounding source ever put into a car. We don't seem to care, like a cougar bar around midnight, it's all about choice, not fidelity. So, now it's streaming apps, MP3s on portables, satellite radio, that's what rules the dash. Ford has already done a way with all their multi-CD changers and the 2013 Chevy Sonic was I think the first car to not even offer a CD at all, no matter how you configure. Now, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say if we do that list again in say two years, I can put AM radio on it. Just a hunch, sounds like car is seen now but think about it, with out mobile technology, we have so many other sources for news, traffic and crazy polarized political opinions. It might happen. By the way, this week's Car Tech 101 was a suggestion from John T. in Columbus, Ohio. Thanks for that and you too can send us ideas, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you haven't subscribed to a feed of the show, you can do that at cnetoncars.com, you'll find our RSS and iTunes links right there. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time we check the tech.