Comparison: BMW 335i vs. Cadillac ATS vs. Mercedes-Benz C350
December 4, 2012
by Jonny Lieberman
"I think the problem here is that we've got three second-place cars," I said to my colleagues Scott Evans and Mike Febbo as we sat down to a late lunch after a day of hard driving. The task at hand was to sort out a finishing order for our three contenders. Surprise, surprise -- there are no perfect cars. But in terms of the $50K six-cylinder luxury sport sedan segment, we were stymied -- at first -- by three of the best. In order of newness, the closely competitive cars are the Cadillac ATS 3.6, the BMW 335i Sport, and the Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport. At around $42,000, each car has an engine good for north of 300 hp, an automatic transmission, four doors, and rear drive. Between the lightest and the heaviest is a scant 107 pounds. Dimensionally, they're all within inches of each other. Check this out: "Struts, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar." That's from the charts at the end of this article. The suspension info is identical for all three.
We finally decided that what really counts in this segment is how the cars drive. After all, that was the determining criteria we used when naming the 328i the winner of our eight-car comparison. On this day, one car shone much brighter on the winding roads than the other two. That car is the Cadillac ATS. From Evans: "This chassis...wow. Unbelievable. I'm just blown away by how well this car drives. Those two are luxury sport sedans. This is a luxury sports car."
Indeed. When I was pushing the Caddy hard up in the mountains above Malibu, I was also overcome by the sensation that I was driving a sports car. Something very similar to a Nissan 370Z, in fact. As odd as it may sound, Cadillac has built a car that goes around corners better than it runs in a straight line. And as for straight-line driving, the Cadillac's ride is on the firm side of firm, and that's in Touring mode. When you switch to Sport, the ride becomes harsh. Febbo explained, "I like the suspension, which makes me wonder if most people will think it too stiff. Most companies, like BMW, have become scared of aggressive rebound rates, but Cadillac has the balls to go hard."
So that's our story. While flawed, the Cadillac ATS is the best $50,000 sport sedan of the three. Audi couldn't make an S4 materialize in time for this comparison, so we can't say with certainty the Caddy is the best you can buy. However, I'll go out on a limb and say it is. Summarized Mr. Evans, "When we did that eight-car comparison the 328i won, I remember getting out of the other cars, climbing into the BMW, and thinking, 'This is it. This is how you do it.' I had the same feeling today driving the Cadillac ATS."
1st: Place: Cadillac ATS 3.6
Nürburgring Nordschleife-developed chassis beats the Germans at their own game. However, the dated transmission and CUE need fixing.
Full article at link.