Cadillac will make its debut in the compact luxury market segment this year, thanks to a massive engineering effort that has resulted in a lightweight, high-strength body structure.
The structure makes liberal use of aluminum, magnesium, high-strength steel, and ultra-high-strength steel. It played a key role in bringing the new ATS sedan in at a curb weight 500 pounds lighter than that of its closest predecessor, the Cadillac CTS.
"We counted mass on all of our structural members in terms of grams," David Masch, vehicle chief engineer of Cadillac, told us. "We even ended up debating the size of fasteners."
The ATS body structure employs a combination of aluminum, magnesium,
high-strength steel, and ultra-high-strength steel.
(Source: Design News)
Cadillac's design effort called on teams of structural engineers, chassis engineers, materials specialists, and mathematicians to create a body structure that would manage loads intelligently. By positioning structural members to be in shear, rather than in bending, the designers made cross-sectional areas of virtually all members smaller. "Putting members in shear is the most efficient way to manage loads," Masch said. "The more you can get those structural members in line with the loads, the more efficient you can make them."
My hopes are high for the ATS. My first new car was a 1969 Mustang Mach1, then two Firebirds and my last american car was a 1984 Corvette but it was breaking down just seating in the garage. And those bad, scary recals to deal with. Since then, I had MB, Porsche and four BMWs that I found to be the best drivers cars to use them for everyday life.
Now, for the first time I am loking forward to compare the new ATS to the new 2012 BMW 3-series and hope, that ATS wins. I prefer american made for many reasons, mostly patriotic, but it must be at leat equal to BMW. I just wish that Cadillac would give the same 4-year free service like BMW does.
Another worry is the reliability issues, especially related to electronics. Can't repair them myself and little sensors cost hundrets of dollars when they fail, mostly right after warranty expires. Best electronics are Japanese - German's also like to fail sometimes, but ones you move to German cars is very difficult to go back to Japanese.
Hope, that new Cadillac ATS would change my buying trend by standing up to the best and perform like them as well.
I absolutely agree with the small windows. Is the main reason I will not get a new car because of the stupidity of the design. Has nothing to do with looks, but functionality. Understand small windows looks "racy","sexy" or "tough" or whatever, and every stylist does it.
Depth perception with stereo view is only good to about 20 feet. Beyond that is all based on visual cue. That means if all you can see is the grill of the car behind you, you have no clue how far it is. You need to see the car behind you, the tree, brush, signs and everything else relate to size of the car to judge distance. In traffic, you only have a second or less to do it. That means you need as BIG a window as possible on a car. Unfortunately, new cars make rear windows so small. Not only that, but windows get smaller the further back they go until they end in a sharp point. Hyundai even had the last window end in a triangle the size of a postcard. What a joke. From a functional point of view, that is ridiculous.
Went car shopping with my aunt over Christmas because she knows I am a car nut. Looked at Volvo. She liked it, but decided not to get it. She specifically mentioned the windows are too small to be comfortable. I agree. All the options on the car were great, but windows were too small. She instinctively knew small windows were not right. I wonder how many sales were turned away just because of that.
I must admit that I like the looks of the Dodge Intrepid much better than the current Cadillac styling. The windows are too small, and the longitudinal creases look "retro". Give me the fluid lines of the Intrepid any day!
Comparing a sedan to BMW X3 is really not fair. X3 is a SUV. Should compare with the 3 series which is the gold standard for luxury compact car. Weight of the 3 series starts at 3,428 lbs. Loaded with options, it goes up to 3,800 lbs. So at 3,600 lbs the ATS is getting close, but can be better. They need to pay attention to handling too.
American cars traditionally paid no attention to weight and handling, but only ride comfort. My co-worker who is so conservative, he would never even travel outside the US bought only American cars. One time he got a BMW, and now he swear he would never touch American cars ever again. He was sold on the BMW 3 series's good handling. That is how important good handling is once people drive a good handling car. Weight and handling goes hand in hand. Handling can't be measured, is subjective. Handling has nothing to do with lateral g's. Is how the car feels in your hand. Do you feel connected to it.
GM has come a long way in handling department. I suspect there are still some old guards working that resist change. GM finally realize you have to have good handling cars. Is like fine wine or steak. Once you taste the best, you don't want to go back.
Weight has always been a major consideration for me when buying cars (for both performance and fuel economy reasons) but somehow I am not impressed with Cadillac's effort.
Haven't checked recent models but the 2003 BMW 330i AND the 2003 Mazda Tribute SUV weighed almost 200 pounds less than this 'compact'. Are cars still gaining weight every year despite all the advances in materials and design?
Ok, I will agree with one of your points, and it may be the most important one that you made. The US car manufacturers apparently do not take that holiistic approach to vehicle design, and that leaves us as consumers having to select from a batch of vehicles where no one vehicle has 90 or even 80% of the latest basic functional design features - the major ones being energy efficiency, and usable space.
As to the Honda aerospace engineering comment, when Mr. Honda wanted to start his car company after the motorcycle business was doing well, the Japanese gov't would not allow him to hire many of the engineers he wanted from college and especially other auto companies. So, Mr. Honda hired aerospace engineers, the only ones he could get. That paradigm shift in quality and, of course areo efficiency was a very important reason for the high quality and very high energy efficiency.
Back to the Cadillac story. We did not, or I missed it, hear of the expected or tested fuel economy. And, did they also consider low rolling resistance tires, and did they eliminate the spare tire? After all, Cadillac owners do not change their own tires, do they?
Something said was, "you wouldn't want it to look like a 2000 Dodge Intrepid."
Well I would. I loved my Intrepid. My only fault with the car at the time was that I prefer rear wheel drive. (Which was considered for the intrepid.) A very roomy car that still performed well, had truly great brakes, and room for four large adults. Oh and a trunk with room for all their baggage. If I could buy a 2012 Intrepid with up to date systems and design improvements I would do so in a heartbeat.
BTW the only reason I don't still have the original 2001 Intrepid 3.5 RT was my wife was driving it and was t boned by a cell talking teenager totalling the car. Progressive improvements are a great way to improve the breed while giving a great value. Styling is a subjective thing, Benz and BMW could hardly be considered the kings of styling, but they continue to sell well. I hope Cadillac can produce a good compact luxury car, without such a high price that a few of us can afford it.
The weight comments by Mike and Windy are salient points. I don't know about the hiring of aerospace engineers; cars are cars, and the different cost constraints of cars and planes impact the design process (as do weight requirements, which are there in cars but more serious in airframes). Anyway, the point I wanted to make is, I think the problem with the U.S. car industry is NOT that it hasn't upgraded its design and design-quality capabilities. (Build quality as improved too, but again I would argue that it's still not at Japanese standards, and Chrysler is not even at Ford and GM level.) So, as I started to say, the U.S. automakers problem isn't engineering capability, it's the U.S. carmakers don't employ a holistic design philisophy, which results in the best overall car, as opposed to best subsystems. It's possible that Honda and Toyota don't actually approach design holistically, that it's instead an emergent property of their processes. It's also possible that their tendencies toward staid designs are more amenable to well-design cars (i.e., change of pace is slower, allowing reliablity to be incrementally improved). Finally, it's possible that marketing and sales muck about in the design process more in the U.S. than in Japan. I'm being speculative here but I think i'm onto something.
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