Sep
10

The moment we’ve been waiting for: Ed determines which of these two new rivals is the true champion.

This is the fifth and final article in my comparison of the redesigned 2012 BMW 3-Series sedan and brand new 2013 Cadillac ATS. Also see Part One: Design, Part Two: Drivetrains, Part Three: Handling, and Part Four: Interior Comfort.

Part Five: Value

Let’s get to the bottom line for this comparison, and what better place to end than with . . . the bottom line.

You can’t accuse either the 3-Series or ATS of being a cheap car. Sure, the base prices look tempting: $34,900 each for the 328i and ATS Base 2.0T. (The ATS Base 2.5L, at $33,095, doesn’t count.) It’s pretty much downhill from there, or perhaps upward into the stratosphere depending on your perspective. It’s even worse when you move up to the 6-cylinder powered versions of each car: $42,400 and $41,195 for the 335i and ATS Luxury 3.6L, respectively.

Your bank balance withers a bit more with every option you add. The BMW’s Premium Package will set you back $3,600 on the 328 and $1,900 on the 335, and it includes features that luxury buyers would probably consider must-haves (leather upholstery, keyless entry/engine start, and more). Only by ordering the Premium Package can you then add BMW’s Luxury Line, Modern Line, or Sport Line packages. Heated front seats will cost you extra, as will satellite radio. It is absolutely baffling to me why SiriusXM is not standard. Load up a 335i Sport Line, and you’re looking at a car that can set you back as much as $60,000.

The ATS doesn’t fare much better. A loaded Premium 3.6L model will get to about $55,000. This includes items such as blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, adaptive cruise control, and a heads-up instrument display.

Pound for pound, the ATS usually ends up less costly than the BMW. At the same time, the 3-Series has a wider array of standalone options, allowing for a greater degree of personalization. This also includes the ability to select a manual transmission on any model, including the recently launched all-wheel-drive 3-Series sedans. Conversely, you’re limited to the rear-wheel-drive 2.0T if you want a stickshift on your ATS. The manual also precludes you from ordering the Driver Assist Package on the Performance and Premium trims. To Cadillac’s credit (pun intended), they will give you back up to $1,475 should you decide that shifting for yourself is more important than blind-spot alert and related accoutrements.

Both the 2012 BMW 3-Series and 2013 Cadillac ATS are exceptional automobiles that deliver high levels of luxury and driving enjoyment. The 3-Series looks better, has a stronger 6-cylinder engine, and has a slightly more comfortable interior. ATS has the superior turbo 4-cylinder engine, interior materials, and audio/climate/navigation controls.

The winner of this competition ultimately boils down to which vehicle I would buy with my own money. Though I have no doubt that many, if not most, of my journalist peers would pick the 3-Series, the Cadillac ATS has won my heart and mind. Its CUE infotainment system and sophisticated Magnetic Ride Control are enough to put it over the top.

Advantage: ATS

At the end of Round Five, the final score is:

Cadillac ATS: 7            BMW 3-Series: 5

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