Inquiring minds sometimes appear in the guise of mechanical engineers employed by major automobile manufacturers. These minds may add to a greater collection of those who want to know all things of automobiles and include employees of steel producers, engineering consulting firms, tool making firms and others. Collectively they amass a great deal of information about new automobiles and such is the case with Cadillac’s ATS.

Automotive engineers are almost always thrilled when management ventures out and acquires a copy or two of a competitor’s product, though the competitor may be targeting the acquirer more so than the acquiring party targeting the competitor. Such is the case with the Cadillac ATS and at this time several have been hauled into R&D, taken apart, pounded, tested, and driven to the engineer's delight. To top this off, there is a hushed compliment emanating from a region of Europe not known to pass compliments upon competitors.

A concept that is one of a few defining features of which automobile engineers strive is called global stiffness. As part of the development process, this 'stiffness' is modeled in CAE systems and later validated when the first Body-In-White or BIW prototypes are produced. This is an expensive lab based process and lab work plus computer based modeling is pricey. As is normal new techniques are moving forward to bring this cost down and as such this is the reason a fully dressed Cadillac ATS get pulled in and stripped back to its BIW, granted with some acrylic paint showing its former completely assembled glory.

That was long winded so to the point. Cadillac has done a fine job in producing a BIW with both very good global stiffness and very good torsional resistance. Think of the latter as a child taking his toy car and holding one end in each hand trying to twist the toy car along its central axis. All automakers tend to build systems within their labs in different ways so when you see competitors’ cars pulled in and tested say in Volkswagen's lab, you get real number comparisons between the Volkswagen CC and whatever the competing product might be.

In this case the Cadillac’s named competitor from the Cadillac side is the BMW 3 Series.

Another interesting point of the Cadillac is its usage of some six types of steel and a single aluminum alloy used for strut towers and front bumper brace assemblage. The rear bumper support system is also aluminum. The combination of all of these alloys as well as good design place the ATS just below the BMW 3 Series in envelope efficiency (the mass of the BIW to get the level of stiffness) that is topped by the Mercedes C cars.

It is a good job folks for the BIW. Other things well, it is an American made car …. but greatly improving.