Cadillac ATS. Epic Road Trip. Long Way Home

The following morning sees us retrace our steps somewhat, just to have another go on the switchbacks without plummeting rain. It’s just as much fun, although tempered slightly by more traffic and a lack of overtaking opportunities. After soaking in the views of the Amalfi Coast, we cross Italy headed for the port city of Bari.

Once an Arab Emirate, Bari is a gateway to the Adriatic Sea, upon which we will shortly be sailing. The next part of the journey requires a ferry journey to Greece, and it is not a smooth one. The barman aboard Superfast II warns of a Force 8 gail during the crossing. Barely half an hour in and I begin to feel woozy, so combat it with sleep. I therefore miss the hilarity of cameraman Moe waking up in the night and being pitched across the cabin as the waves crash into the boat.

On the plus side, I awake fully refreshed as we pull into the Greek port of Igoumenitsa. The stern of the boat is lowered and we drive the ATSs into brilliant sunshine. This is more like it!

The Greek leg of the trip is a short one in terms of time, but long in terms of distance. We’re essentially sprinting across the whole width of the country on the Egnatia motorway, only completed in 2009. With few speed cameras we can get some proper pace on, although we’re tempted to stop a few times to capture some of the incredible views on offer. I hadn’t banked on Greece being home to epic landscape, but it’s vast, snow-capped mountains giving way to huge plains. We stop overnight on the outskirts of Thessaloniki and are back underway before dawn, chasing past the Aegean Sea towards the border with Turkey.

And here the problems start. All the way through the EU has been smooth sailing, but the crossing into Turkey takes almost nine hours, thanks to some very rude and incredibly unhelpful border guards. It’s night by the time we’re through, and the rain has returned once again. There follows a sprint to Istanbul, where we’re due to spend the night.

Our original plan was to get a ferry from southern Turkey to Saudi Arabia by way of the Suez Canal. But the commercial nature of the trip meant we had to file regular video reports, and this journey would have taken several days of just sea views. In addition, issues with getting the cars into Saudi Arabia have arisen. We decide it’s easier to fly from Istanbul to Saudi, and pick up two new ATS from GM Middle East.

But there are further problems, this time with my visa for Saudi. To cut a long story short, I didn’t get one, so had to sit in Dubai for two days while the rest of the team ragged around the Reem circuit in the ATSs. It sounded like it was fun. I rejoin them in Bahrain, and by way of consolation have a chance to thrash the cars around the Bahrain International Circuit. I never expected the ATS to perform on track, but it does. It’s predictable at the limit and possessing of impressive levels of grip. The engine is strong all the way through the range and the gearbox quick to respond. I genuinely struggled to find much I don’t like about it, and emerge from an hour of hooning with a big smile on my face. It makes me wonder what an ATS-V would be like. It’ll be a few years away yet, but when it arrives it should really be something.

The end of the trip is in sight now, and the next few days go by in a blur. In Kuwait, we find a vibrant car culture, from a 24-hour kart race to dozens of interesting cars and custom bikes lined up outside cafes. Kuwait City is home to a great vintage car museum, which during our visit was showing presidential rides from around the world. The same evening, we’re treated like celebrities, with paparazzi and TV cameras waiting to ask us about the trip that we’ve nearly finished.

In Qatar, we spend the day wandering through the incredible old souk, with Royal horse stables in the middle of town and countless falcons for sale. Phil lived in the country 20 years prior, and we manage to find his old house. It’s bigger than it used to be.

And seemingly before we know it, 26 days after we set off from Germany, we’re back in Abu Dhabi, soaking in the sun in front of the Yas Hotel at Yas Marina. What a trip. What an experience. Things didn’t go exactly smoothly – the troubles in Syria stopped us driving the original route we wanted, and red tape in Saudi caused me all sorts of problems – but we made it back in one piece. As did the cars. All commercial interests aside, Cadillac has really done well with the ATS. Aside from a couple of glitches with the Bluetooth and that puncture in Italy, my trusty red car barely put a foot wrong. For pure quality of environment, Audi has it licked, but the A4 isn’t nearly as fun to drive. For sheer dynamism the BMW 335i is hard to beat, but it’s not as comfortable on a cruise. As an all-rounder, the Cadillac is really, really good, and takes the fight right to the Germans’ door. Even after a month of it, I’m keen to try it again. Return journey, anyone?


2013 Cadillac ATS
Engine: V6 / 3546cc
Power: 321hp @ 6800rpm
Torque: 275lb ft @ 4800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed / electronically controlled / automatic overdrive with torque converter clutch / rear-wheel drive
Front suspension: MacPherson-type with dual lower ball joints, twin-tube struts and direct-acting stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Independent five-link with twin-tube shock absorbers
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with sliding calipers on base / four-channel ABS / TCS w DRP / Brembo brakes with fixed calipers / ferritic Nitro Carburized process for corrosion resistance / 11.8 x 1.02 vented (front) / 12.4 x 0.90 vented (rear)
Wheels: 18in front and rear
Tyres: 225/40 R18 run-flat front and rear
Weight (kerb) 1570kg
0-100kph: 5.4sec
Top speed: TBC


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