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2013 Cadillac ATS

Richard Prince/Richard Prince/rprincephoto.com

Hi Jeremy and Michael: As an early-30s, young professional in Ottawa, I am looking for a vehicle that stands out from the crowd, and the boring sedans, hatchbacks and crossovers that dominate Ottawa. I'm looking for a sports car in the low- to mid-30K range. It should have power, and an aggressive look. Top of my list right now is the Subaru WRX (but the interior feels like I'm back in the 1990s in my dad's car); there's the Ford Mustang (dad would like that one), and there is also the option of entry-level luxury (like the Cadillac ATS, BMW 1-Series, etc.). But I'm fearful of high maintenance costs. Oh, and it must have a manual transmission (so no Mitsubishi Lancer EVO). Any other options to check out? – Al in Ottawa

Vaughan: Look, Cato, here's yet another letter from some guy who is bored senseless by the monotony of Government City, and he hopes that a fast car will cure his lassitude. We must get one a week like this.

Is it the inevitable result of a Harper majority? PM-in-waiting Justin Trudeau, apparently running on the basis of his boxing prowess, might make time for Fight Night on Parliament Hill and give the place a little life.

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Cato: For the record, Justin Trudeau is as qualified for 24 Sussex as I am, and I'm pretty sure I can throw 'em better than he can. The problem is, I could never endure an Ottawa winter, so don't try drafting me for a Liberal leadership run. Just to be clear.

Vaughan: Already you're off topic, Cato. This is not about you; this is about Al.

2013 Subaru WRX STI hatchback Credit: Subaru 

Cato: Al, who needs wheels to assuage his ennui.

Okay, first, no 1-Series. I get plenty of mail from people upset about BMW maintenance costs – owners, I mean.

Second, he's not really asking about sports cars. No, Al wants a "sporty" car, not a sports car. But if he has an epiphany and goes for a real sports car, and a reliable one at that, then he should buy a Mazda MX-5 Miata. Dead reliable and easy to keep on the road.

So to point No. 3: The WRX, at $33,395, is solid, safe and entertaining. But I don't understand why Al is willing to live inside a car with such a bland cabin. Daddy issues?

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Vaughan: You are overlooking the Subie's excellent all-wheel-drive system. It will get Al through Ottawa's monster snow drifts when he's trying to escape Capital Punishment on winter weekends.

Cato: By the way, what exactly went so wrong for you in Ottawa, anyway? Because you really do hate the place, don't you? Some sort of failed ambition, I suspect.

Vaughan: Stick to the subject.

Al is going to like that turbocharged 2.5-litre boxer engine. It's good for 265 horsepower. Put it together with the rally-car handling of the WRX and Al will definitely find some excitement in an otherwise miserable existence. Alas, the exterior is as boring as the interior and will not assist Al in his wish to stand out.

Cato: Hard to pick out a WRX in a parking lot. There's just nothing there stylistically. I will say this: if you go Subaru, Al, get the hatchback. Uninspiring as it is in the looks department, at least the hatch is practical. Here's the thing. Why is Al stopping at the WRX? He should drop a few more Gs and go straight to the WRX STI ($39,095). More power – 305 hp – and it has a close-ratio, six-speed manual. Much better than the regular WRX's five-speed manual gearbox.

2013 Ford Mustang GT: Ford Mustang - the icon of American performance and style - gets even more street swagger for 2013 with a new design and a list of smart features that signal even more technology in the popular pony car. (01/09/12) 

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Vaughan: Mustangs, Cato. You know I like the Stangs and I say get one now before Ford turns it into a glorified Fiesta to help with fleet-wide fuel economy.

The GT ($39,299) is the best bang for the buck in Pony car. Although Al might want to consider Ottawa's sub-arctic climate. With rear-wheel drive and a big heavy engine up front, Al's going to be sliding around on the ice, as helpless as a Senator's defenceman.

Cato: If Al really wants to stand out, he should get serious about that Caddy ATS. With AWD, he can get a 2013 ATS for $39,710, minus discounts like a potential $3,500 bonus for GM cardholders. GM Canada has a few other sales sweeteners in play, too.

Vaughan: Interesting choice. In the ATS, Al will be noticed among "the boring sedans, hatchbacks and crossovers that dominate Ottawa." This could be his car. Today's Stangs still look like the Stangs of Lee Iacocca's days, but this Caddy is different.

Cato: Plus it's powerful enough. That 270-hp turbo four is fine.

Vaughan: And there is AWD, a must in Ottawa. Most important, the Caddy meets Al's psychological needs.

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Cato: And yours?

Vaughan: Look, Cato, a Quebec cabinet minister was once asked to name the best thing about Ottawa?

His answer: "The train to Montreal." With that Caddy, Al can be in Montreal in a blink, 12 months of the year.

2013 Cadillac ATSRichard Prince/rprincephoto.comRichard PrinceRichard Prince/rprincephoto.com 

HOW THEY COMPARE

 

2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0L Turbo AWD

2013 Ford Mustang GT coupe

2013 Subaru WRX STI hatchback AWD

Wheelbase (mm)

2775

2720

2625

Length (mm)

4643

4778

4415

Width (mm)

1805

1877

1795

Track, front (mm)

1421

1412

1470

Engine

2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

5.0-litre V-8

2.5-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

272/260 lb-ft

420/390 lb-ft

305/290 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel drive

Rear-wheel driveAll-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed manual

Six-speed manual

Six-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)

1542

1580

1530

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.3 city/6.6 highway

12.2 city/7.6 highway

12.6 city/8.8 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$39,710

$39,299

$39,095

Source: car manufacturers

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Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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