• 2013 Cadillac ATS offers CUE system to simplify media and entertainment.
  • Cadillac says Apple's iPad inspired the CUE's design.
  • Buyers of the CUE-equipped ATS get a free iPad, too.

Cadillac says the typical luxury car has about 20 buttons to control the radio and other entertainment functions. That number has surely increased as more and more media functionality is built into today's automobile, especially in the luxury segment.

But technology also offers simpler ways for users to interact with machines, a point proven by devices like Apple's iPad, the best-selling touchscreen tablet loved by users and experts alike. In fact, iPad helped to inspire Cadillac's latest technology platform aimed at simplifying in-car media. Instead of 20 or more buttons, the CUE system, offered in the all-new ATS luxury compact sedan, uses only four.

CUE, which stands for Cadillac User Experience and is optional in the ATS, centers on an 8-inch touchscreen that, like a smartphone or tablet, can be customized to suit the user. For example, icons can be chosen and arranged based on frequent use or convenience. Below the touchscreen, a panel of capacitive touch buttons, which are smooth, non-moving switches that respond to touch, handle primary functions like climate control. CUE also includes steering-wheel-mounted controls to minimize distraction.

Because CUE can connect using Bluetooth or USB with up to 10 devices, the driver or passengers do not need to handle the devices in the vehicle. The capacitive button panel opens to reveal a cubby where devices can be stored while driving.

In the ATS, CUE is offered with or without navigation. But with every CUE-equipped ATS, buyers get a bonus feature--Cadillac includes an Apple iPad preloaded with content specifically designed for the ATS driver. This includes basic information like the vehicle owner's manual, but also provides users with a demo program so they can experience CUE while away from the vehicle.

Although it's a $1,200 option, the automaker expects CUE to be included on about 95 percent of 2013 Cadillac ATS models sold. With the bonus of a $600 iPad tablet sweetening the deal, opting for the CUE system may indeed be a no-brainer for buyers of the new compact luxury sedan.

What it means to you: The latest in-car technology from Cadillac is the CUE system, which uses an interface inspired by the iPad. CUE-equipped ATS models include the popular tablet, too.


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Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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