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2015 Cadillac ATS vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

If you're searching for an entry-level luxury car, we hope you have the 2015 Cadillac ATS and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class on your shopping list. Both are recently updated models with a lot of equipment and excellent performance -- plus a wide range of trim levels, engine options and pricing, which means the two cars offer something for just about everyone. But which one is better? We've created a detailed comparison of both models to find out, but first let's see what's new with the ATS and C-Class for the 2015 model year.

2015 Cadillac ATS

Despite going on sale only two years ago, the ATS is refreshed for 2015 with an updated front fascia and Cadillac's latest emblem iteration. The ATS also offers more power in 2.0T form, along with new features such as a 4G Wi-Fi hot spot and wireless charging capabilities.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The C-Class sedan is completely redesigned for the 2015 model year. Longer, wider and roomier inside, the latest C-Class offers totally new styling, new engines and a wide range of luxurious updates to the interior. The C-Class coupe, meanwhile, carries over unchanged.

Reliability

Although the 2015 C-Class is too new for reliability ratings from experts at J.D. Power, the outgoing model earned a promising four circles -- indicating better-than-average reliability -- in the firm's Power Circle Ratings. We're hoping that score continues. Likewise, the ATS also earned four circles, indicating the same better-than-average reliability.

In terms of warranty length, the ATS offers 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, along with 6 years or 70,000 miles of powertrain protection. The C-Class offers only 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, meaning the Cadillac has a slight advantage here. Still, until we see the latest C-Class' J.D. Power scores, this category is too close to call.

Fuel Economy

The ATS offers three engines. Base models use a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which touts as much as 21 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Midlevel 2.0T models offer 272 hp and up to 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy. Finally, the range-topping 3.6-liter V6 boasts 321 hp and up to 18 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

The C-Class, meanwhile, offers only two engine options. Base models, called the C300, line up most closely with the ATS 2.0T. The C300 offers a 241-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, along with fuel economy ratings as high as 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy. The range-topping C400, meanwhile, touts 329 hp and up to 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.

It's clear that the C-Class is the fuel economy champ here, offering both more power and better fuel efficiency than its Cadillac rival.

Safety

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, the ATS earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. The latest C-Class has not yet been tested, but we suspect it'll carry on the perfect 5-star overall rating earned by the outgoing model. Both cars are yet to be tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

When it comes to safety features, neither the ATS nor the C-Class has a huge advantage because both models boast all of the latest high-tech options and extras. Want forward-collision alert? The C-Class and ATS have it. They also offer lane-keep assist, side-curtain airbags, a blind spot monitoring system, an automatic braking system and adaptive cruise control. And both cars even offer a few unique features such as the Cadillac's nifty Safety Alert Seat and the Mercedes' novel Attention Assist system, which can warn drivers of drowsiness and fatigue.

So which one is better? We don't think either one has a clear advantage because both cars offer roughly the same excellent level of crashworthiness and high-tech safety gadgets.

Technology

The latest mantra of the entry-level luxury-car segment seems to be "technology or die" -- and these two cars aren't anywhere near death. Both offer the latest and greatest when it comes to cutting-edge tech features and gadgets, ranging from simple items such as automatic high beams and heads-up displays to seriously impressive tech, including adaptive cruise control and highly useful infotainment systems with large display screens.

Sure, each car has some high-tech advantages over the other. Only the Cadillac offers wireless cellphone charging, for instance, while the Mercedes stands alone with partial autonomous driving and parallel-park assist. But these are two of the highest-tech cars on the market, and we think most gadget lovers would be happy with either one.

Value

Although the C-Class offers a few slight advantages over the ATS, the Cadillac fights back when it's time to check the pricing. Even if you ignore the base-level ATS, which starts around $34,000 and comes with that mediocre 2.5-liter engine, a midlevel 2.0T model is still around $2,000 less than a similarly equipped C-Class. Given the minor differences between the two cars, we'd have a hard time forking over that extra two grand just for the 3-pointed star on the hood, especially since the Cadillac is likely available with sharper discounts than the brand-new Mercedes. As a result, we'd give this category to the ATS.

Autotrader's Advice

We've spent a lot of time in both of these cars, and our opinion is that the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is better than the 2015 Cadillac ATS. The Mercedes is roomier, it offers a nicer interior, it touts better gas mileage and more hp and it has a few more high-tech features than the (still very high-tech) ATS.

But then again, the C-Class should be the better car because it's more expensive than the ATS, and despite its advantages over the ATS, the C-Class struggles to justify its $2,000-$3,000 price premium over the entry-level Cadillac. So our opinion is this: The C-Class is the better car, and if you don't mind the extra expense, we'd spend the money. If you're on a tighter budget, however, get the ATS. You won't miss that 3-pointed star on the hood, especially since you'll have a little more money in your wallet at the end of every month.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Cadillac ATS vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: Which Is Better? - Autotrader