Smart sensors play a critical role in modern automotive electronic systems, covering a wide range of data capturing functions and operating under adverse environmental conditions - temperature range of [-40ºC,175ºC]. In such sensors, the signal provided by transducers is composed of an offset voltage, which depends on the manufacturing process, and a low-frequency signal carrying the information. In practice, the offset voltage is subject to temperature variations, thus causing a shifting of the signal range to be measured. Therefore, the measuring circuit driving the sensor, normally formed by a low-noise preamplifier and an Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC), must accommodate the complete range of possible offsets and real signals. In this scenario, the use of ADCs based on Sigma-Delta Modulators (SDMs) is convenient for several reasons. On the one hand, the noise-shaping performed by SDMs allows to achieve high resolution (16-17bits), in the band of interest (10-20kHz), with less power consumption than full Nyquist ADCs. On the other hand, the action of feedback renders SDMs very linear, and high-linearity is a must for automotive applications. Last but not least, the robustness of SDMs with respect to circuit imperfections make them suitable to include programmable gain without significant performance degradation. This feature allows to accommodate the complete range of possible offsets and information signals in a sensor interface with relaxed specifications for the preamplifier circuitry. This paper describes the design and implementation of a third-order cascade (2-1) SDM with programmable gain in a 0.35mm CMOS technology - the type of technology commonly employed for automotive applications (deep submicron is mostly employed for telecom). It is capable of handling signals up to 20-kHz bandwidth with 17-bit resolution. The programmable gain is implemented by a capacitor array whose unitary capacitors are connected or disconnected depending on the value of the selected gain. In order to relax the amplifier dynamics requirements as the modulator gain varies, switchable capacitor arrays have been used for all the capacitors in the first integrator. The design of the modulator building blocks is based upon a top-down CAD methodology which combines simulation and statistical optimization at different levels of the modulator hierarchy. As a result, a dynamic range equal to 105 dB is obtained for all cases of the modulator gain, which corresponds to 17 bit resolution.