By Zach Vlasuk
Sharing major powertrain and chassis components with the Chevrolet Volt, the 2014 Cadillac ELR is an all-new nameplate and the latest entrant into the developing world of high-end green cars. By blending the efficiency of a plug-in hybrid with the sleek silhouette of an upmarket sports coupe, the Cadillac ELR is essentially an amalgamation of two niche vehicles. Starting at $76,000, the ELR's exclusivity factor makes it an attractive alternative to such upscale alternative energy vehicles as Tesla's all-electric Model S, the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and, to a lesser extent, the forthcoming BMW i8. The ELR also has an aversion to range anxiety, as its versatile EREV propulsion system provides up to 37 miles of pure electric range before a gasoline generator kicks in to deliver the next 300 miles.
If you've had your eye on a conventionally-powered luxury sports car like the BMW 6 Series or Mercedes-Benz CLS, but express an unshakable interest in eco-conscious transportation, the 2014 Cadillac ELR could be the ticket. Drivers with lengthy commutes will also find the ELR significantly more flexible than the electric-only Model S.
Purchasing a Cadillac ELR is an expensive proposition, even when taking into consideration federal and state tax incentives. Furthermore, the ELR should be viewed as a 2-seater rather than a traditional 2+2 coupe, as the rear seat is unsuitable for all but the smallest children.
The 2014 ELR is an all-new touring coupe and Cadillac's first plug-in hybrid.
Driving Impressions Although Cadillac engineers managed to extract an additional 22 lb-ft of torque out of the Volt's propulsion system, this power increase is largely negated by the ELR's additional heft. Therefore,...straight-line performance is nearly identical between the Volt and ELR, but that's where the similarities end between the two cars. Cadillac developed an array of specialized suspension components for the ELR, including a HiPer Strut front suspension to help mitigate the effects of torque steer (front-wheel-drive cars can have a tendency to pull left or right under hard acceleration), a semi-independent rear suspension with a Watts Z-link for better stability in corners, and Continuous Damping Control that adjusts shock dampening every two seconds in accordance with the current driving situation. Combined with proprietary Bridgestone low-rolling-resistance tires and a trio of active noise canceling microphones, the ELR delivers a driving experience that's on par with other luxury coupes at this price point.
REGEN ON DEMAND
Activated via steering wheel-mounted paddles, Regen on Demand allows the driver to supplement (or in some instances, bypass) the brakes by converting rolling momentum into stored energy.
SAFETY ALERT DRIVER'S SEAT
Included as standard, the ELR's haptic-enabled seat alerts the driver to the direction of possible hazards by vibrating different sections of the seat.
Although elegant, the ELR's cockpit imparts a somewhat showy feel compared to its rivals. Still, the atmosphere as a whole is one of opulence and sophistication, thanks in part to liberal use of high-quality materials and a well-thought-out center stack. On the other hand, Cadillac's Cue infotainment system and its haptic selection panel will test your tech skills as well as your patience. In terms of aesthetic upgrades, the ELR's 2+2 cabin can be dressed in alternative materials that range from semi-aniline leather to real carbon fiber. If the concept of a 2+2 interior escapes you, just know it takes the expertise of a skilled contortionist to climb into and out of the ELR's rear seats.Exterior
The 2014 Cadillac ELR is based almost entirely on GM's 2009 Converj concept. Visually, the ELR mixes bold angles and sweeping lines to make a powerful statement highlighted by Cadillac's signature vertical lighting elements and 20-inch aero-enhancing wheels. At the same time, aggressively raked front and rear glass are complemented by numerous wind cheating touches like a flush front grille with active shutters and concealed door handles. Together they yield a respectable 0.30 drag coefficient.
Given its limited production numbers and rather lofty price point, the Cadillac ELR comes generously equipped from the get-go. Apart from expected standards like dual-zone climate control, keyless access and start, and a backup camera, the ELR includes such premium features as a Bose 10-speaker audio system, touch-screen navigation with advanced voice recognition, and front and rear proximity sensors designed to help avoid fender-benders during parking maneuvers. On the safety side of the ledger, the ELR comes with eight airbags, a forward-collision warning system, and OnStar's suite of emergency services, including automatic collision warning, crisis assist, and roadside assistance.
As a low-volume model, it should come as little surprise that the ELR offers the shortest options roster in its segment. The lone option package consists of automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and a rear cross-traffic alert that warns you of oncoming traffic when backing up. The one and only standalone option is a $1,995 adaptive cruise control system designed to maintain a preset distance from the vehicle ahead.
The 2014 ELR gets its motivation from a 1.4-liter gasoline-powered generator, a 16.5 kWh lithium ion battery pack, and a 154 kW electric motor. When put to the test, the ELR can sprint from 0-60 in about eight seconds, only a few ticks slower than a Lexus ES 300h hybrid. Replenishing the battery pack takes roughly five hours using a dedicated 240V charger and anywhere between 12.5-18 hours on a standard household outlet. The hybrid-electric drivetrain can be optimized for peak efficiency or performance by way of four driver selectable modes: Tour (normal), Sport, Mountain, and Hold, which stores remaining energy in the battery for later use.
AC synchronous electric motor/generator
16kWh lithium-ion battery pack
1.4-liter inline-4 gasoline generator
207 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 0-4,800 rpm
EPA projected full-charge range: 37 miles (all-electric), 303 miles (on gasoline generator only)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31 city/35 highway mpg (on gasoline generator), 82 MPGe (all-electric, mpg equivalent)
If you don't consider the Cadillac ELR as nothing more than a glorified Chevy Volt (we certainly don't), then its $76,000 staring price shouldn't send you running for hills. Plus, the ELR is eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits on top of state and local handouts. Looking at the competitive landscape, the all-electric but more limiting Tesla Model S begins in the low-$70,000 range and qualifies for the same federal, state and local tax rebates as the Cadillac. On the high end of the eco-minded spectrum, the $100,000-plus Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is eligible for up to $4,750 in federal rebates, plus any applicable state incentives. Unlike the Porsche and Tesla, however, resale value is no friend of the ELR, as KBB.com expects it to retain some of the lowest residuals values in the luxury sector.