The ELR boasts an electric-only range of 35 miles and a total combined range of about 340 miles. The ELR shares most of its technical elements with the current Chevy Volt, including its 1.4-liter gasoline engine and 16.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The ELR features Cadillac's signature angular look, but that alone is not worth the steep price.
Cadillac ELR Luxury Plug-in Hybrid with Steep Price
The two-door Cadillac ELR bears little resemblance to the four-door Volt, upon which it is based. Whereas the Volt is a fairly pedestrian small sedan, the ELR is a provocative coupe. It utilizes the aggressive design language of the current Cadillac brand, perhaps best represented by the badass CTS-V. Reviewers have described it as “low and chiseled” or “creased and angular.”
Compared to the Volt, the Cadillac plug-in is almost 9 inches longer, 2.3 inches wider and 0.7 inch lower. The wheelbase, shared with the Volt, is almost a half-inch longer. The ELR features LED headlamps and taillights, and 20-inch wheels.
The Cadillac ELR will turn the heads of fellow road denizens who have no idea that it's a plug-in electric vehicle. But on close inspection, the snazzy design features belie a cheap hollow feel to the exterior materials. Similarly, the interior fit and finish gives a sense of luxury at first look—thanks to features like a leather-wrapped dash, heated steering wheel, and electronic seat adjustments with memory recall. But the ergonomics are atrocious, and many of the key functions, things as simple as door handles, are awkward, if not outright difficult to use.
After a week driving the ELR, we came to see the car as a glitzy and gimmicky dud.
The ELR shares most of its technical underpinnings with the Chevy Volt, including its 1.4-liter gasoline engine and 16.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The ELR boasts a total horsepower rating of 181 and torque is listed at 295 pound-feet. That beats the Volt's rating of 149 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. Curb weight is 4,070 pounds, roughly 300 pounds more than the Volt.
Don't expect blazing 0-to-60 mph times, but the ELR's significant bump in horsepower (58 hp) will likely lend to higher top speeds in real-world driving. The default "Tour" mode leaves the steering wheel feeling loose and disconnected. That can be remedied by putting the car into "Sport," tightening the steering response, and putting more power behind the accelerator pedal. But with each re-start, the anemic default mode returns.
Another distinction between the ELR and Volt is the Cadillac’s user-controlled regenerative braking controls via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Unfortunately, using the paddles doesn't produce a noticeable change in how the regen system grabs the car and puts more energy into the battery. Unlike the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, which is a model for how regen paddle-shifters should work, the ELR's shifters feel like a prop.
The Cadillac ELR boasts an electric-only range of 35 miles and a total combined range of 340 miles.
Just like the Chevy Volt, the ELR operates entirely as an electric car for its first set of miles after receiving a full charge. It burns no gasoline during those miles, drawing energy from a 400-pound lithium ion battery pack. Then, the ELR uses a 1.4-liter gas-powered engine to power a generator that sustains the battery charge for another 300 miles of range. Again, that only happens once the battery is exhausted.
This technical arrangement is called a “series” plug-in hybrid. It’s fundamentally different from a “parallel” hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, in which the car’s computer frequently switches between the engine and a much smaller battery pack.
Official EPA numbers for the 2014 Cadillac ELR peg the “miles per gallon equivalent” while driving on electricity at 82 MPGe—based on 85 MPGe in the city and 80 MPGe on the highway. In extended range mode, the ELR is not exceptionally efficient, earning a combined city/highway EPA rating of 33 mpg. Total driving range from the combination of battery power and liquid fuel stored in a 9.3-gallon tank is 340 miles.
ELR drivers never have to worry about running out of range. Instead, the concern—you might even call it a game—is at all costs avoiding using a single drop of gasoline.
The key to going weeks or months between visits to the gas station is to charge up as frequently as possible—at home, work, public, everywhere—plugging in even more often than owners of pure battery EV cars charge. (Again, it’s not that plugging in is absolutely required, but it is a means for staying on electricity.)
Every ELR comes standard with a portable charge cord that can easily plug into a standard 120-volt outlet. In this manner, the 16-kWh battery pack can fully charge in about 10 to 16 hours, according to General Motors. When using a 240-volt home or public charging station, the ELR takes about five hours to go from completely empty to completely full with enough energy for an additional 35 miles purely on electricity.
Like the Volt, the ELR only seats four (at least in name). The driver and a front-seat passenger will find plenty of legroom, and comfortable well-made seats. However, the backseat is a different story. The tiny rear seats are more suitable for things—like a handbag or two, or a bag of groceries—rather than adult-sized people. The experience of getting into the back is frustrating, if not entirely comical. The shoulder strap for the front passenger blocks entrance to the back, and can trip the most agile passenger. The back windows do not roll down. Head room for passengers in back is lacking for anybody taller than about 5'10".
ThevELR has its share of luxury interior materials, but the poor layout and usability of many features makes the entire driving experience seem like a design flaw.
Visibility in the ELR is poor.
The 2014 ELR comes equipped with safety features like lane departure warning control, forward collision alert, side blind zone alert with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, safety alert seat and all-round LED exterior lighting.
It not yet been evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.