2014 Cadillac ELR Base Coupe (0-cyl. Hybrid 1-speed Direct Drive)
Driven On 6/3/2014
In some ways, the plug-in hybrid 2014 Cadillac ELR is an ideal luxury car for commuting in stop-and-go traffic. But a high price thrusts it into segments in which it can't compete and drags down most scores. Similarly priced gas-powered luxury coupes or the Tesla Model S deliver far more space, performance, comfort and/or refinement.
PerformanceUnderneath that sexy Cadillac styling is the same plug-in hybrid powertrain and platform as the Chevrolet Volt, a car that is generally pleasant and responsive to drive. However, for $80,000 the ELR should provide better acceleration, electric range or dynamic talents.
Electric power provides effortless acceleration around town, but not to the same degree as a Tesla. 0-60 reached in 8 seconds, versus the Volt's 9.2.
The brakes are touchy and difficult to modulate, but putting the car into "L" or using steering wheel paddles increases regenerative braking and is great in traffic. Excellent stop from 60 mph in 116 feet.
Responsive, well-weighted steering goes a long way toward making the ELR feel nimble when zipping around town or through traffic. Very good for a hybrid, acceptable for a luxury coupe.
Communicative steering, low center of gravity and tidy dimensions make the ELR a sharp little handler, but it has a greater tendency for understeer and ultimately lacks the agility of similarly priced coupes.
Touchy brake pedal can make for jerky stops, but its regenerative braking makes stop-and-go traffic much more tolerable by essentially slowing the car automatically. As an urban, traffic-bound commuting car, it is superb.
ComfortHere is another area where the ELR's exorbitant price hurts it. The ride would be acceptable if it were $20,000 cheaper, but not so as it is. The driving position may also be awkward for some. A very quiet car, though.
Firm seats adjust eight ways up front with four-way lumbar adjustment and memory settings. Driver seat doesn't go low enough. Wheel also doesn't telescope far out enough.
Rather firm and lacks the suppleness provided by coupes in its price range, or even cheaper cars like the BMW 2 or 4 Series. Far from harsh, but needs to be better at this price. GM's magnetic suspension unavailable.
Engine noise far more hushed than in the Chevy Volt, and in electric mode the ELR is much quieter than similarly priced luxury coupes at all speeds.
InteriorThe ELR is in no way practical. Its cramped, hard-to-reach back seat essentially makes the ELR a 2+2, while its trunk is small even by coupe standards. The CUE electronics interface is frustrating to use and visibility is compromised.
The CUE electronics interface can be slow to react, menus can be hard to find, the touch volume control is inferior to a knob and the thunk produced by the "haptic" feedback is inelegant. A possible dealbreaker.
Not good, even for a coupe. Doors are very long. No auto return of front seats. Front seat belts are in the way when trying to access the rear seats and you have to lift them up to get under them.
This is essentially a two-seater car since the two-person back seat is tiny, even for a coupe, with virtually no headroom. Those up front should at least have plenty of space.
Very limited rear-quarter vision is reduced to zero if passenger seat is moved far back. Rearview camera, parking sensors standard; blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert optional.
Decent trunk depth, but shallow and narrow. Golf clubs won't fit width-wise. Opening is tiny, basically just a big slot. Only the "40" portions of 40/20/40-split back seat fold, but not flat, and are activated by pulls in the back seat.
ValueEven with tax incentives, the ELR's price is at least $10,000 too high. You essentially get a BMW 2 Series-sized car for 6 Series money. It has a lovely interior and its powertrain should save you at the pump, but not enough to warrant nearly $80,000.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Quality plastics blend with faux suede, leather, contrast stitching, wood and carbon fiber trim. Looks and materials of a luxury car, but some poorly fitted trim pieces betray it.
The ELR is expensive, but most items are standard: rearview camera, navigation, leather-faux suede cabin, Bose sound system, LED lights, heated power wheel. Adaptive cruise, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic options.
Base price is $75,000; as-tested with options listed above, it's $79,685. Even with its styling, interior and ample features, it's an ambitious price for a small luxury coupe with the same powertrain as a $34,000 Chevrolet.
On the Edmunds hybrid evaluation route, the ELR went 54.4 miles on electricity alone, and it averaged 44.3 miles per charge over two weeks. On the regular evaluation route, it returned 41.3 mpg once its plug-in charge was depleted.
4-year/50,000-mile free scheduled maintenance; 6-year/70,000-mile roadside assistance and courtesy transportation; 3 years of OnStar.
Fun To DriveThe Cadillac ELR may not be fun in the traditional sense for luxury coupes, but in this day and age perhaps its eco-friendly driving attributes are attractive substitutes for old-fashioned, gasoline-fueled muscle.
The ELR is surprisingly engaging to drive in the traditional sense, while its hybrid powertrain keeps you busy by encouraging electricity conservation and regeneration.
With its concept car styling, futuristic stylized start-up sounds, snazzy interior and eco-friendly powertrain, the Cadillac ELR definitely has a lot of personality. A special car despite its many flaws.