2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Introduction
Closely resembling the 2009 Cadillac Converj concept car upon which it is based, Cadillac’s outré handsome ELR coupe causes quite a stir wherever it is driven. Even non-car conscious people covet the newest Cadillac’s sensuous lines. First shown at the Detroit Auto Show, the Converj promised to marry the innovative fuel-efficient powertrain of Chevrolet’s Volt, to the beauty and luxury of a Cadillac coupe.
Five years later, we can happily report promise kept—and then some. There is absolutely no denying the beauty of Cadillac’s latest two-door model. Nor can one deny the fuel efficiency of the sleek coupe. Further, the ELR just flat nails it in terms of comfort and convenience. Without question this is the most attractively styled, and luxurious plug-in hybrid ever offered by a mainstream manufacturer.
Further, since nothing else really looks like it, eventually the ELR, like the Prius will come to be recognized as the hybrid Cadillac. Mainstream luxury intenders can have the same smugness of attitude Prius and Tesla drivers have, with the added benefit of traveling in a far more luxurious automobile.
For the record though, the Cadillac ELR’s hybrid strategy is different from the Toyota’s. The ELR is classified as an extended range electric vehicle, because its gasoline engine is used primarily to generate electricity. Still, with the ELR, Cadillac has presented a way for the wealthy to have their cake (environmental consciousness) and eat it too (an absolutely gorgeous automobile).
There’s just one problem.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Models And Prices
The 2014 Cadillac ELR is offered in one state of trim, in four colors (Black Raven, Radiant Silver Metallic, Graphite Metallic and Crystal Red), and with three interior treatments. The base price is $75,995, to which a $995 destination and delivery charge is added. The (up to) $7,500 alternatively fueled Federal tax credit currently applies to the ELR.
Standard features include front and rear parking sensor arrays, a rearview video camera monitoring system, full LED headlights, heated exterior rear-view mirrors, keyless entry and start with self-locking upon drive-off and exit, remote start capability, and a dual-zone automatic climate control system.
Also included in the ELR’s base price is a pair of heated eight-way power seats for the driver and the front passenger, a set of folding rear seats to increase cargo capacity, full leather upholstery, cruise control, and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column with a heated steering wheel.
We’re talking about a Cadillac here, so the features list continues even more.
You’ll find a Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming solution accessed through an eight-inch touchscreen video display as part of the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) interface. The monitor also displays the Cadillac ELR’s navigation system, in addition to the controls for the 10-speaker Bose sound system. This audio solution supports satellite radio, an auxiliary audio device input port, and an iPod/USB interface connection.
To all of the above, the ELR’s $1,695 Luxury Package adds automatic high-beam control for the headlights, blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert systems with haptic feedback in the driver’s seat, and a specific 20-inch wheel design. The $2,450 Kona brown semi-aniline leather package adds Jet Black accents to the interior treatment along with additional power seat adjustments. Adaptive cruise control with automatic collision preparation can be added for $1,995.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Design
As we mentioned before, nothing else really looks like the Cadillac ELR, though it is also readily identifiable as a model within the Cadillac family. Taking cues from an F-18 fighter jet, the ELR marries the now-classic angular tenets of Cadillac’s Art & Science styling language with carefully placed gracefully flowing curves.
The Cadillac’s short nose and short rear deck are tied together by an arching greenhouse, which gives the ELR the appearance of motion, even when it is at rest. Its forward-leaning profile also contributes significantly to this phenomenon. The large 20-inch wheels are pushed out to the edges of the body, so overhang is minimal, both front and rear. To tie the car to its predecessors in Cadillac’s design history, a vertical headlight and taillight treatment is employed. This styling element—though thoroughly updated for the modern age—dates back to the 1948 Cadillac models.
One absolutely wonderful aspect of aerodynamic design is the air of sleekness it imparts when applied with skill and refinement. In addition to the graceful good looks of the ELR, its aerodynamic features also reduce drag—significantly. Some of the airflow strategies applied to the Cadillac plug-in include active shutters behind the grille openings, and tapered corners on both the front and rear fascias. Additionally, the exterior door releases are hidden within recesses at the trailing edge of the doors.
The traditional Cadillac “egg-crate” grille treatment is there as well, but in this application it is solid, as the ELR doesn’t need as much airflow through the engine compartment as do the more traditional internal combustion engine powered Cadillac models. And yes, the new stylized Cadillac badge is placed prominently therein as well.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Features And Controls
If the exterior styling treatment of the Cadillac ELR fails to impress upon you this is an exclusive automobile, the interior treatment certainly will. Soft, supple leather upholsters the seats, doors, and dash, while a suede-like fabric is used as a counterpoint on the dash and extends upward to comprise the headliner.
One of the interior’s most distinctive touches is the eight-inch monitor in the instrument panel, permitting reconfigurable instrument and driver information displays. The setup offers four configurations, ranging from elegantly simple to technologically detailed. The center console houses a powered door for the cupholder while the driver and passenger doors feature accent lighting to enhance the ambiance of the interior after dark.
The dash is nicely sculpted in a tiered treatment, showing off the leather and simulated suede to very nice effect. The center console houses the monitor for the CUE system, which employs an intriguing proximity sensing feature to reveal its controls as your hand approaches the screen. The surface of the monitor provides haptic feedback to acknowledge your input choices.
The screen is also mounted on a motorized faceplate, which pivots upward at the touch of button—revealing a concealed storage compartment with a USB port for interfacing smartphones and other electronic devices, as well as storage for smaller personal items. Overall, we found CUE very easy to use, though in some cases we do wish it responded with a bit more alacrity. Ditto for the voice command features. When you verbally tell CUE to find a radio station for example, there is a considerable delay before your request is fulfilled.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Comfort And Cargo
Thanks to the arching roofline, headroom is more than adequate in the front seats, though we would have liked to have at least the option of a sunroof. This feature is not among those offered for the electric Cadillac coupe. Consequently. The interior can be a bit on the dark side, particularly when upholstered in darker colors. Rear seat head and legroom, as you might well imagine, are somewhat compromised for taller individuals—though children and individuals of conservative stature should be comfortable in the back seat of the Cadillac for reasonably short trips.
A deep center console complements a rather generous glovebox (which also houses the optional six-disc CD changer). There are reasonably sized door pockets, map pockets in the front seatbacks, and the aforementioned “secret” storage compartment behind the CUE monitor.
The trunk is a bit on the small side at 10.5 cubic feet, plus the extremely curvaceous styling of the ELR causes the rear window to intrude upon the trunk opening. This can make fitting larger items a challenge. As we mentioned before, the rear seats fold to accommodate additional cargo, but the difficulty of getting items in and out of the two-door coupe really limits the usefulness of this aspect of the ELR as well.
Of course, this begs the question; “Who’d buy an ELR with the idea of hauling huge amounts of cargo? This is a personal luxury car. You can fit enough stuff in it to do a road trip for two people, and frankly, that ought to be sufficient. What else should one be asking an $80,000 luxury coupe to do?
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Safety Technology
All the safety kit you’d anticipate in a 21st century luxury car is offered to grace the 2014 Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid. Its standard protection suite includes antilock disc brakes, along with stability and traction control, and the usual array of airbags. These include front-seat side-impact airbags, front knee airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags.
The Cadillac ELR also features front and rear parking sensor arrays, a rearview video camera, as well as both frontal collision warning and lane-departure warning systems. Further, you literally get “seat of the pants” feedback from Cadillac's Safety Alert Seat, which selectively vibrates when the ELR’s electronic driver warning systems detect an anomaly. Remarkably, the left side of the seat vibrates when the concern is approaching from the left, and the right side of the seat vibrates when the bogey is approaching from the right.
Naturally, OnStar is offered as a standard feature (hey, it’s GM’s pride and joy). OnStar endows the ELR with automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance (including the ability to shut the Cadillac down completely from a remote location), and turn-by-turn navigation instructions.
Optional safety equipment includes a blind-spot monitoring system and a collision preparation system (included with the adaptive cruise control system), which can automatically apply the brakes to reduce the potential impact of an imminent collision.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Engine / Fuel Economy
Powering the 2014 Cadillac ELR is a 117 kW electric motor (roughly equivalent to 157 horsepower), which produces 295 ft-lbs of torque. A 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack stores electricity to supply the motor. Supplementing the battery pack is an 84-horsepower, 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline fired internal combustion engine.
The engine’s primary function is to serve as a generator for the electric motor and battery pack. Only in extreme circumstances is the engine also called upon to provide propulsion for the Cadillac. When it does, the ELR enjoys some 162 kW (or 217 horsepower) of total system output.
Located along the centerline of the ELR, where the driveshaft would run in a traditionally powered rear-drive automobile, the battery pack is T-shaped, weighs 435 pounds and is 5.5 feet long. According to Cadillac’s engineering team, the battery pack is good for about 37 miles of electric-only running. The pack can be completely recharged from depletion in about five hours using a 240v charging system.
In addition to plugging the ELR into a charging station, the battery can be recharged by regeneration when the brakes are applied, when the ELR coasts, and by using the Cadillac’s Regen on Demand feature. Regen on Demand permits the regeneration of energy from the ELR’s momentum into electricity by engaging the ELR’s steering-wheel paddles. The drag induced can also be used to slow the car without using the brakes.
Power is transmitted to the Cadillac’s front wheels directly, so no transmission is needed. The ELR’s range is quoted at 340 miles using energy from both the onboard 9.3 gallon gasoline supply to run the generator, and the electricity stored in the battery pack. This equates to roughly 37 miles per gallon overall.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Driving Impressions
The first thing you’ll notice, after all of the fanfare from the ELR’s start-up routine fades out is how quiet the Cadillac is. This is an electric car, so the sounds associated with the internal combustion engine and transmission found in traditional automobiles is absent. The next thing you’ll notice is how smoothly the Cadillac goes about the business of transporting souls.
The ELR’s ride quality is quite comfortable for the most part. Further, despite the 20-inch wheels and low-ish profile tires, very little in the way of undesirable noise infiltrates the passenger compartment. The ride can be a bit on the stiff side, more than you’d expect from an $80,000 luxury car, but also about what you’d expect from an $80,000 sporty car.
Getting back to the aural aspect of the Cadillac for a moment though; we did note the urgent whisper of the wind as the ELR tore its way through the atmosphere at speed on the highway. However, we’re thinking the sound of the slipstream is so noticeable because of the lack of the mechanical sounds one usually experiences in an automobile on the move.
BTW, when the gasoline “generator” kicks in, the experience is decidedly un-Cadillac-like. The engine sounds like exactly what it is; a relatively unsophisticated four cylinder engine someone has taken great pains to muffle, but weren’t exactly successful at the task. The good news is if you keep the battery topped up, you’ll hear it very infrequently, but when you do, you’ll know its there.
Handling is competent, if not exactly inspiring, but given the limited power output available to motivate the car, the suspension does a more than adequate job of keeping the car planted in corners. Those huge tires and wheels come into play here as well. If we had to characterize the driving experience (which, of course, we do—its our job) we’d call it competently dynamic, if not exactly sportily engaging. The ELR holds its own, but the Cadillac doesn’t encourage the sort of corner carving the look of the car might lead you to believe it is capable of.
Power and acceleration don’t quite measure up either. In a wholly unscientific test, we clocked the ELR to sixty in just under eight seconds. That ain’t exactly slow, but it ain’t yee-hah inducing either. The good news is the brakes don’t have to work that hard, although modulating them can be tricky because you have to get past the regeneration zone first. The steering is accurate; though it really doesn’t transmit a great deal of feedback from the pavement. All in all, the ELR is a pleasant enough driver, though it doesn’t go down the road the way you’d expect a car styled this way, and in this price range to do.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Final Thoughts
And therein lies the rub…
Yeah, we know it’s a Cadillac. And yeah, we know it’s packed with technological excellence. We also know this is the first time any mainstream manufacturer has gone the extended range electric vehicle route, and we roundly applaud Cadillac’s effort in this regard. We love the look of the ELR, and felt really good about being seen in it, getting in it, and getting out of it. This car’s got a serious style thing going on.
And yet, here it comes, the dreaded…
Even with the $7,500 government tax exemption working for you, the only reason we can think of to go this route is the novelty. The ELR, while strongly exhibiting all of the attributes we listed above, simply lacks the overall refinement a car in this price range should deliver.
But hey, we’re picky like that.
2014 Cadillac ELR Road Test And Review: Pros And Cons
Pros: Stylishly beautiful, abundant luxury features, strong fuel economy, very low emissions…
Cons: Average performance, noisy engine, small trunk, and lethargic voice command response…