EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: The 2014 Cadillac ELR is a very nice-looking car. Aside from the grille, which is a little too shiny, the thing is a knockout. It's got a hundred neat little details (little “Cadillac” reliefs in the headlights and taillights, the mirrors glow green when plugged in) that, while they probably don't cost much, make the car feel more special. It's a lot like the C7 Chevy Corvette in that sense.
The last coupe Cadillac built -- the CTS -- still looks great in CTS-V trim, but it's begun to look little chubby in standard CTS trim. As Blake Z. Rong is fond of pointing out, the CTS coupe has a huge expanse of sheetmetal between the wheel well and the rear window/C-pillar. It's kind of broken up by a nice character line, but on the standard car, it's not enough. The ELR on the other hand, uses a deep, sharp line that starts behind the front wheel and ends at the tip of the fin-evoking-taillight. From any angle, the car looks elegant and athletic.
The interior is possibly the nicest I've seen on a modern American car. Everything is well-assembled, materials are well-chosen and it looks cohesive. The seats are gorgeous and comfortable, though the seating position is too high and a bit odd otherwise. I spent a lot of time trying to bring the telescoping steering wheel closer to me and never succeeded. I'd probably opt for an interior trim package that doesn't come with the carbon fiber but overall, it's surprisingly good. That said, the haptic-feedback controls for the CUE system are a dead end. Oh, and the start-up and shut-down
sound effects would be ridiculous in a Michael Bay movie. In the ELR, their inclusion makes it seem like Cadillac is trying a little too hard to make the car appear futuristic. It's the kind of thing that a Mercedes-Benz owner might roll their eyes at. Cadillac doesn't have to do that anymore.
Driving the ELR is a bit of a mixed bag. Under full electric power, it's quick enough, but the real joy of it is how smooth and quiet it is. I could see the owner of a late pre-war Cadillac being impressed. When the juice runs out, you quickly learn to dread the sound of the rough, 1.4-liter “generator” motor. In the Chevy Volt, the motor makes sense, in the ELR, the sound of it and the way it feels when it's driving the front wheels is incongruous and unpleasant. The gasoline motor will allow ELR owners to travel further, and worry less, than they would be able to if the car was all electric, but in a car this nice -- and this expensive -- the roughness is weird.
Which brings us to the price; the ELR we tested would cost $83,130 if you were to buy it. For around that price, you could buy an Audi S7 or a C7 Corvette and a Chevy Cruise. That said, if I were among the deep-pocketed that have come to fetishize American-made things, or a wealthy fan of Cadillac and/or General Motors, I'd have to consider buying an ELR as second or third car on looks alone.
One more thing: I observed fuel-economy just a hair under 35 mpg. I left the office with a full charge, and then exhausted the ELR's battery fairly quickly, probably due to the cold weather and lead foot. After that, I made no effort to charge it.
If this were my daily driver, I'd be able to complete my normal, daily commute on battery alone. But, over a recent long weekend, the ELR spent a lot of time on the freeway, shuttling me all over the suburbs. Even though I knew a hybrid isn't going to return maximum economy on the freeway, the 35 mpg figure was surprisingly low.
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: I opened this ELR review notes file to offer my input, took one look at the as-tested price and felt immediately like pulling the Grandpa Simpson in-and-out move.
But we're in the early days of these electric powertrain vehicles. Much like the people in 1997 who were willing to pay $400 for a then-new device known as a DVD player -- that's almost $600 in today's dollars, a shocking price tag at the time -- early adopters who just have to have it now will feel justified in their decision. Hopefully this technology's price will follow a similar path as the DVD player's through economy of scale as time passes.
I agree with Rory regarding the styling, inside and out. The ELR is, as mentioned, is a more stylish, shrunken CTS coupe. It's the best-looking Cadillac available, in my opinion, with its “green-ness” certainly not detracting from its visually aggressive cues. The small details Rory mentioned, plus the Cadillac V-shaped logos in the seatbacks, work well.
Minor details that begin to cause reasonably high levels of irritation and can be improved include the mish-mash of carbon fiber and wood trim pieces positioned directly next to each other, which made me wonder if the stylists decided that the more premium bits they threw in, the higher the customer's perception of quality. Ultimately it just looks incongruous, and Cadillac does offer just one or the other in its other models, such as the CTS. The wing mirrors' green glow while charging the ELR is gimmicky -- my favorite type of electric or hybrid vehicle is one that doesn't feel a need to scream it in my face. Speaking of screaming: the bizarre, unintentionally comedic sound effect that greets you upon both start-up and shutdown is not only unnecessary, as Rory noted, but plain tacky. Perhaps a different sound effect would work, but as it is, this sounds like the effect game shows use when you “lock in your answer.” I literally laughed out loud at one point, wondering what, exactly, this racket was supposed to be. Mr. Fusion exhausting its supply of plutonium for Doc Brown's DeLorean? I neither need nor want the “futuristic” shenanigans. The ELR is good enough on its own, without the need to sell me on how filled with technology it is.
Rory and I are not of the same personal build, but we both found the driver's seating position a bit too high, though I had no issue with the steering wheel's adjustability and location, and I like that it's of reasonably small diameter a la the C7 Corvette.
Haptic controls … I haven't experienced such a system I like on any vehicle, from any manufacturer/supplier. They are slow to react, you must be overly precise with your touches to activate them, and they do nothing to improve the driver/passenger experience. Thankfully the ELR features quick-reacting steering wheel-mounted controls for the sound system, at least. If there's one thread stitched throughout this car, as Rory mentioned, it is the overkill attempt to sell me on its tech overload and futuristic pretensions. Some of that, though, is endemic throughout Cadillac's model range, including the haptic interface. Another example: the center console's storage bin cover is powered electrically; tap it one way and it slides open under power, tap the other way to close. Neat, in a 12-year-old's neat sort of way, but a bit too much for my taste. I'm not bothered by, you know, manually opening and closing a lid. It really is not much of an inconvenience. Neither is a more conventional, non-haptic controls system.
The actual drive? In full EV mode, it is easy to forget quickly that the ELR is doing much different than a conventionally powered car. It gets more than out of its own way under hard acceleration, and the instrument screen's estimation of your range on electric-only power is pretty spot on; I tended to get about 30 miles out of it, as predicted by the computer, from full charge. I usually have the radio on, so unless I turn it down and listen closely for the differences compared to a “normal” drivetrain, there is nothing off-putting to me. The energy-regenerating brakes (for the lithium-ion battery pack) feel more like an on-off switch than I would prefer; a common drawback to such setups. You can also use either of the steering wheel-mounted paddles to increase the amount of regenerative braking -- nope, those aren't shift paddles -- though it adds little to the driving experience and, after a brief while, I didn't bother using them much.
I don't think I found the 1.4-liter gasoline-powered generator engine as annoying as Rory, but it does telegraph some vibrations, high-pitched whines and buzzes into the cockpit. Radio off and driving in silence, yes, I notice these things. But far less so with the radio on and/or with a passenger to speak with.
The ride quality surprised me a bit with its stiffness, even in touring mode, and thanks to all the hardware, the ELR's 4,000-pound curb weight is readily apparent. It handles well but you won't describe it as “sporty,” just simply “solid.” And I laughed at the fact -- though it doesn't surprise me, given modern consumers' preferences when it comes to automotive styling -- the ELR rides on a 20-inch wheel/tire package. That's not exactly the most efficient setup there, but then again, this is hardly your typical hybrid or EV. Given the price tag in these early days, someone who plunks down $75,000-plus right now for the privilege of parking one in their garage is not likely to be a typical driver, either.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I hopped in the ELR only to find that its electric range was completely depleted -- a previous editor who will remain unnamed neglected to plug it in, so I was in big, bad polluter mode during my entire stint in the car (I don't have any place to plug it in at home). So it could be fair said that I really didn't get to experience what the ELR is all about.
At least from a driver's perspective. From GM/Cadillac's perspective, it's pretty clear what's going on. Cadillac is aiming to be a world-class brand, and succeeding in many ways. But what does everyone else -- Benz, Audi, Lexus, BMW -- have that Caddy lacked? A lineup sprinkled with alternative powertrains. GM doesn't quite have the luxury-grade super diesels on lock, yet, but it does have the under-used Voltec system.
And I'm sure when that system is operating as intended, it covers the vast majority of its users' daily needs -- spooling out smooth, quiet luxurious power and dramatically reducing gasoline consumption. Again, I didn't get to experience that. With the gasoline “generator” running, the car remained relatively quiet and never really wanted for power. Yet it didn't really impress, either. I'm not sure how much the feel changes with a full battery, though.
I will say that the ELR made the jump from killer concept to production car better than the Volt, and it does represent a competent, futuristic application of well-established Cadillac design cues. Actually, it's kind of like a Caddy-ized version the FWD Chevrolet Tru 140R concept we saw in Detroit years ago. And the interior design and build quality are good. If there were any place to deploy capacitive buttons, it would be here. If only they actually worked.
Buttons aside, the package the ELR represents, especially at its ludicrous price point, just doesn't make any sense. It's a fairly refined, interestingly sculpted ride, but don't pretend it's built for performance. Top speed is 107 mph, and 0-60 is something like 7.8 seconds.
The Tesla Model S will walk this thing at a quarter mile, on the track, or at a stoplight, plus it's considerably cheaper to start. And it seats seven. It doesn't have the flexibility of the range-extended ELR, true enough, but anyone contemplating either vehicle is likely to have a few backups in the family fleet, or could easily afford a gas/hybrid grocery-getter if they needed one.
Again, I get why Cadillac went ahead with a vehicle like this, which is more than I can say about a lot of the totally superfluous German offerings cluttering up the market. But I don't understand why anyone would bite on the car as presented. As a performance luxury coupe, it's got a long way to go. As a green bauble, it can't really hold its own against its competitors. And that's really too bad, because it certainly looks nice parked at a charging station.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This Cadillac ELR is darn close to the Converj concept we saw at the Detroit auto show a few years back. Thank god it kept most of the lines that made it look so good. This is the best-looking Caddy on the market. Put in a V8 and a RWD powertrain, and call it a night.
The shape is slick. Many automakers say it, but for this car it's true: It looks fast while standing still. The only thing I don't like is the covered grille, which is for aerodynamics, but I would have loved a black background, even if it was just plastic. The front lip looks really low, but it cleared the 5-inch curb in my garage. I didn't pull it up on a parking block though.
Moving inside, everything is just as slick. The woodgrain bumping up against the carbon fiber is strange, but with the dark hue of the wood, it doesn't look as bad as it sounds. The seats, dash and the rest of the interior are truly top notch, one of the best in Caddy's stable, which is getting better every year.
The CUE system needs some work. Not only is it extremely touchy, it's also hard to understand. I'm still not sure if I'm supposed to hit the symbol for the fan, or the metal piece below it. The volume is the same way. Its only cool trick is that the screen changes when your hand gets near it, that and the fact that it opens to reveal a hidden cubby.
The “welcome aboard” sound, in addition to just being goofy, also glitches out when you hit the start button. After that comes the startup sound, and when you kill it, the shutdown sound. It's all cheesy, and there's no need for it.
I couldn't get the ELR to charge in my garage. I plugged it directly into my garage wall and no luck. The charger kept displaying the exclamation point notation, which means something is amiss.
The ELR drives great. Power is smooth and plentiful from the electric powertrain, and when in electric mode, nearly silent. I like the feel of the electric drive way more than a CVT. It doesn't sound strange, or like it's hunting, it just whirrs away. It's definitely not fast, but also not annoyingly slow.
I agree with Mac in that it's sprung surprisingly stiff. It doesn't look like the mode button changes anything in the suspension, just the throttle sensitivity, but it seems to hug the road. Those batteries contribute to its low center of gravity; it corners nearly flat. The steering is nice and tight. I wasn't apex hunting, but it's real easy to place on the road.
I liked using the paddles (shifters?) to slow down; if I was able to actually charge the thing, I think I would have been pretty efficient when I had it over a recent weekend. I did fill it up, more than half tank, and it cost me less than $20. Can't argue with that!
The ELR seems expensive, and it is. On the other hand, the BMW i8 is slated to come in at $135,000, so it's a bargain compared to that. Of course, the Chevy Volt is about $40K, so buyers have a few options.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: The Caddy ELR has a great bod, I'll say that. I think the car is simply gorgeous to look at and arguably is the best-looking Cadillac available, all tucked and tight. I like the interior as well, but the weird sounds on start up and shut down would get old fast. Wonder if I can shut them off? I can also live without CUE and haptic feedback and the repeated poking at a button to get the function one wants.
It is wrong to say the ELR is a gussied up Chevy Volt. We don't say that here because we're smarter than that, but plenty of media types say it and they're wrong. Yes, it is the same idea -- electric motor and battery charging generator (which I think is the best EV combo, by the way) -- but the ELR is updated: New battery and powertrain software, new suspension, new chassis. The ELR is longer and wider and has different H points.
To me it drives like a normal car; I suppose this is the whole idea. Forget fuel economy and just drive the ELR as you would, say, a Mercedes-Benz C-class and it turns out the ELR is a nice-driving luxury coupe. The batteries make for a low center of gravity. There's little to no body roll, steering feels good. For me, personally, the 30 or so miles of electric range mean I'd rarely visit a gas station.
“The ELR isn't cheap…” is a popular phrase, but compared to what? It's the only plug-in luxury car on the market. The competition is what -- the Tesla Model S? That costs more. Fisker is gone and the others are based on econoboxes. The ELR is sort of in a class of one.
Cadillac's challenge, in my opinion, is like Chevrolet's with the Volt: selling new (and in many cases, misunderstood) technology. It takes time. I personally believe in this range-extender technology. I think unlike pure electrics, this is the future until there's some kind of major battery breakthrough. Cadillac sold 41 ELRs in January, on pace for 492 a year. Question is, is that good enough -- will the company have the patience to stick with it?
A Cadillac official told me once that “electric cars suffer from extreme over analysis.” I agree. He went on to say “some assume an electric car must defeat all conventional cars, or that you must renounce all others. ELR is just trying to be a cool car,” he said, “exclusive, great to look at, fun to play with. It's not so much a city car promising to change transportation forever. It's a good-looking luxury coupe.”
Who knows? Maybe Silicon Valley CEOs will go crazy for the thing…
2014 Cadillac ELR
Base Price: $75,995
As-Tested Price: $83,130
Drivetrain: 1.4-liter I4, 117-135-kW electric motor; FWD
Output: 84 hp @ 4,800 rpm (157-181 hp electric motor), (295 lb-ft electric motor)
Curb Weight: 4,050 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 31/35/33 mpg gas/82 mpg-e EV mode
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 36.7 mpg
Options: Kona brown with jet black accents, full leather seats, 20-way power adjustable front seats ($2,450); adaptive cruise control including auto collision preparation with brake assist ($1,995); luxury package including 20-inch wheels, intellibeam headlamps, rear cross traffic alert, side blind spot monitor ($1,695); crystal red tintcoat paint ($995)
Article SOURCE: this factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.