2014 Cadillac ELR First Test
NOT the Escalade of Plug-in Hybrids
Cadillac sells more than 25 Escalades for every ELR extended-range plug-in hybrid, but the slinky Volt-based coupe is every bit as important as the gargantuan luxury SUV. While the non-hybrid Escalade can finally celebrate a 20-mpg highway rating, the ELR is one of the most efficient premium-branded vehicles you can buy today. The ELR is a green statement car that balances out Cadillac's image as the maker of the eight-cylinder, eight-passenger Escalade, but we think we know what you're thinking: Which Cadillac flagship would win in a drag race?
OK, no Cadillac ELR owner will care about how easily they'll be trounced by a 6000-pound luxury SUV in a stoplight-to-stoplight race, but as with other plug-in hybrids and electric cars, the coupe has more juice from a stop than you'd expect. The sudden whoosh of acceleration tapers off before long, and on the track the ELR hit 60 mph in 7.8 seconds -- add about a second to that if you're in full electric mode. The ELR is clearly not in its element through the quarter mile, with a time of 16.2 seconds at 87.1 mph (the 2015 Escalade ESV gets the job done in 14.6 seconds at 95.2 mph). The ability to accelerate at a decent pace without waking up a gas engine is what makes the ELR special.
The all-electric Tesla Model S can do that too, of course, and our long-termer whips the Cadillac in the figure-eight test -- the ELR completed the course in 27.1 seconds at 0.66 g (average) to the far more expensive Model S P85+'s 25.3 seconds at 0.74 g (average). The ELR brakes from 60-0 mph in a respectable 111 feet, and, in the real world, the brakes will only require a minor adjustment in driving style, considering the car has a regenerative braking system. The ELR even has regen-on-demand paddles behind the steering wheel, for when you're too lazy to press down on the brake pedal. The paddles can bring you to a complete stop but, in our time with the car, we had trouble using them smoothly.
If you're still stuck on the Tesla Model S versus Cadillac ELR comparison, consider that not everyone wants a statement car that can seat 5-7 people. Also, the Cadillac will only ever need five minutes at a road trip refueling stop to the Tesla's 20-30 minutes (assuming a charging station is open), and around town, the ELR's EPA-rated 37 miles of electric-only range will cover most driving needs before you plug it in at night. The ELR takes five hours to be recharged at 240V or as quick as 12.5 hours at 120V. When the car is charging, the sideview mirrors light up in green.
The 2014 Cadillac ELR test car was no lightweight, with 61 percent of its 4036 pounds over the front axle. Not surprisingly, a 3767-pound 2012 Chevrolet Volt (the car on which the ELR is based) had the same front-to-rear weight distribution, and our long-term Tesla Model S weighs 4731 pounds, with a 46:54 front-to-rear weight distribution. On the road, the ELR is mostly quiet, though you may hear the four-cylinder gas engine (and occasionally feel it through the brake pedal immediately after it turns on). The ride on the ELR's standard 20-inch wheels is far from cushy, but it's more than tolerable. The backseat can fit passengers as long as both the front and rear passengers aren't especially tall.
Our 2014 ELR carried an $80,680 price tag that included a $1995 package with active cruise control and auto collision prep/intelligent brake assist, a red paint job worth its $995 price, and $1695 for a package adding special accents to those 20-inch wheels, Intellibeam headlights, and a rear cross-traffic/side blind-zone alert system. The collision warning system provides audible and visual alerts when it senses a potential collision, but most of the time you might just see the lights' enclosure reflected on the front windshield. If this were our ELR, we'd spring for nearly every option including the $2450 brown, semi-aniline full-leather seats, and we'd like to see the $165 premium floor mats included as standard on the ELR, which already carries a $75,995 base price including the destination charge.
You can buy two Volts for the price of one base-model ELR, but no Chevrolet will have the ELR's high-quality leather, wood, and sueded microfiber trim. Still, the Cadillac's interior isn't perfect -- the center armrest could be softer. The instrument cluster might not provide as much info as in a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in, but Cadillac's 8-inch digital display is plenty engaging, with customizable options and a thin ring of color that, as on Hondas, will glow green when you're driving efficiently. Cadillac's CUE infotainment system -- and those slick touch-sensitive buttons -- is standard on the ELR. Yes, the system can be slow to load, but we're fans of the fact that the presets at the bottom of the screen can fit anything from FM radio and satellite radio to addresses and phone numbers.
Where the ELR pulls ahead of whatever else buyers are considering is in exclusivity. In the wealthier sections of Southern California, Tesla Model S cars seem to be everywhere, but the ELR is one of the lowest-volume new cars on the market today, guaranteeing a place at the front of the valet lot. Take it from us, though: Before you give the valet your keys, show the driver how to open the Corvette-like handle-less doors and once inside, the location of the button that pushes open the door. Another word of advice: Drive slowly into every raised-height parking lot entrance or you might scrape the ELR's ultra-low front end.
The 2014 Cadillac ELR succeeds at being different -- it's the only plug-in hybrid in its class, and since the automaker isn't offering many of them, the coupe is ultra-exclusive. Throw in the attractive styling and we can understand why a few coupe buyers might put the ELR on their list. If the ELR were a little quicker, had a longer EV-only driving range, or both, we could more strongly recommend it. Before the latest version of GM's extended-range plug-in hybrid technology arrives as early as the 2015 calendar year in a new Chevrolet Volt, the ELR is a good choice for those who want to make a green statement but prefer a car from a more established automaker.
View more than 100 additional photos of the 2014 Cadillac ELR on the second page of this ELR First Test review.
|2014 Cadillac ELR|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$80,680|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||1.4L/84-hp/92-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4, plus 181-hp/295-lb-ft front electric motors|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont. variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4036 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||186 x 72.7 x 55.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.2 sec @ 87.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||111 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.85 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|EPA ELECTRICITY COMB, GAS COMB||82 MPGe/33 MPG|