Give Cadillac credit: the ELR does little to indicate it packs a high-efficiency powertrain. The car is a looker, with low slung angular styling that is very aggressive. On looks alone, the ELR certainly seems like a worthy competitor to other big luxury coupes. Of course, the ELR is much more than just a pretty face.
The Cadillac ELR has a powertrain similar to that found in the Chevrolet Volt, what GM calls an "extended range electric." This means that the car can be charged at home and then driven roughly 35 miles while using no gasoline whatsoever. Should owners exceed that range, a small displacement gasoline engine starts up, seamlessly powering the electric motors that move the front wheels. Cadillac claims this powertrain is good for a range of about 330 miles. Drivers will rarely need to put fuel in the car provided they only use it about town, but the powertrain's flexibility serves to allay range anxiety but also allow the impromptu longer road trips when desired.
Styling and futuristic drivetrain aside, the ELR must also has credibility as a luxury car, and that means plenty of goodies and interior amenities. The interior of the car is swathed in leather and carbon fiber, feeling expensive and stylish. There are two small seats in the back for children or the occasional adult, but most ELRs will spend much of their time with only one or two occupants. Those occupants will benefit from Cadillac's latest CUE in-car infotainment system, which makes Bluetooth pairing, navigation and stereo operation easier and more powerful than ever. The system has plenty of other trick features as well, including a proximity sensor, haptic feedback, multi-touch controls and speech recognition.
Other stand out features on the ELR include a Bose 10-channel stereo with noise cancellation technology, electronically controlled suspension capable of adjusting dampening rates continuously and on the fly, 20-inch wheels, LED headlamps, programmable charging schedules, SMS text functionality, OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity, wireless inductive charging for smartphones, and an 8-inch configurable touchscreen for CUE controls.
Safety has not been neglected and the ELR comes with forward collision and a lane departure warning system. Optional safety enhancements include a blind spot warning system, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control are also standard.
Call it a plug-in series hybrid or extended range electric vehicle, the 2014 Cadillac ELR, using the same drivetrain architecture as the Chevrolet Volt, attempts to help the quintessential American luxury automaker push the boundaries of advanced, economical mobility. This type of post-oil development has been taken up by other companies, such as BWM with its 'i' brand, but the show has really been stolen by the Tesla Model S.
To Cadillac's credit, the ELR shows excellent exterior design, employs solid cabin electronics, goes about 37 miles without using a drop of gasoline before its engine has to kick in, and I found it very enjoyable to drive.
The ELR, like the Volt, carries a T-shaped, 16.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack down its center, supplying electricity to a 135-kilowatt drive motor at the front wheels. A fully charged battery pack allows the aforementioned electric range. When the battery runs out of juice, a 1.4-liter gasoline engine kicks in, serving as an onboard generator to let the ELR go another 303 miles before the tank is empty.
The Good The 2014 Cadillac ELR's plug-in hybrid drivetrain takes it 37 miles on electric power alone, then 303 more miles on a tank of gas, making for potentially high fuel economy. An LCD instrument cluster shows driver-configurable information. The elegantly designed CUE cabin interface responds quickly to inputs.
The Bad The ELR will find it tough to compete with other high-tech rides at its $75,000 price point. Understeer hampers sport performance.
The Bottom Line While the beautifully-designed 2014 Cadillac ELR offers refined electronics and comfort worthy of the brand, Its lack of sporting performance and high price tag limit its appeal.
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