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On the road: 2014 Cadillac ELRIf you like the idea of a Chevy Volt, but want hot looks, better performance and more cachet, Cadillac would seem to have your number with the ELR. But is this car too derivative of the Chevy?
Ah yes, the high tech running gear of the Chevy Volt with the style and technology of a Cadillac. But is it really the peanut butter in truck and the experience they promise? Or more like peanut butter in caviar? Let's drive the 2014 Cadillac ELR and check the tech. So, what is an ELR? Well, it's a compact car. Same class as a Honda Civic or a VW Golf. And while it is a sibling to the Chevy Volt, it's actually 11 inches longer, although you wouldn't know it judging by this stubby nose under that aluminum hood. The rest of the car seems to be a shrunken down CTS Coupe. Overall the presentation's a little too much like a little bronze baby shoe. Do they still do that? First off, the cabin of this ELR fits its top of the line image, very futuristic. They really slicked out the Cadillac look and of course no mechanical gauges anywhere in the car. Also, notice what else is missing? Look around for a second. Not a knob in the entire vehicle. Everything is either touch sensitive or some kind of a very nicely done button. Here on the wheel, you got a couple of rotators on the stack but this is a very future interface which can be good or bad. Sometimes you just don't wanna to fiddle with this touch thing over here to do the volume. It's also the haptic feedback. And I think carmakers are learning that there is a place for mechanical controls. Now, here on the head you, you've got kind of everything in the Home screen. Navigation in this car, it's a real nav, not just the on-star nav. Audio system, you've got every possible source you want in there. Phone with Bluetooth streaming of course. Pandora sits all by itself over here not under audio which then goes under radio and other sources. So they still, got this a little bit scattered. Here's where things get a little bit tech for tech's sake though and its theme we're gonna see around the cabin. Now there's the radio I just went to it and I'm seeing it with all its full information. Now, get it a second. Now you see it winks out to a minimize display and doesn't come back until I go to reach it and the proximity sensor brings it up, very cool, very stupid. What's the point? Why don't I want this up all the time when it strips down to less? It doesn't get me anywhere it just shows they could do it. What I really want is a back button, a real button. Not one of these consoling moving on screen back and exit buttons that show up in different places. As you may have noticed in there, you've got pause-player radio. GM has been big on this for a while so you can hold things when you're got to be distracted and then get back to your favorite broadcast. Now tech for tech's sake continues here. Here's your door over the cup holders which normally would be one of these things that's kinda spring actuated. But here it's like a DVD player tray. It's actually got a motor. But it's not very elegant the way you use it. You kinda got to burp it to start and then it continues the rest. That doesn't necessarily make the experience any better. It just shows that Jules Verne still works at GM. Did offer the glove box door. I don't need a button over here to operate the-- serve open the glove box which also my hand goes to that button. Re-proximity senses the radio offer no reason. Things are little better on the eastern panel over here. On the left side, you see your battery charge indicator. On the right, is your gasoline level indicator. And then you got four different eastern panels you can choose from. You've got classic, modern, classic-enhanced and modern-enhanced. I'm not sure I need four, but they are meaningfully different. Maybe split those two across two, you get a lot of good information in there about the vehicle, how you're driving. It's good coaching. I-- especially that gauge on the left it shows you how you're accelerating but also how you're breaking. It's a key tool to teach you momentum conservation, which is really important to getting the most of out of your car's energy source whatever it is. Now, in light of all this futuristic dash, it's kind of surprising to see a very traditional-looking PRNDL automatic-style drive selector. Really more than a transmission control. Rear view camera is of coarse standard. It just gives you trajectory, it doesn't even have multi-views. There's no forward cam. There's no around the cam. And then underneath the mode control is your whole driving personality. You start off in tour, which is your basic comfort mode. Sports is gonna make the accelerator, steering and suspension more aggressive. And then mountain, is gonna make a more aggressive recharge profile 'coz it knows you're gonna be going up a grade quite a bit. Finally, you've got paddles on the wheel but they're not for any transmissions since there really isn't one. Instead, what these guys do is do adaptive on demand regeneration. So, when you pull on one of these you go into heavy region. It drags the car back kind of like compression breaking in a combustion engine. But in this case, it's more aggressively using the region of the motor engine combo to charge the battery more and allows you to put some drag on the car. It's either great if you're going down a hill or if you want to do some cornering and use this as kind of your braking to turn in. It can be used different ways. I don't think many drivers are gonna think about it that way. Now, one of the stubby aluminum hood, you've got basically a hatted up Volt-- Volt tech power system here. This a one point four liter lean burn gas engine which is basically there to drive a generator to juice up the big ole battery that will then drive a 55 kilowatt traction motor that really moves the car. Front-wheel drive, no all-wheel drive option on this guy. We're looking at numbers that are 181 total horsepower, 295 foot pounds of torque. Remember, it's electric, very torquey thing by its nature. Total machine weighs 4,050 pounds, 0-60 and 7.9 respectable seconds. Now, some fuel economy numbers. Gets a little odd here, 82 MPGe when you're running in electric mode and you've got 37 miles of fuel electric range on a full charge by the way. And then you get 31-35 mpg when you're running with the gas engine fired, generating juice as it goes to run the electric motor. It's a dual mode situation on these range extenders. Your total range, gas and electric combined is 345 miles. And charging, it's funny on this cars, it's 45 hours for a full charge from flat on a level two 240 volt charger. But, remember this isn't strictly a battery electric car. As long as you have gas, it'll make electricity and run itself. So, it doesn't have range anxiety. The first thing I noticed on the ELR is the most atrocious brake pedal feel I've ever driven. It kinda comes on in two stages that are both kind of hard to modulate smoothly. The first one is just operating region, it feels like. And then as you push further, then the service brake kicks in, but they kind of kick in like that and they go over a notch. I mean really awful. But after that, you started to get absorbed in a really smooth and quiet ride quality in this thing. They really smoothed it out. And it doesn't hurt that you've got 435 pounds of a t-shaped battery underneath me. Kind of go in this way and then spreading across the back. Does wonders for keeping up car planted and very, very solid and fighting back against road vibration. But then all of that beautiful smoothness is shattered once you use up the battery like I just have. And the engine kicks in. And it actually vibrates the brake pedal in the steering wheel. I'm kinda shock by that. So when in electric mode, great smooth, ultra luxury car with a very good job managing engine wine and gear [unk]. Not, if your electric car has that figured out. But man, when that little generator engine kicks in it's a different vehicle. Now, my other gripe is, it doesn't feel that fast. I mean, I'm paid for its two seconds fashion of a Nissan Leaf, it doesn't feel like it to me for some reason. I've-- I've run it to tour and sport mode and, there's never a crisp sort of a get up and go for an electric power that I've come to know in so many EVs. It's definitely oh what I say, spritely. But that nice sharp kick in, I guess it's there I don't know. I wasn't impressed by that. Cornering of course is pretty darn and good 'coz you got all this weight well over two tons and it sets low and well spread across the underside. And of course the back seat room is-- is kind of a nothing. I mean you-- you can't sit behind me when I'm in this car. There is no way, there is just, you know, what a couple of inches of leg room back there. This is the less practical sister of the Chevy Volt. Okay, let's price our ELR. I'd like you to sit down for this part, $76,000 base. That's a problem. But we're not done. To get at CNET style, you got to spend $1700 bucks for the luxury package. That gets you 20s intelligent headlights and the blind spot and cross traffic tech. And then an adaptive cruise control package is nearly $2,000 more. All in will write up against $80,000 before federal and state tax credits that could easily be 10 grand. Let's keep that in mind. Still, we're looking at a $70,000 very small Cadillac with two doors and silly back seats that isn't that much different a performer than a Chevy Volt. And can hold a candle to a Tesla Model S which is thousands less. Cadillac's doing a lot of great cars these days. I'm afraid this just isn't one of them largely based on its price.