New & Used Cadillac ELR: In Depth
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The Cadillac ELR is a range-extended electric luxury coupe, and the smallest car in the Cadillac lineup. It's also one of the priciest, with a base price of $75,000. It was launched for the 2014 model year to unimpressive sales, with fewer than half of the brand's dealers opting to even carry the plug-in electric coupe. The ELR is currently on a brief hiatus for the 2015 model year and is expected to return with improvements for 2016.
The ELR coupe retains the stylish, aggressive wedge lines of the Converj concept car that spawned it way back in 2009. The production version has all the latest Cadillac interior refinements, including leather upholstery, elegant high-end materials, and the CUE touchscreen system for infotainment. The ELR’s interior is essentially that of a rakish mid-size coupe; there are two backseat positions, in small individual buckets, but full-size adults will have trouble getting in, and feeling comfortable with the very limited amount of headroom and legroom.
While it shares running gear with the $35,000 first-generation Chevrolet Volt--including a small, 1.4-liter engine as a range extender, possibly the smallest engine ever used in any Cadillac--the ELR promises entirely different driving characteristics to its Volt sibling. Pains were taken to make it smoother, quieter, and more powerful, using a larger electric motor than the Volt does.
Because it is a range-extended electric like the Volt, there's no need to worry about the ELR's range—when the battery runs down, the onboard gas engine can take over to generate electricity (and even turn the wheels at higher speeds), and since you can refill the tank just like in a regular gas-only car, the range from a charge station is basically infinite. But also like the Volt, the ELR is most efficient when running on battery power; it can go about 37 miles on a full charge according to the EPA. The ELR's system is a little more powerful than the Volt's at 207 horsepower (154 kW), with 295 pound-feet of instant torque, good for 0-to-60-mph times around 8 seconds.
The ELR’s total range is rated at 340 miles on grid electricity and gasoline combined, and its electric-only range is only 1 mile lower than that of the Volt. Its efficiency in electric mode is 82 MPGe, lower than the Volt's 98 MPGe (the Mile Per Gallon Equivalent rating is the distance a car can run electricity on the same amount of battery energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline). When running in gasoline mode, the ELR is rated at 33 miles per gallon—due to its more aggressive calibration, plus the higher (around 200 pounds more) curb weight compared to a Volt. Charging times are the same as the first-gen Volt, with a complete recharge in 4.5 hours on 240-volt power, or 9 to 12 hours on conventional 120-volt household current.
There are no other plug-in luxury coupes on the horizon, at least in the short term, so Cadillac's most unlikely car may have the field to itself. The consensus among electric-car advocates is that the ELR is significantly overpriced, and might have done far better at an MSRP $20,000 to $25,000 lower. Sales have been slow, prompting the production hiatus for 2015.
That said, fairly reasonable lease deals available on the car have been offered from time to time, and it's definitely a distinctive and comfortable vehicle for two--though the rear seats are small, claustrophobic, and only barely capable of fitting real-world-sized adults.
Cadillac has chosen to skip the 2015 model year, in part because there are still 2014 models available at dealers. The company will instead bring the 2016 model ahead with some improvements, which it hopes will boost sales. The 2016 ELR will employ an updated version of the Voltec system that's also destined for the next-generation Chevy Volt; GM has shown the new Volt and detailed its drivetrain, which includes a larger gas engine-generator, a more-efficient battery with the same rating, and various other improvements that should help fuel economy, range, and refinement for both the Volt and its mechanical cousin the ELR. It's not clear whether the price, a big hindrance in the minds of many potential ELR customers, will drop from its 2014 level when the upgrades are put into effect. The 2016 ELR should make its debut at an auto show some time soon.