New & Used Cadillac ELR: In Depth
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The Cadillac ELR took a brief hiatus for the 2015 model year but has returned with mechanical improvements for 2016, as well as that lower price. For those interested, dealers may still have leftover stock of the 2014 model, which will likely carry considerable discounts.
The 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 recently lowered to about $65,000. The ELR 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.
Cadillac skipped the 2015 model year altogether, in part because there were still unsold 2014 models at dealers. Instead, the luxury carmaker brought the 2016 model ahead with some improvements, which it hopes will boost sales. It also dropped the ELR's price almost $10,000 for the second year, and made some previously optional equipment—namely the active-safety items—into standard equipment. An optional Performance package was also added.
The 2016 ELR uses an updated version of the first-generation Voltec system, used both in the 2014 ELR and the 2011-2015 Chevrolet Volt. The revised includes a more powerful gas engine-generator, a more-efficient battery with the same rating, and various other improvements to boost performance, refinement, and fuel economy. The 2016 ELR is rated at 233 hp (up from 207 hp) and a stout 373 lb-ft of torque (up from 295 lb-ft). The EPA has not yet released fuel-economy or electric range ratings.
At its launch, the ELR coupe retained 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 provides an 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 calibrations, plus around 200 pounds more curb weight than 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 has the field to itself. The consensus among electric-car advocates is that the ELR was significantly overpriced, and could have done better at an MSRP $20,000 to $25,000 lower. Sales were extremely low, prompting the production hiatus for 2015.
Highly discounted lease deals became available on the car soon became available, and the ELR is 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.