2016 Cadillac ELR Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 18, 2015

The 2016 Cadillac ELR is back with a somewhat sportier attitude and a lower sticker price. Is that enough?

With the ELR, Cadillac attempted to redefine the idea of the personal luxury coupe—around plug-in capability, and an all-electric range that’s longer than most Americans’ daily commutes, plus chiseled good looks and one very plush cabin. The only thing missing, arguably, was a price tag set within the realm of sanity. At more than $75k, it was hard to make an argument for the ELR, even if you did your best to ignore the cachet of the Tesla Model S, or could see past the CLA45 AMG that would perform above and beyond and get better mileage on longer highway trips.

The brand may have sent a foul ball spinning into the bleachers, but it’s not yet willing to say that it struck out with the ELR. After sitting out the 2015 model year completely, Cadillac’s extended-range electric coupe (or plug-in hybrid) enters the 2016 model year with $10k price discount, a stronger new drive system, some technology upgrades, and improvements to handling, steering, and braking.

Factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit that will apply for most buyers, the 2016 ELR now starts at an effective $58,495.

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The profile of the ELR continues to elicit mixed reactions from our editors. While it’s hardly a show-stopper, and the stance can be a little stubby from some angles, the ELR manages to look exciting through its beautiful details, including huge 20-inch wheels, LED lighting, scooped-out door handles, and a nicely done, more rakish version of the crisp, upright, and fully chromed Cadillac grille. Inside, the ELR includes a real priority on materials and trims; with a rather low-slung layout to the front seats, it feels lavish and glamorous, with an appealing layered look and true ‘cut-and-sewn’ surfacing ad upholstery. It’s all gentle curves and warm tones, contrasting with the cool glow of the CUE interface and its two large TFT displays.

Although the new 2016 Chevrolet Volt, with which the ELR is closely related uses a significantly reengineered powertrain compared to last year, the 2016 Cadillac ELR carries over with its existing arrangement, with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine smoothly pitching in as both an onboard generator for all speeds and a traction motor at higher speeds. The electric motor system delivers up to 373 pound-feet of torque. Total driving range for the ELR is 330 miles. It can be fully recharged in about five hours on a 240V charger, or on 110V in as little as 12 hours. Total driving range with both power sources is about 330 miles.

The 2016 Cadillac ELR feels like it almost has two distinct performance identities; and that—more than the performance itself—is its Achilles’ Heel. The ELR feels at its best when it’s been charged up and is powered by its twin electric motors; then it’s quiet and confident and does feel the part of an electric car. But after an EPA-rated 39 miles of all-electric driving, the 84-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine starts and brings a psychological downer: a distant buzzy, raspy drone whenever the car is hustled along. Once the gasoline engine starts, the ELR achieves an estimated 31 mpg combined on gasoline—not much better than a V-6—so only consider this model if you plan to plug in faithfully.

New to the 2016 ELR is a modified Sport mode that brings a 1.5-second improvement in zero-to-60 mph acceleration versus the 2014 model—bringing the official number to a more sports-coupe-like 6.4 seconds. A special Hold mode allows you to save the charge and all-electric mode for when you can best use it in city driving, while a Mountain mode actually blends in more engine torque to tackle long grades.

The ELR continues with a front strut, rear Watts link suspension arrangement. Tuning is rather sporty, yet harshness is kept out through a Continuous Damping Control suspension that can soak up smaller bumps and make changes to damping stiffness in milliseconds. In order to improve the ELR’s ride and handling, Cadillac has this year given it a revised calibration for its HiPer strut front suspension system, with a new damper rebound spring, and there’s a stiffer calibration front and rear that Cadillac boasts does not bring any loss to ride quality. Brake hardware has also been revised for pedal feel.

This year, there’s also a new Performance Package that brings 20-inch summer-only performance tires that GM says improved lateral grip by ten percent. It also includes Brembo front brake calipers plus larger vented front and rear rotors that improve stopping distances by 12 percent. The package also ushers in different calibrations for the suspension and steering, and there’s a new, thicker steering wheel. As before, you can summon up ‘Regen on Demand’ through the steering-wheel paddle—to simulate engine braking.

Inside, the ELR is plush and comfortable, provided you’re in one of the supportive, generously sized, and lavishly trimmed front seats. As before, Active Noise Cancellation is standard on the ELR, which also helps keep road noise at bay. The semi-aniline full leather seating is super-comfortable, and while the rear seat isn’t all that useful, the seatbacks can be folded down for larger cargo. The cupholder or center storage bin is power-assisted, although there’s not all that much storage space around the cabin.

There haven’t been any crash-test ratings made available for the ELR; yet the closely related Chevy Volt has done exceptionally well. On the 2016 ELR Cadillac has made all of the Driver Assistance active-safety features standard. That includes rear cross traffic alert, side blind zone alert, lane-change alert, Intellibeam headlamps, and a new vehicle security system.

Call it hubris, or call it an innocent miscalculation; whatever the case, GM made a wild miscalculation in pricing the previous ELR upon its debut. And while we’re still not sure that a $10,000 price drop is even enough (something more along the lines of $20k would have been closer as we see it), Cadillac is making a serious effort to pack more value into this model. For 2016, Cadillac has upgraded the ELR’s feature set to include OnStar telematics and concierge services, now with 4G LTE connectivity built into the vehicle and a standard built-in wi-fi hotspot supporting up to seven simultaneous devices. There’s also a new inductive charging pad, and the ELR has three USB ports. Adaptive cruise control is also available.

Check back for more informatio, including driving impressions, as we hope to revisit this ‘reformulated’ Cadillac ELR in the near future.

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