Without a doubt the 2014 ELR is a beautiful automobile and is easily one of the most attractive vehicles in Cadillac's 111-year history. The fact that it's powered by an electric motor and assisted by a range-stretching gasoline generator simply adds to its uniqueness and its practicality.
The ELR that arrives in early 2014 is essentially the production version of the Converj concept car shown back in 2009.
At first blush, you might confuse it for a CTS coupe, only with the cabin moved forward. Although similar looking, the two cars are quite different. The ELR's flush-mounted grille has shutters that close up at highway speeds to keep unwanted air out of the engine compartment, which means improved aerodynamics. As well, for the distance between the front and rear wheels, the ELR comes up short (by slightly more than seven inches). It's also shy on trunk room compared to the CTS, but at least the rear seat-backs fold down for extra stowage space. And of course the CTS is rear-wheel-drive and can be had with a supercharged V8.
Comparing the ELR to the CTS on style is totally valid, but for many people the electric coupe will be viewed as the Chevrolet Volt's wealthy relation. Of course it's true that the Caddy and the Chevy share a common propulsion system, but ELR clearly goes way beyond simply providing an electric platform and everyday family transportation, which are the Volt's two main claims to fame.
The ELR was designed as a "halo" car that showcases Cadillac's design and technology capabilities. It even captured the coveted "Eyes On Design" award for the best new production car at Detroit, defeating the hot new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in the process. The judges for that award are active and retired design heads of auto companies, transportation design chairs from top art schools, and designers from other fields. In other words, it's a big deal to win.
Under its provocative skin, the ELR is powered by a 207-horsepower electric motor, which also puts out 295-pound-feet of torque, right from a standstill. That's up from the Volt's 149/273 numbers. The ELR will accelerate to 60 mph from zero in about 8.0 seconds,which is actually a full second quicker than the Volt.
Directing power is a single-speed transmission with both "Low" and "Drive" settings.
The ELR can run on electric-only power for about 35 miles, which is down from 38 for the Volt. As well, total range drops to somewhere north of 300 miles, compared with 380 for the Volt, when assisted by the 84-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. It acts as an electric generator when the lithium-ion batteries begin to run down.
The battery pack can be re-energized in about 4.5 hours using a 240-volt charging station, but when connected to a standard 120-volt plug-in the process takes about 12 hours.
Base ELRs feature an abundance of Cadillac-style luxury, including 20-inch wheels, a touch-screen infotainment and navigation system and "Regen on Demand" regenerative braking activated by steering-wheel-mounted paddles that, when pulled during deceleration, help replenish the batteries by capturing braking energy. Also standard is a four-mode powertrain selector that varies the powertrain and suspension settings, depending on road conditions and driver preferences.
Upgraded leather seats, carbon-fiber trim and various crash-avoiding electronic countermeasures head the list of available options. Interestingly, a power sunroof isn't on the menu as Cadillac deems it to adversely affect the ELR's aero design, which could hurt the vehicle's range.
Official pricing or fuel-economy-equivalent stats haven't been announced, but a $55,000 starting price (including destination charges but not including government tax credits) is expected, which is about $20,000 more than the cost of a Chevy Volt. And figure on about 90-mpg equivalent in electric mode, or 35 mpg when the gas generator is functioning.
At first blush, the ELR certainly looks like a home run for Cadillac, proving that a beautiful piece of automotive sculpture is as least as important as, if not moreso, the technology bolted beneath it.
2014 Cadillac ELR
Type: Two-door, front-wheel-drive coupe
Engine (hp): Electric motor with 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline generator (207)
Transmission: Single-speed controller
Market position: Cadillac's adapts the Chevrolet Volt platform for its own use, taking style in a whole new direction. The ELR will appeal to buyers who are looking for a great-looking car that just happens to be electric.
Points: From show to production with few changes; More power means it has a bit less range than the Chevy Volt; Plenty of content, even in base models; Trunk space at a severe premium, but will anyone really notice or care?; Cadillac dealers likely won't have enough ELRs on hand to satisfy demand.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 90/85 (equivalency) 35/30 (gas engine)
Base price: $55,000 (est.)
Infiniti Q70 Hybrid
Base price: $50,000 (est.)
Rebranded M37h hybrid comes with plenty of power and luxury.
Lexus GS 450h
Base price: $60,350
With 338 net horsepower on tap the GS is one quick luxury hybrid.
Base price: $57,600
A classy gas-electric sedan that emphasizes smoothness over power.