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2014 Cadillac ELR: Luxury Electrons, Luxury Pricing

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How much are you willing to pay for an electric car?  That's the crux of the argument when considering the achingly stylish 2014 Cadillac ELR, the latest battery-powered effort from General Motors that builds on the solid bones of the Chevrolet Volt.  While the ELR and the Volt might share a similar electric drivetrain, there's no question that Cadillac has gone out of its way to differentiate this luxury coupe, giving it a unique suspension setup, gorgeous sheet metal, and a much spiffier interior when compared against its more pedestrian cousin.

Is it enough to justify the Cadillac ELR's premium pricing?  It'll cost you $78,250 to get behind the wheel and burn electrons instead of gasoline, a window sticker more typically associated with high performance sports cars, luxury sedans, and of course the big elephant in the room: the almost-identically priced Tesla Model S.  The latter offers up to seven passenger seating, 10 times the battery range, and significantly more horsepower.  Is the ELR a case of a good car being overshadowed by a seemingly-stratospheric asking price?  I spent three days behind the wheel of the coupe to try and find out.

Every Day Frugality
One area where the 2014 Cadillac ELR definitely doesn’t hit your pocket book all that hard is in its daily operating cost.  In fact, I never had to use the backup gasoline generator that adds an extra 450 kilometres of range to its 65 kilometres of electric driving, simply because I didn't end up running the battery dry.  I don't happen to own one of GM's available quick-charging stations, either - I simply plugged the ELR into a standard household outlet whenever I wasn't using it.  Credit goes to the efficient regenerative braking system that works hard to send juice back into the battery every time you slow down.  As an around-town option you'll likely never see the inside of a gas station again, with longer road trips being the main occasion to emit greenhouse gases from the Cadillac.

A La Mode
There is one other reason why you might want to fire up the ELR's genny, and that has to do with power.  Specifically, the 2014 Cadillac ELR offers four different driving modes - Tour, Sport, Mountain, and Hold - each of which is designed to tailor the experience behind the wheel for specific circumstances.  Tour is your standard, everyday setting, and the one I used the most, while Sport increases steering effort, suspension stiffness, and makes the accelerator that much more sensitive to the ministrations of your right foot.  Mountain is intended to more aggressively charge the battery if you find yourself in a hilly area where the brakes can really go to work, but Hold is the most unique setting out of all of these, as it's the only one that allows you to specifically request the assistance of the gasoline generator in producing more power for the ELR to use.

How does it work?  Ostensibly, Hold allows you to turn on the generator in order to preserve the car's battery charge for later use, but it also has the virtue of boosting the Cadillac's total output from its nominal 157 horsepower closer to its maximum of 217 horsepower (this also happens if you're out of battery juice altogether).  I didn't notice a huge surge in power while testing out Hold, because its masked by the 295 lb-ft of instant-on torque that the ELR produces regardless of which driving mode is selected.  As you might expect this helps the Cadillac feel quick off of the line despite its modest stats, and it also contributes to confident, near-silent passing out on the highway.

Handling and ride edge towards the comfort end of the spectrum, and the car's adaptive suspension system and HiPer struts up front keeping the car pointed in the right direction as long as the driver doesn't get too aggressive with the wheel.  There's also a set of 'braking paddles' attached to the car's steering column, which allow you to slow the ELR without having to use the foot brake.  It takes a lot of getting used to be smooth with this feature, but you can use it to completely halt the coupe if you so desire.

And Of Course, That Body
Much digital ink has been spilled lauding the 2014 Cadillac ELR's styling, and rightly so.  This is a production model that very closely resembles the Converj concept that we saw just a few short years ago, and both are beautiful examples of Cadillac's instantly-recognizable design language.  Inside the car it's a much more complete effort than the four-door Volt, with full implementation of the CUE touchscreen interface, an attractive LCD dashboard, and comfortable leather seats up front.  There's also a pair of 'seats' at the rear of the ELR, but let's be clear about one thing: this is a two-passenger personal luxury car, not a four-person commuter.  It's best to save the back for packages and bags.

Great, Asterisk
I hate having to qualify a vehicle review, but I'm forced to do so with the 2014 Cadillac ELR due to its market position.  For just under $80,000, there are so many other options pulling at the heart strings of luxury shoppers, vehicles that might not match the ELR's looks but which obliterate it in terms of performance, practicality, and features.  I very much enjoyed the ELR, and would love it if it were a $60,000 automobile, but at its current price I can't be nearly that enthusiastic.  This is a fine vehicle, with a usable electric drivetrain and realistic real-world range that has been setup to take on bleeding-edge EVs like the already-mentioned Tesla Model S as well as popular gas-powered electric coupes from Mercedes-Benz and Audi.  Against those odds, it's not a fair fight.

Evaluation

Test model N/A
Trim level N/A
Base price N/A
Price as tested N/A
Warranty (basic) N/A
Warranty (powertrain) N/A
Options N/A
Competitive models N/A
Strong points
  • Beautiful styling
  • Usable battery range
  • Comfortable interior
  • Pleasant driving experience
  • Available quick-charging option
Weak points
  • Price puts the car up against more accomplished luxury rivals
  • Battery range doesn't match that of similarly-priced Tesla Model S
  • Rear seat room is quite limited
  • Performance is actually somewhat slower than the Volt due to additional weight

Editor's rating

Fuel consumption 5.0/5 I drove for three days and didn't use a single drop of gasoline.
Value for price 2.0/5 The ELR is unfortunately too expensive for what it offers luxury buyers.
Styling 5.0/5 The Cadillac is a great-looking coupe.
Comfort 4.0/5 The ELR's ride and amenities are in keeping with a modern Cadillac.
Performance 3.5/5 The car drives quite well, but falls well short of the performance offered by similarly-priced rivals.
Overall 3.5/5 A more affordable ELR gets 4.5 stars - but at $78k, it's just too expensive to be considered alongside other luxury options.
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