Is the pricey Cadillac ELR viable?

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 21:59

The Cadillac ELR is undeniably beautiful. It undeniably turns heads every time it rolls through city streets. It is also undeniably overpriced for what is truly a glorified, two-door Chevy Volt.

Image credit: © General Motors

Don’t get us wrong – we had the ELR at the same time as another vehicle on loan, and we picked the ELR 9 out of 10 times wheels were needed. We’d go as far to say that we couldn’t get enough of Cadillac’s electric hybrid coupe. It’s gorgeous, easy to drive, and fun to geek out about.

But as often happens, there is a but. And a big one for the ELR.

For a car that starts at $75,000 and tops out at about $83,000, the ELR falls short of what consumers have come to expect from today’s luxury vehicles and what green vehicle enthusiasts expect from today’s electrified cars.

What’s holding the ELR back? For starters, its price. If money were no object and you’re a Cadillac loyalist, ignore con number one and move on to the ELR’s limited electric-only range. The ELR can go about 35 miles in EV mode. The silver lining? You’ll still have several hundred miles of range thanks to the power from the gas generator.

We could pretty much stop here and tell you to read the rest of our review on The Verge, where Chris Ziegler explains perfectly the conundrum of Cadillac’s $75,000 Volt. We felt the same way following our week with the ELR, but please keep reading.

Let’s take the charging lifecycle. The ELR is not compatible with a DC (direct current) fast charger, so the driver’s options are to plug into a 120V outlet at home and wait 15 hours to top off or to plug into a 240V outlet either at home or via public charging station (we used a nearby NRG eVgo Freedom Station) and wait five hours. Who has that kind of time?

We ended up driving the ELR mostly with the gasoline generator powering the battery, which wasn’t terrible. After one week of both city and highway driving, we only consumed 3.5 gallons of gas. Pretty impressive.

Why spend the extra cash for the ELR when you can have a Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF, or BMW i3 for tens-of-thousands dollars less? Or a Tesla Model S for a few more grand? We can’t find a reason to.

Unlike Tesla’s Model S, the ELR isn’t built for technophiles; it’s made for Volt enthusiasts who move up a few tax brackets in their careers.

While Cadillac nailed the exterior design, achieving exclusive luxury appeal, the ELR is all GM inside. They did nothing to enhance the user experience of the very unique ELR for the driver. The center stack is stock. You’ll find Cadillac’s ubiquitous passenger car interior with piano black gloss finishes, a hidden compartment, CUE system and ambiguous-to-touch buttons.

There seem to be more strikes against the ELR than pros for it. Features found on some of the most basic vehicles today, such as fold-in mirrors or side mirrors that tilt downward when in reverse, are absent from the ELR. Adults of normal height cannot comfortably ride in the backseat. Fuel economy averages 35 mpg when using the gas generator. For those who want an extended-range EV; they cannot charge quickly enough to conveniently and frequently use primarily electric-only mode.

All that aside, we really loved driving this car. It simply exudes cool.

If we could charge it up in 30 minutes (or even 5 hours at home), maybe the Cadillac ELR would be a more realistic consideration. But at such a high cost and such little fuel savings (at least of the petrol variety), we can’t say it’s worth it.

Cadillac had so much going for it with the ELR being so close as a production vehicle to its beautiful, forward-thinking concept design. Too bad GM mucked it up with a too-high price and too-blah interior.

General Motors missed a real opportunity to make this car special — to give the ELR owner a unique experience that’s unlike any other Cadillac out there. An elevated experience for the owner would have surely made this car worth its price tag.

To all 774 ELR owners out there: We’re sorry. And don’t look up the new ATS Coupe. You may be annoyed to learn you could have waited a few months and bought a topped-out ATS Coupe for $20,000 to $30,000 less.

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