The Cadillac ELR is the sophisticated city-slicker cousin of Chevy's Volt electric car. The four-passenger coupe uses a similar powertrain as the Volt with its combination of electric motor and gas-engine-powered generator. Unlike the Volt, the ELR — Electric Long Range — offers dramatic styling, interior luxury and a price that's far from entry level.
Appearance: The ELR is definitely a head-turner, which is no surprise because it is based on Cadillac's stunning Converj concept car that was a hit on the auto-show circuit in 2009. The ELR is all sharp angles with a cab-forward modern design that's highlighted by the stunning four-lens vertical LED headlights that bookend the large enclosed grille with its large Cadillac badge. Our tester came in Crystal Red Tintcoat — a $995 option — that seems a perfect fit for the car. Our ELR also had 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with Midnight Silver Premium paint as part of the Luxury Package ($1,695). Other modern touches: chrome trim that adds a sharp presence to the geometric design — especially around the side windows. The door handles are recessed for clean lines and better aerodynamics.
Performance: Like the Volt, the ELR's powertrain has a Voltec electric drive motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack and a generator powered by a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine. Cadillac estimates the ELR can travel up to 37 miles on battery power alone and, like the Volt, when the battery runs out, there is a seamless changeover to the gas generator. (The gas-only range is 300 miles.) There are four drive modes: Touring, Sport (barely so), Mountain (not needed here) and Hold to maximize efficiency. In EV mode, the power delivery is smooth and instantaneous and well-suited for city driving. Maybe it's the ELR's cutting-edge looks, but Peter felt somewhat cheated when it came to performance, which is nowhere near sporty. The ELR does have an adaptive sport suspension and the ride is comfortable, but it can seem stiff on rough surfaces. The regeneration-on-demand system allows the driver to harness energy when the car is slowing down by pressing steering-wheel paddles. Charging? It's takes 12.5 to 18 hours with a 120-volt outlet, or five hours with a 240-volt outlet.
Interior: The dramatic styling extends into the quiet cabin, which features comfortable leather seats and a veritable interior-design shop of accents and materials that range from burl-grain ash to carbon fiber to chrome. The instrument panel can be configured in four different display modes and has a futuristic look. The center console gently slopes between the driver and passenger and extends to the rear seats. The 8-inch touchscreen features Cadillac's new CUE infotainment system that is awash in capacitive touch-points for climate and audio controls. We found these to be impractical while driving. The doors are long, even for a coupe, and you'll have to be careful in narrow parking spaces.
Our 3 favorites
Styling: It's modern, and I'd like to see it in a traditional coupe.
Safety features: The ELR is loaded. I liked the safety alert seat that vibrates to warn you of obstacles.
Materials: Cadillac has stepped up its game with cabin quality.
No EV anxiety: No need to panic to find an outlet. The gas-powered generator extends the range.
LED: Front and rear lights as well as interior ambient lighting.
Cabin quality: Rich with texture.
The bottom line: We're not sure what niche Cadillac is aiming to fill with a car whose price is twice that of the Volt. Compete with Tesla? We'll see. For now the ELR is a gorgeous concept that doesn't deliver fully on its sticker price.