We drive the 2014 Cadillac ELR

With its 20-inch wheels and chiseled look, the Cadillac ELR is a stunner

So far I'm averaging over 1,000 MPG. Yes, you read that right, 1,000 miles per gallon in a car that is arguably the best looking plug-in electric car in the world. Not arguably. It is. In fact it may be the best looking mid-size car period. The Cadillac ELR makes the Tesla Model S look like a farm tractor ( I expect a nasty letter from Elon Musk any day now).

Mercedes and BMW owners stare, woman smile and kids point – wow mom look at that, said one. Cadillac has taken the Chevy Volt concept of an electric vehicle and produced a stunner.

Based on the idea that no driver wants to be stuck hunting for the next charging station, only to have to wait hours for the car to charge, a Cadillac ELR can drive across the country without a worry.

The ELR is an all-new Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV), which has been designed to appeal to a new growing segment of the market: the eco-luxury buyer.


Pricing for the 2014 Cadillac ELR starts at $75,000 (minus dealer incentives and a $7,500 government rebate for being green), and there are only four further options available: Luxury Package, Safety Package, Premium Paint, and Premium Kona Brown Interior.

The ELR comes loaded with everything from a Safety Alert Seat, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, side Blind Zone Alert, rear Cross Traffic Alert, and full speed range Adaptive Cruise Control.

Yes, some may deem an electric vehicle priced at nearly $80k a tad ridiculous. And I agree. If the car was priced $10,000 less it would hit the sweet spot. And the trunk space of 10.5 cubic feet is a bit small for my liking, though the rear seats do fold down for extra storage.

But this vehicle clearly demonstrates what the car industry is now capable with an electric vehicle, and after driving the ELR, I believe it to be worth every penny! Mercedes and BMW owners can only stare with envy.

The batteries give the ELR a nice low center of gravity

The ELR, although loosely based on the Chevy Volt system of propulsion is substantially different from the Volt. GM took what they learned with the Volt and made it better. The 2014 ELR tracks, rides, and handles like a genuine Cadillac product. Its active suspension system provides continuous damping control (this adjusts every 2 milliseconds for responsive handling), while its HiPer design front struts reduce torque steer and improve on the overall performance/handling characteristics of the vehicle.

With suede’s and leathers the interior is as luxurious as they come

The ELR also benefits from an enhanced ZF Electric Steering System and its rear-end is tied together with a Watts Link rear suspension setup. This helps to keep the axle centered for more predictable handling, and is a system often found on race and rally vehicles. Coupled with the low center of gravity created by the heavy batteries, the car corners very nicely indeed.

Straight-line speed is respectable for a 4,000+ pound car with a 0-60 time of just over 7 seconds. You won't be burning rubber with this car, but why would you want to?

With four driver modes available to the driver (Tour, Sport, Mountain, and Hold), this is a highly sophisticated piece of automotive engineering.

One feature which I found particularly interesting was the Regen-on-demand system. Operated by two gear shifter-like paddles behind the steering wheel, drivers can engage regenerative braking force in a similar fashion to engine brakes found on electric trains. When you brake this way the electric motor turns in reverse and the recaptured power feeds back to the battery, which extends your electric driving range and dramatically reduces brake replacement intervals. The following video explains the concept.


Based on the Converj concept car that debuted at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, the production ELR manages to look even better, which is the exact opposite of most cars that tend to disappoint by the time they get to production. While the ELR mirrors the Cadillac brand’s distinctive styling to a certain extent, it more chiseled and futuristic looking. It is both aggressive and sexy from every angle.

Inside, the now familiar cockpit layout is all Caddy. However, this being an electronically propelled vehicle, the dashboard display is like a scene out of Star Wars. It's enough to keep any geek entertained for hours.

Interior

Upfront passengers enjoy ample legroom, but the rear seats are a bit cramped. This really is a two-seater with room for four in a pinch, not unlike other sporty coupes. However, most people who buy this car will be driving it 99% of the time by themselves or with a spouse or friend.

In all honesty, I always wanted to be an electric-vehicle fan, but nothing on the market met my needs or excited me enough to buy one. Till now, they’ve always appeared rather awkward and cheap looking, and the idea of renting a vehicle for out-of-town trips is absurd. However, with the ELR, most daily commutes will require zero gasoline (with zero emissions), and being an EREV, those longer trips are now completely void of electric-vehicle range anxiety.

I waved to one Tesla owner on the side of the road having his car flat-bedded because he ran out of charge. Poor fella.

When charging the mirror lights up green, a subtle hint that you really are helping to save the environment

So how did I average over 1,000 MPG do you ask? Quite simply my average drive to and from work and running errands is under 40 miles a day. I simply plug in every night at home and the gasoline generator almost never has to run. My fuel gage still reads full from the tank of gasoline the dealer gave me when I picked up the vehicle. The only thing I have to worry about is whether the gasoline will get stale in the tank. I had better pour some stabilizer in – a nice problem to have.

And when running on generator (after the battery depletes) the car still gets 33 MPG. Not bad for a heavy luxury car.

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