The demand for fuel-efficient cars is growing, and that means more and more automakers are adding plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles to their lineups. The 2014 Cadillac ELR is one example, as the all-new, edgy-looking coupe marks the first time that Cadillac has offered a plug-in hybrid vehicle.
On the outside, the ELR offers many of the touches we've come to expect from Cadillac, ranging from a dramatic shape to angular lines, sharp-edged headlights and taillights and a bold grille. It's the same story inside, where the ELR shows off the modern, high-end look that we've come to associate with Cadillac.
But under the hood, the ELR is a whole different animal. That's because it uses a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that's mated to an electric motor, which offers the ability to drive 37 miles on electric power alone. If this sounds familiar, it's because the ELR's powertrain is largely the same as the one you'll find in the Chevrolet Volt, and that's a good thing for shoppers interested in maximizing fuel economy.
What's New for 2014?
The Cadillac ELR is all new for the 2014 model year.
What We Like
Distinctive styling; excellent interior; strong electric-only range for a plug-in hybrid
What We Don't
Tremendously expensive for what it offers; 2-door body style makes it a little impractical; long charge times
The Cadillac ELR offers just one engine: an 84-horsepower 1.4-liter 4-cylinder mated to a 16.5-kWh electric motor for a grand total of 157 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the ELR boasts a combined fuel economy rating of 82 miles per gallon equivalent, which is how the agency rates plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.
If you're interested in an ELR, however, you're probably more concerned with range and charge times than mpg-e. EPA states that the ELR can travel around 37 miles between charges before the gasoline motor kicks in. Cadillac says charge times are around four or five hours with a 240-volt outlet.
Standard Features & Options
The ELR comes in only one trim level and, as you might expect given the car's price tag, it's very well-equipped. Standard features include front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, Cadillac's CUE infotainment system with navigation and an 8-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and Cadillac's Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates should you drift into another lane without realizing it.
Options include adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system, a CD player and the Luxury Package, which boasts automatic high-beam control, rear cross-traffic alert and unique wheels.
Although the 2014 Cadillac ELR has not yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, standard safety features are plentiful. The coupe features side-curtain airbags, knee airbags, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and Cadillac's Safety Alert Seat. And there are even more safety features on the coupe's options list, ranging from a blind spot monitor to adaptive cruise control.
Behind the Wheel
If you've driven the Chevrolet Volt, you'll know exactly what to expect from the Cadillac ELR, as the two vehicles offer virtually the same driving experience. If you haven't driven a Volt, expect whisper-quiet acceleration, light steering and a surprisingly plush ride, especially in the ELR. The Cadillac also offers better handling, owing to larger tires and improved suspension, though neither vehicle feels like a sports car.
That's especially true when it comes to acceleration. While the ELR's 0-to-60 time of around 8 seconds isn't bad, it hardly comes close to, say, the Tesla Model S, a fellow electric vehicle that puts an emphasis on luxury. In other words, the ELR probably isn't the plug-in hybrid for the shopper who's serious about attacking curvy roads on the weekend.
But the ELR does offer a smooth ride, thanks to an adaptive suspension system that's not available on the Volt. Also adding to the ELR's luxury experience is its high-end interior, which combines Alcantara, supple leather, wood or carbon-fiber trim and the brand's useful CUE infotainment system. Of course, the back seat doesn't offer much room. Hip room and legroom are nearly nonexistent, and a sloping roofline cuts into the headroom of nearly any rear passenger.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Volt -- If you're not looking for a luxury badge, or if you need more practicality than you can get from a 2-door car such as the ELR, then you might want to consider the Volt. It offers the same drivetrain as the ELR and a roomier interior for far less money. It also includes many of the same features, though they're optional rather than standard on the Volt.
Ford Fusion Energi Titanium -- Ford offers the midsize Fusion Energi Titanium for around $37,500 with shipping. It includes a long list of high-end features, along with a range-extending gasoline engine, just like the ELR, but it doesn't include the Cadillac's edgy styling or its upscale brand name.
Tesla Model S -- The hot-selling Model S isn't a plug-in hybrid, which means it doesn't have a range-extending gasoline engine, but it hardly needs it, considering that the Model S offers an available 300-mile range. Also included is a larger interior than the ELR, improved performance and a lower base price that starts at around $71,000 with shipping.
The Cadillac ELR is an excellent car for shoppers who value high-end luxury, impressive fuel efficiency, and above all else, an American brand name. But so is the Tesla Model S, which offers better performance, more advanced technology and a larger interior, all for less money. Our advice: Only buy the ELR if you love the Cadillac brand and if you drive a lot, making it necessary to refuel the gasoline engine quickly. Otherwise, we'd strongly recommend a Volt or a Model S.