The 2014 Cadillac ELR is all-new...more
The 2014 Cadillac ELR is a premium plug-in hybrid. Although it looks like a smaller version of the Cadillac CTS coupe and has a lavish interior similar to that in the full-size XTS, it's actually closely related to the Chevrolet Volt. It uses a slightly more powerful version of the Volt's gasoline/electric powertrain and likewise rides on a beefed-up version of the Volt's chassis. Cadillac estimates that it will travel about 35 miles on battery power alone. Its 1.4-liter four-cylinder extends the total range to about 300 miles.
The 2014 Cadillac ELR coupe is a thoroughly reskinned, very premium version of the four-door Chevrolet Volt. It rides on the same front-wheel-drive architecture and uses essentially the same plug-in-hybrid powertrain. General Motors hopes the higher-priced ELR will help it reap more returns from the Volt’s very expensive development program. Cadillac joins a burgeoning class of premium green cars that includes the Tesla Model S, the BMW i3, and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.
The design for the 2014 Cadillac ELR first surfaced at the Detroit auto show four years ago as the Converj, a concept developed within six months at the behest of then-vice-chairman Bob Lutz. Back then GM was taking heat for the fact that the 2007 Chevrolet Volt concept had turned into a decidedly dumpier production car. So, when people went gaga over the Converj, there was a strict mandate to bring it to production with as few changes as possible. A close comparison reveals that the creases have softened a bit, but practically everything else is amazingly faithful. Even the wheels look the same. All that style exacts a penalty on the car’s aerodynamics and, ultimately, its efficiency. Despite its sleek wedge shape, the ELR has a higher (read: poorer) coefficient of drag than the Volt -- 0.31 versus 0.28.
The ELR also goes beyond the call of duty in redressing the Volt's shortcomings in interior quality. We're talking trim comprised of two kinds of real wood and real carbon fiber. The steering-wheel center alone features leather stitched on top of a suedelike material. All of that will be standard. Twenty-way adjustable seats wrapped in brown aniline leather are one of the few options. Cadillac will also offer a cashmere color scheme. The Volt’s back seat is fairly cramped, so the Cadillac makes do with two doors and a two-plus-two layout, yielding a more attractive design.
The most amazing or disappointing aspect of the ELR, depending on your point of view, is that it's "just" a Volt underneath its pretty skin. The electric motor, 1.4-liter gasoline engine, and lithium-ion battery pack are essentially identical to what's in the Chevy. Output rises to 207 hp and an impressive 400 lb-ft of torque (compared with 149 hp and 365 lb-ft in the Volt), but the ELR also carries more weight. Cadillac says it should accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about eight seconds. It will feel faster than that number suggests thanks to the instant torque delivery. Of course, the raison d'être for an electric vehicle remains efficiency. Cadillac isn't ready to announce numbers (which, in any event, vary wildly in the real world), but electric-only range should be about 35 miles. With a full charge and a topped-off gas tank, Cadillac expects the ELR will travel more than 300 miles, versus 380 miles in the Volt. The Volt's front-wheel-drive chassis, itself an adaptation of GM's global compact architecture, carries over with some changes. The ELR wears twenty-inch wheels versus the Volt's seventeens, which necessitated larger front brakes. So-called HiPer Struts in front, which we've seen before in high-power applications such as the Buick Regal GS, should improve steering feel. There's also an underbody brace. Active dampers (not to be confused with the magnetorheological dampers found on other Cadillacs) will offer multiple ride settings, including a sport mode. That setting will also adjust throttle mapping and steering effort.
All this improvement over the Volt won’t come cheap. Although Cadillac has not yet confirmed pricing on the ELR, we expect it to hover around $70,000. That tag will probably offend folks who already think the Volt is overpriced. We think that if Cadillac can sell a fancy version of a body-on-frame truck (the Escalade) for that money, surely it can find a few customers for a sophisticated, beautiful plug-in hybrid.
- BMW i3
- Chevrolet Volt
- Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
- Tesla Model S