Test Drive: 2014 Cadillac ELR Reivew

Jerry Reynolds | January 23, 2014
Test Drive: 2014 Cadillac ELR Reivew

I have been a pretty big supporter of the Chevy Volt since I reviewed it in 2010. For those wanting a plug-in hybrid, it’s a great vehicle. I was very eager to get my hands on the luxury version of the Volt, the Cadillac ELR. We first saw this car several years ago as the Cadillac Converj concept. Most of the features we saw on that car were transformed into the ELR.

My 2014 Cadillac ELR is a good looking car with very chiseled lines and the look of all the other Caddys in the front with a large grill and LED lighting. The grill in the ELR is solid and shutters open when needed for ventilation, versus the other Cadillac grills that are open and vented. Let’s talk about the powertrain, the real highlight of this car.

Let’s start with a 16.5-kWh battery pack that weighs 435 pounds, two electric motors that drive the front wheels, and a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that serves as a generator and fires up to provide electricity once the battery is depleted.

The ELR is capable of driving on electricity alone for 35 miles, however, regenerative braking and a Regen on Demand function lets the driver temporarily turn the ELR's momentum into electricity by engaging steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. That will extend the range slightly.

On battery power, the acceleration is strong and steady with a lot of torque. Once the gas engine kicks in, it’s not nearly as good. The ELR coupe is rated at 82 miles per gallon while on battery, and 33 miles per gallon when running on gas. Like all electric vehicles, if your round-trip commute is under the battery range of 35 miles, you’ll never visit a gas station. Charge time on a regular 120-volt plug is about 14 hours. With an upgraded 240-volt charger (at an extra cost) you can cut that to 5 hours.

The interior is spectacular and the model I am testing has an upgraded Kona Brown interior with black accents that is terrific and comes with 20-way adjustable front seats at a cost of $2450. As you would expect, the ELR comes completely loaded and features the CUE system with navigation. CUE is a great system but the lack of response can be irritating. I find myself using the steering wheel controls as often as possible.

Although touted as a 4-seater, make no mistake the back seat is pretty unusable, especially for adults. Niceties on the car include adaptive cruise control, 20” wheels that are spectacular, remote start, rearview camera, forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring and a lot more.

I like the looks of the ELR exterior and I love the interior. I love the way it drives and handles, especially on battery power, and I love the way you can change the suspension and driving modes.

If you skipped ahead in the review to see what I rated it at, you must be wondering why I only gave it a 3 out of 5 star rating. Remember that I rate vehicles on their value as well as their attributes and shortcomings. 

Here is the problem: THE PRICE. I was shocked by the $82,135 MSRP on this car.

Other than the Tesla, there isn’t much to compare this car to, at least not yet. Lexus ES hybrid starts at less than half of the ELR, and although you cannot plug it in, it gets great mileage and can fit 4 comfortably and gets great mileage.

What I chose to look at was a comparison between the Cadillac ATS that I reviewed last year and loved, and the ELR. If you are strictly concerned with environmental issues, skip this part, you’ll hate it.

The ATS is 4” shorter but is a 4-door with a usable rear seat and the one I tested was super loaded, like the ELR is. The ATS is a gas engine-only, so I looked at the financial aspect of the two Cadillacs.

If you look at a typical 15,000 mile per year driver, assuming $3.25 per gallon, the ATS fuel bill is $169 per month at the stated 24 miles per gallon the car achieves.

Looking at ELR, assuming you charge the vehicle every single day, you’ll get 12,775 miles with no gas used. The remaining 2225 miles at 33 miles per gallon will only cost you $18 per month in gas. You have to figure in $1 per day for charging, and that is being conservative, and you come up with $48 per month in total cost, which sounds awesome.

Now we have to look at the fact that there is $36,000 difference in the price of the two Cadillacs, and carrying the math on out, it takes 24 years and 9 months to break even with the ELR versus the ATS. Factor in the $7500 federal tax credit, and the time to break-even drops to 19 years.

Even for those who hold their commute daily to under 35 miles and never put a drop of gas in the ELR, your break-even time versus ATS is 21 and a half years.

Don’t get me wrong, the ELR is a technological marvel, but from a financial standpoint, I can’t make the case.

What I liked most: The technology, the interior, and exterior looks.

What I would change: Drop the price substantially.

MSRP: Base price $75,000, as equipped $82,135.

Fuel Economy: EPA rated at 82 on battery/33 on the gas engine.

Weight: 4050 pounds

2014 Cadillac ELR in a few words: Great car, just too expensive to make sense.

Warranty: 4 year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, 6 year/70,000 mile powertrain with maintenance included, 8 year/100,000 miles on the battery and hybrid system.

Despreporno Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

Dealers: If you want a Cadillac of any kind, we have dealer affiliates in Dallas, Grapevine, Houston, Lubbock, and San Antonio.

Manufacturer’s website:

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