2014 Cadillac ELR Review

Robert Kerian

Santa Monica, California -- If General Motors cannot find an audience for the 2014 Cadillac ELR in Southern California, it cannot find one anywhere. As Cadillac’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle, it has to succeed in the place where the Toyota Prius is as common as the palm tree and where the Tesla Model S has quickly become part of the streetscape.

Although the ELR must seek favor in sun-kissed SoCal, it starts life back in Hamtramck, the gritty enclave on the east side of Detroit where it is built alongside the Chevrolet Volt sedan. The 2014 ELR’s powertrain is pretty much identical to the Volt — 435-pound, lithium-ion battery pack, two electric motors, and a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. The ELR’s wheelbase also is virtually the same, although the Caddy is 9.0 inches longer overall.

Yet as we’re driving the 2014 Cadillac ELR toward Malibu, we’re feeling sun-kissed and glamorous, which is something that is pretty surprising for a sibling of the practical Chevy Volt, let alone any plug-in hybrid.

A Concept Car Comes to Life

Happily, the 2014 Cadillac ELR retains the crisp lines and chiseled profile of the 2009 Converj concept from which it is derived. It’s a particularly tidy and evocative take on Cadillac’s ongoing Art & Science design philosophy, and as such the ELR looks great out in the real world of West Los Angeles.

Cadillac will offer the 2014 ELR in only four exterior colors: red, black, gray, and silver. ELR marketing product manager Darin Gesse is riding along with us, and he predicts that black-on-black will be the most popular, but our red-on-cashmere (tan) tester looks pretty sweet, too.

Cadillac’s designers have also done a nice job with the ELR’s interior. Asymmetrical slabs of leather-upholstered dash come together artfully under the windshield, the seats are comfortable and supportive without being overstuffed, and soft-touch microfiber accents the leather. The laurel-wood trim has barely been touched with the varnish brush, so it looks and feels like wood and is expected to gain a patina over time. Carbon-fiber trim is also available.

In addition to black and tan, customers can choose special-grade leather seats in a black-and-brown scheme for an extra $2450. They include special side bolsters, thigh extenders, and 20-way electric operation rather than the standard 16-way operation.

Room for Two, Plus Two More if You Must

The 2014 Cadillac ELR coupe has plenty of front legroom and a decent amount of front headroom, and the individually folding rear seats are reasonably wide, even if they don’t provide much headroom. Cadillac officials point out that the Tesla Model S has only an additional inch of rear headroom, despite being a four-door.

Regardless, the ELR’s rear seats are for occasional use only, although they’ll hold plenty of groceries. The 10.5-cubic-foot trunk is shallow but wide enough to hold two sets of golf clubs.

Cadillac’s much-maligned CUE infotainment system is standard, and after spending a couple of days driving around L.A. in various Cadillacs, we have to say that the navigation function is superb, even if the haptic touch-screen interface can make you want to tear your hair out.

And on Your Left, the Pacific Ocean

We head north from Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway. For a 4050-pound, front-wheel-drive car, the ELR drives pretty well. It’s riding on an inherently rigid platform, and its active suspension features continuous damping control.

Even though there’s a total of 295 lb-ft of torque rushing to the front wheels, torque steer is mitigated by GM’s HiPer-strut front suspension, as pioneered by the Buick LaCrosse. Acceleration out of corners is impressive, just as it is on city streets and freeways. Even so, you most notice the seamless gush of electric propulsion in the cut-and-thrust of urban driving when cars surround you, since you can effortlessly accelerate into open slots in the traffic pattern.

Sport mode dials in higher throttle, damping, and steering responses, which are immediately discernible. The electric power steering is precise but, like so many systems, isn’t particularly communicative. (Other modes include Touring, which is the default setting; Mountain, which reserves energy for steep grades; and Hold, which allows drivers to use only the gasoline engine so that they can save the charge for pure electric driving for later, such as when they are in the city.)

Steering Wheel Paddles, but Not for Shifting

In the hills above Malibu, Gesse encourages us to use the steering-wheel-mounted paddles to engage the Regen On Demand system that recharges the battery pack. In essence, the paddles are auxiliary braking devices, because they use the electric traction motor to capture the kinetic energy of the ELR and slow it down.

You quickly learn to use the paddles to brake just the right amount as you’re diving into tight corners. Cadillac developed Regen On Demand after observing that many Chevrolet Volt owners routinely shifted their cars from D to L, which accomplishes the same thing as the ELR’s paddles but with a lot more footwork on the pedals. Cadillac figures the paddles will be less taxing on drivers and prove more intuitive.

One Trim Level, Few Options

“There is no base trim level for this car,” Gesse tells us. “You can only get the ELR as a premium car or an ultra premium car.” Even so, there are still a few options in addition to the $2450 seats previously mentioned. Adaptive cruise control is $1995; tint-coat paint is $995; and a luxury package including blind spot detection, rear cross-path detection, and automatic high-beam headlamps is $1695.

GM has done an admirable job here with the 2014 Cadillac ELR. It’s taken a practical package identified with a brand better known for mass-market commodity-style cars and taken it to finishing school. The result is a car that looks very special and drives in a way that delivers on the promise.

At the same time, Cadillac has established itself as a premium carmaker that builds premium-style rear-wheel-drive cars. And there’s still something about the 2014 ELR that reminds you that it is a front-wheel-drive car, and this makes it an odd duck in the lineup.

And it’s a very expensive fowl at that. At $75,995, the ELR has been boldly priced to compete not only with the Tesla Model S but also German coupes like the BMW 6-series and the Mercedes-Benz E- and CLS-classes. As stylish as the 2014 Cadillac ELR is both inside and out, it’s keeping very tough company.

Frank Marinucci
I don't think anything would hold up to the style during that era of vehicles. That's hardly a fair, objective statement however. Car makers in those days didn't have the complexities of design we have today. Emission, safety and aerodynamic requirements have a huge impact of vehicle styling today. Considering what they have to begin with to end with this beauty is miraculous.
Frank Marinucci
So you base your argument on independent dealer greed to suggest that less expensive vehicles would not be subjected to ADM's? I'm sure that's not true. Chevy Spark EV is 25K Are you saying those aren't being marked up? I bet they are. Anyway, only a fool would think the brand would be damaged b/c a few idiot dealers mark up cars. It's nothing exclusive to GM or Chevy.
Jay Skullangel Michael
It's still going to be a failure either way you look at it, this is the 2014 Caddillac Cimarron... Which is the most halfed assed caddy ever built. the only thing that might just save this car is the fact its electric but that's still a pipe dream. Who's gonna pay 100k for it? Very few people would.
Frank Marinucci
Jay, 250,000 ICE vehicle fires every year. What is your point again? Tesla by it's very existence proves that there is a market for such a car. THey aren't going to sell 100K of these but b/c there is a niche market GM is looking to capitalize on that market. Regardless of the negative media stigma the car received, the Volt is a ground breaking car. Higher end buyers want a luxo version of the Volt so what is the harm in giving them what they want?
Fonzo Ro Ma
Frank Marinucci, I think the beauty of this car is deniable when you compare it to real Cadillacs of 1940-1964 wouldn't you agree?
Tim Lucas
Freddy - you're an ignoramus!
John Brown
A tesla model a beater, it is not!!!
Christian Schmidt
Saw it at the LA Auto Show.Talk about a totally fugly POS Ghettolac from General Moneypit. More Bloated GM Junk.
Amol Palhade
Shraddha Balkawade awesum na???? meko friendship day ke wakt gift kar na .....plz plz plz
Tim Nofullname
I would just like to know why all current Cad's have to be so ugly?
Personally, I think the only Cadillac worth looking at are the ATS and CTS, and their customer service kinda sucks.
Steve Young
Recycled & overpriced.
Alex Pancamo
I agree completely. New Cadillacs just aren't the same.
Lee Klein
Design is nice, price is stupid. It would make more sense if it felt like a quality piece, but the Cadillacs I've seen lately don't, regardless of how sharp they look. Still needs work.
Michael Keil
I am glad it's a 2 door coupe.
Dammy Onafowokan
Why doesn't the volt look like this?
Wow I am impressed with the color they chose for the interior. For once there was no gaudy reddish pink or gray/charcoal. This Cream/Mustard mix is nice. But like the other commentators, this car does not justify its $75 thousand dollar price tag. A more logical price would have been 45 to 50.
Walter Losey
The ATS is going to come in coupe and possibly wagon body styles.
Walter Losey
Two door volt that's double in price. They can't sell volts at $35,000. But hey at $75,000 its STILL the CHEAPEST FWD GM coupe you can buy. Lol
Greg Wilson
As a fellow American, I root root root for the home team, but pricing this car at $75k demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the market (IE - Tesla is rear wheel drive and gorgeous).  I get that their plan may have been to lose money on the Volt only to realize profits once the caddy came along...but the car is simply not competitive.   I also cringe when I see the "trying to hard" look of all Caddy interiors.  The new CTS is a handsome car, but drive a German car and look at the effortless confidence....or look at an American car from the 60's.   Staight forward good design with quality materials and good panel fits (German).   I do like Caddy's overall direction, but in the near term, they have to offer relative value.
Come to think of it, I truly believe GM is purposely avoiding E85 Hybrids because their fuel mileage will actually be attractive to buyers.  Their BS over the past few years about E85 in the Volt shows their payoffs from the oil lobby.  With GM gas optimized engines, E85 fuel mileage sucks.  But with E85 and plug in hybrid working together, this could be a great intro to the ELR.  C'mon GM, wakeup and give us value.
Alsson Mata
GM was going so good and now they mess up again like they did back in the 90s and 00's.
Chris Story
Plug-in Hybrids are a band-aid until GM can make a real EV.
Chris Story
Weak performance, high price. Yes!
NE Guy
I like this car. There's something about it that hits me in just the right way. The lines are sexy and in an odd way it reminds me of the sleeker designs from the 1930s -- they've put some much needed class and panache back into the world of automotive design.
Jay Skullangel Michael
It's the 2014 Caddillac Cimarron. lol
Jay Skullangel Michael
Frank, have you seen whats been happening to Tesla lately? Vehicles catching fire.... I'm not bashing the fact that this is an electric vehicle in the first place. What I am saying this is about as stupid as the 83 Caddillac Cimarron. its basically the same idea but greener. I wonder if they'll also build a rebadged SS with a caddillac badge while they're at it...
Chris Prather
$75K volt. Chevy has lost their minds
David Charles DuBois
Negash Leule
wow ! So unthinkable !
Boy, you had me until "$75,995. If money were no object, I'd take one. It's great, though, to see Cadillac back in the car game on various levels, now even in the performance hybrid arena.BTW, great write-up--I only wish the photographer would have explored his camera's sepia setting (or whatever is making all these photos look like they've been in my attic for 15 years, ie yellow) on his own time.
Frank Marinucci
Ultimately, the free market will decide if this car is a success. Having said that, the beauty of this car is undeniable.
Stephen Abbott
Frank Marinucci
and you base this statement upon what, Jay? So GM builds a cutting edge luxury vehicle that runs on something other than fossil fuels and in your eyes that's dumb? Do you feel Tesla is dumb as well Jay? I wonder if you're the sort of person that will give credit when it's due or just look for a reason to bash GM?
Stephen Abbott
I'm talking about the Volt, which would be the relevant car to this conversation. Dealers regularly pushed the price up to idiotic levels, esp. early on in the model release, which damaged the brand. I suggest you do some research before spouting off next time, friend. And you're right, the Prius sucks. Hence, my comment about NEEDING to produce better ones. (future tense)
Frank Marinucci
$65 Chevy's? Are you talking about Corvettes or ZL1 Camaros? You must be b/c the Volt is nowhere near that amount dude. BTW, in case you were wondering the Chevy's that are in that range are selling well so I don't know what you're basing that statement upon. If you want boring hybrids w/ no balls and no soul buy a Prius.
Kerry Mitchell Jr.
Did I miss the part in the article where they talk about the mileage? That is the point of the car (outside of being "luxurious"). A hybrid. How does it compare to the volt, Tesla, and others?
Sign me up ONLY if this car runs on E85.  Otherwise, it's just another plug-in.  I WANT A BIO-ELECTRIC VEHICLE.  GM has promised this would happen with the Volt, only to be put-off since its press release that it will run on E85.  If GM, an American company wants to compete with the Germans, Japanese and Koreans, WE MUST PROVIDE HOME-GROWN BIOFUELS AS THE FUEL OF CHOICE.  Please advise GM.  Thank you...I think... 
Jay Skullangel Michael
Thats dumb. No wonder GM is on its way to bankruptcy again!
@John Brown Yep, and Tesla catches on fires after the car hits an object underneath the floor pan or crash into something.
@Lee Klein Well, you can say the same thing about BMW, Mercedes, Audi and the other competitors not being the quality pieces as well.  The reviews of Mercedes and BMW particularly have not been great and Cadillac been getting praises so how is the ELR and Cadillacs not a quality piece?  The price makes more sense since the car is in limited supply.  It is for a special customer who wants something different and say to the whole world that they are green with pride.
Volt Lover
Volts are selling just fine
@Greg Wilson The ELR is pretty much a car to itself and not a Tesla competitor.  The ELR will sell on looks and technology alone.  I agree that Tesla is a nice looking car but it has an obvious disadvantage to the ELR and it is pure electric with limited driving miles while the ELR is unlimited mileage of driving close to 900 miles while the Tesla is under 300 miles of driving.  Personally, Tesla is not worth it in my book.
Volt Lover
@samsalamay53  Ethanol is pointless, it takes as much energy to produce it as it carries. It takes oil and oil based products to get ethanol to market. Unless it can be produced with a better energy return, its pointless.
Volt Lover
There is nothing cutting edge in the ELR. Its the Volt ( I own one ) drive train with a power boost. Its using a frickin torsion beam rear suspension, that's just godawful, and never found on vehicles in that price range. Its inexcusable.
NE Guy
@Jay Skullangel Michael GM has $27 Billion in cash on hand... Doesn't sound like bankruptcy to me.
@Jay Skullangel Michael How so? Do you have a link?
Volt Lover
@john_ls39  You don't think the same thing can happen in this car? You're clueless
Volt Lover
@john_ls39 @Greg Wilson  Looks and technology? It has only minor improvements over a car GM sells for $35,000. So the looks alone are worth $35,000 extra? The ELR doesn't come close to equalling a Tesla. Performance? Tesla wins handily. Passenger room? Tesla carries 5+2. Infotainment? Tesla has a 17" screen and Sat maps.
What are you going to say when the Supercharger network is complete, and you can drive a Tesla from Miami to Seattle for FREE? No range worries at all soon...
@Volt Lover @john_ls39  Show me a report about the ELR catching on fire, then we can talk.  Until then, shut your mouth!

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