First Drive: 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury cars hybrids first drives cadillac
2014 Cadillac ELR. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Michael Bettencourt

Toronto, Ont. – If a Cadillac ELR plug-in buyer should ever happen to trip into an Escalade owner at their local dealer, look out for the dropping of monogrammed cuff links for fisticuffs. One can’t imagine two more different buyers for one brand of vehicle: the Escalade a mammoth body-on-frame SUV with a fuel-swilling V8 that revels in its old-school Cadillac “I don’t give a sh*#!t what you think” swagger, the ELR a largely silent, futuristic compact luxury coupe that oozes comfort and eco-conscious style.

Amongst many plug-in enthusiasts, and some auto media types, the ELR is being widely ripped for using largely the same powertrain as the plug-in Chevrolet Volt sedan at a much higher price. But that’s nothing new for Cadillac, or in truth amongst many other luxury brands. Consider that the bones of the Cadillac Escalade are very similar to what you’ll find underneath the skin of the much cheaper Chevy Suburban or GMC Yukon, with the ‘Sclade in its current form starting at about 30 grand more than a base Suburban.

And you don’t hear any similar uproar about the Escalade as an overpriced Yukon XL.

Sure, there’s a smaller V8 in the Suburban versus the Escalade, though the just redesigned Yukon XL can be upfitted with the exact same 6.2L V8 engine and transmission as Caddy’s largest and boxiest SUV. Just as with those SUVs, there are some powertrain similarities in the ELR and Volt, though those look minor next to the luscious new design and interior upgrades for the $78,250 ELR.

To start, it’s the best-looking coupe that lists for less than $100,000, at least to this beholder. And there are many scrumptious two-doors that go for less than a hundred grand.

“In 15 minutes just parked on the streets of Toronto, I had two people come up to me to ask what it was,” said Paul Hewitt, GM Canada’s product manager for the ELR. He noted that its styling – closely based on the well-received Cadillac Converj concept from 2009 – is expected to be the primary purchase reason for most buyers.

First Drive: 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury cars hybrids first drives cadillac First Drive: 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury cars hybrids first drives cadillac
2014 Cadillac ELR. Click image to enlarge

Though the battery of the ELR is the exact same size as the one in the Volt at 16.5 kilowatts, which acts as the electric ‘fuel tank’ in a bank of batteries shaped like a ‘T’ along the car’s centre line and across the body beneath its rear seats, the ELR has a more powerful electric motor than Chevy’s plug-in Volt. Think of this motor as a slightly larger ‘pipe’ that brings the available power to the wheels quicker. This boosts the much slinkier ELR’s horsepower and torque numbers to 207 and 295, respectively, both healthy increases over the Volt’s 149 hp and 273 lb-ft torque figures.

Unfortunately, the ELR is also about 131 kg (300 pounds) heavier, meaning its fully electric range of 59 km as rated by the EPA is slightly worse than the Volt (61 km), with the ELR posting a 7.8 second 0–60 mph acceleration time when using gas and electricity for full oomph. It’s about a second slower if you have a full battery and only use electric power, said Hewitt, which is right around the same time as the Volt.

Climbing into the ELR, though, is quite unlike boarding the Volt. Even if you manage not to stare too long at the hottest-looking Caddy’s come-hither shape, the interior welcomes the driver with opulent yet futuristic surroundings. The CUE infotainment system is familiar from other Caddy models, meaning ultramodern if not always the most intuitive at first. Its big user screen is not the futuristic eye-popper of the fully electric Tesla Model S, whose massive 17-inch screen somehow manages to score brilliantly well for usability as well.




About Michael Bettencourt

Michael Bettencourt is on the World Car of the Year jury, has been a long-time AJAC member, and is on its Technology of the Year judging panel.