SANTA MONICA, CA – Catch sight of a Cadillac on the road these days with their lean, sculpted sheet metal, or better yet slide behind the wheel and drink in an intoxicating mix of luxury and technology, and it’s easy to understand how the brand has become the auto industry’s trendy young starlet.
In fact, glamorous new sedans such as the ATS, CTS and XTS look and feel so avant-garde they betray Cadillac’s nearly 112 years of luxury auto making history.
Add the all-new ’14 ELR extended-range electric luxury coupe to the cast. It carries increasingly familiar Cadillac exterior design cues, such as sharply creased character lines, broad body sides and a high belt line and short greenhouse.
There also are the trademark vertical front and rear lamps using stylized LED technology, as well as 20-in. cast-aluminum wheels wrapped in Bridgestone rubber and seemingly pushed to the absolute corners of the car.
GM says the goal was to reproduce the Converj concept car, which in 2009 won best-in-show at the Detroit auto show. Consider that mission accomplished, because the ELR is so bejeweled it looks as if it should come in a blue Tiffany & Co. box.
Inside, the 2+2 ELR boasts enough premium leather and suede to knit a quilt. Authentic wood and carbon fiber trim the dashboard and doors, while the friendly CUE infotainment center with its 8-in. color display sits atop the center stack and serves as the car’s smart phone interface and a hub for navigation and Bose audio functions.
In the ELR, CUE also serves as home to critical energy usage information, which it displays in as much colorful detail as other elements of the system.
The 20-way power seats provide plenty of comfort and support. Second-row seats are surprisingly roomy for a 2+2 coupe, although the low, deep seating position feels awfully claustrophobic.
Out on the road, the ELR feels as read-to-run as the Chevy Volt, with which it shares its EREV propulsion system and basic chassis parts. However, the electric drive on the ELR gets a bump in power and torque and in Sport mode the steering control and throttle progression are noticeably quicker.
The instantaneous torque of the system’s two, 181-hp electric motors never grows stale and, zero-emissions driving aside, the sensation of that liquid-like torque delivery ranks as arguably the most gratifying attribute of the ELR.
A day of testing here returned 35.6 miles (57 km) of all-electric range, which translated into more than 250 mpg (0.9 L/100 km). In range-extender mode, the ELR delivered 38.2 mpg (6.2 L/100 km) and it would have taken another 200 miles (322 km) of driving to make us even consider making a fuel stop or plugging in for more juice.
ELR drivers can recapture energy, too. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters typically used to shift up and down function as a sort of “engine brake” on the ELR, recapturing energy when slowing down for approaching traffic or a turn. On the downhill grades here, we recaptured a couple miles of range using it brake into turns.
But at the end of the day, the ELR is a bit too heavy and a tad too hybridized to qualify as a serious sport coupe.
Its 435-lb. (198 kg) Li-ion battery pack gives the car a pleasant, glued-to-the-road feel during relatively sedate driving. At the same, however, it pushes the ELR’s curb weight to 4,050 lbs. (1,837 kg) and along the twisty canyon roads here the car feels, well, glued to the road.
GM threw some of its best chassis technology at the car, too, such as a front-suspension architecture meant to shave weight and reduce torque steer and the lightest continuous damping control system at GM’s disposal designed to make the car feel nimble.
But overall the ELR simply lacks the light-footed handling characteristics of a modern sport coupe, evidenced by its difficulty negotiating some of the decreasing radius turns in the canyons here.
The ELR is kind of slow, too. GM says it moves from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 seconds with the help of its range-extending generator, a 1.4L naturally aspirated gasoline engine. The new4-Series Coupe will cover that ground in five seconds flat. The Model S EV, perhaps the ELR’s closest competitor, does it in 4.2 seconds.
And once the battery becomes depleted, the “quick-and-quiet” quality of the ELR deteriorates. It still packs a torque-filled punch, but the generator whines loudly under throttle. It makes us wish either Cadillac’s throaty 3.6L V-6 or bantamweight 2.0L turbo 4-cyl. gasoline engine were under the hood. That Cadillac coupe, thankfully, comes next year.
At $76,000 the ELR also has narrow demographic, which GM marketers have unabashedly admitted, targeting the sort of wealthy multi-car owners populating the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway here.
In its defense, however, he ELR never was meant to be a-slayer. No, this car is all about zipping around California traffic wrapped in environmental friendliness and looking as fashionable as the next Kristin Stewart.
|Vehicle type||4-passenger, FWD extended-range electric luxury coupe|
|Engine||1.4L DOHC 4-cyl.|
|Electric motors||135 kW drive motors, 55kW generator motor|
|Power (kW)||162 (total system power)|
|Torque||295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm)|
|Wheelbase||106.1 ins. (2,695 mm)|
|Overall length||186 ins. (4,274 mm)|
|Overall width||72.7 ins. (1,847 mm)|
|Overall height||55.9 ins. (1,420 mm)|
|Curb weight||4,050 lbs. (1,837 kg)|
|EV range||37 miles (60 km)|
|Extended range (est.)||308 miles (496 km)|
|Competition||Model S, BMW 6-Series Grand Coupe, BMW 4-Series|
|Tiffany-like lux, glamour||Whopping $76,000 sticker|
|Torquey electric drive||Whiney range-extender|
|Environmentally friendly||Not a canyon carver|