2014 Cadillac ELR Review | Toronto Star

2014 Cadillac ELR Review
By Jim Robinson, Toronto Star
The 2014 Cadillac ELR offers an elegant solution to having your electric car cake and eating all the range too.
But for some reason, the benefits of this electric propulsion system (also used in the Chevrolet Volt) hasn’t gotten through to enviro-conscious buyers.
The ELR, like the Volt, is an EREV (extended range electric vehicle) meaning it has a huge lithium-ion battery pack to propel it for the first 55 km or so. After that, a 1.4-litre gasoline engine kicks in seamlessly and acts as a generator to produce electricity for the drivetrain. That provides another 425 km, for a combined 480 km (300 miles), before filling the tank and/or plugging in again.
ELR is not an all-electric car, having a range of maybe 140 km on a good day, or a plug-in hybrid that uses a mix of battery and gasoline where it is dependent on the engine for anything beyond 30 km in normal traffic.
And unlike a battery-only electric car, you don’t have to feather the accelerator pedal to eek out range. With the ELR you can drive as normal where and when you want.
Trying to use horsepower, kilowatts and torque doesn’t really work because the gasoline (turbocharged) engine is not connected to the wheels, only to an electric generator.
To put it simply, it’s like a locomotive where it’s all about electrical torque. In the case of the ELR, it is 295 lb/ft or about 10 per cent more than the 3.6-litre V6 used in the Cadillac CTS.
According to the Energuide fuel rating system, running on ELR strictly on the engine results in 7.6/6.7/7.2L/100km (37/42/39 mpg) city/highway/combined, which is about average for a small luxury car. But in electric only, it’s 2.8/2.9/2.9L/100 km (101/97/99 mpg) city/highway/combined.
The trick, of course, is to learn to get the best from the system and the ELR does that with four different modes that can be selected by a switch on the centre console. Tour is the default mode. Sport tightens the suspension and re-maps the torque delivery. Mountain adjusts for more power needed for climbing. Hold shuts off the battery and uses the gas/electric generator only for long distance driving on the highway, thus saving the battery for in-town use after arriving at a destination. And to help a bit on charging the battery, the ELR comes with paddles on the steering wheel which, when depressed, add extra regenerative braking when operating in battery mode.I tried it several times on a short run around Toronto and it really works.
Battery charging time with a 120-volt outlet is about 13 hours, but that drops to five hours with a 240-volt charger, a buyer can obtain from Cadillac/Bosch.
I was on an afternoon wave of the ELR launch in Toronto so the car I drove was used in the morning and was charged over lunch, so it had only a two-hour refresh.
Nevertheless, I covered about 60 km on a mix of battery and gas/generator power and averaged 2.1L/100 km. In the process I used 13.5 kWh and 0.75L/100 km of gas – not bad at all.
Cadillac prides itself on its ride and handling which rivals the best sports coupes from Europe. While you wouldn’t expect it on an electric car, the ELR is equipped with Continuous Damping Control that adjusts the suspension every two milliseconds for optimum handling depending on road conditions and driver inputs.
The HiPer strut front suspension uses forged aluminum components that not only lessen weight over steel, but also make for a quicker steering response. At the rear is a Watts-link system with weight-optimized trailing arms designed to absorb lateral inputs for better forward, rearward and vertical motions. All this was appreciated in Toronto’s east end where streets are narrow, and after this winter, littered with potholes in all sizes and depths.
Like a streetcar, which is also electric, all the torque is immediately available so launch is swift. It also gathers speed like a streetcar – smooth and linear with no sound.
An interesting feature is a beeper that can be turned on during all-electric mode. Because the ELR is so quiet, it helps let people know if it’s coming, especially anyone who is hearing impaired.
The ELR is also one of most attractive looking cars GM makes. Based on the Converj concept car, it has dramatic lines, LED headlights and one of the most aero-efficient bodies of any small car in the market.
One of the challenges in turning the Converj into the production car was keeping the 20-inch alloy wheels that made the concept look so great. These were retained on the ELR and are fitted with specially engineered low rolling resistance tires that are also grippy and add to the premium sports coupe feel of the car.
The signature vertical LCD taillights, if you look close enough, have a hint of tailfin, which set Cadillacs apart in the past.
The interior is equally as stunning with cut-and-sewn accented leather incorporating suede, microfibre, chrome, wood and available carbon fibre finishes throughout.
Programmable charging schedules and energy efficiency reports can be made available online or through smartphones. The driver/owner can find out the level of charge and/or set the charging time for off peak hours or to be completed by the time he/she sets off for work.
The downside is price. The ELR starts at $78,250. As tested, the ELR had every option, which is probably how most will be ordered with a price tag of $84,805 not counting the $1,700 delivery fee. You can buy a 240-volt charging station from Bosch for $1,010.70 but you’ll have to pay for installation.
A bright spot is an Ontario rebate of $8,231. And if you keep your drives short and use electricity only, Energuide estimates it will cost $603 per year to run on hydro – a far cry from the usual $3,000 or more for gasoline.
It ain’t easy being green, not to mention costly, but there is a market for a premium electric car as Tesla has proved.  With its extended range and backing by GM this just could be the premium coupe of choice for the future.
Cadillac ELR 2014 at a glance…
BODY STYLE: Extended range premium coupe.
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-wheel-drive.
POWERTRAIN: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder gasoline engine range extender/electric generator; 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery for a combined 295 lb/ft of torque
FUEL ECONOMY: All-electric, 2.8/2.9/2.9L/100 km (101/97/99 mpg) city/highway/combined; engine only (Premium fuel), 7.6/6.7/7.2L/100km (37/42/39 mpg)
CARGO CAPACITY: 255 litres (9.0 cu ft)
PRICE: Base price $78,250, as tested $84,805 not including $1,700 freight and PDI or $8,231 Ontario green rebate