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2014 Cadillac ELR Coupe Road Test

The 2014 Cadillac ELR Coupe is Caddy's first plug-in hybrid, we get behind the wheel.

What It Is
The 2014 Cadillac ELR is a compact luxury plug-in hybrid.
Best Thing
The ELR looks great, has a plush interior, and surprising performance.
Worst Thing
Pricey cost of entry, real-world ELR pure electric range was less than the estimated 37 miles.
Snap Judgment
If price is not a primary consideration, the 2014 Cadillac ELR delivers a stylish, luxurious plug-in hybrid experience.


The 2014 Cadillac ELR Coupe is the American luxury automaker's first plug-in hybrid, and it comes in the form of a dramatically styled, two-door compact coupe. With automakers aiming for better overall fleet fuel economy figures, product planners are getting creative, and that means entering new segments. While the ELR has been on the drawing board for years, execs delayed making the car until it could hold up to Cadillac's standards for luxury and performance. GM had already developed the primary architecture for the ELR with the Chevrolet Volt. Engineers were able to tweak the same 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor combination for a little better output and performance. The ELR features slightly more power with the electric motor producing 157 horsepower (gasoline engine is 84 horsepower), and better acceleration.

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In theory and given optimal conditions, the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid can go 37 miles on pure electric power, only 1 mile less than the Chevy Volt's 38-mile electric range. Given the added equipment and larger, wider tires, that's a very reasonable ding. Once the battery back is fully depleted, the ELR automatically switches to the gasoline engine, giving the driver a total of 345 miles of combined range. The Cadillac ELR comes well-equipped in one trim level with a starting price of $75,995 after delivery, while options and packages can take you into the low-$80,000s. So after a week with the 2014 Cadillac ELR Coupe, what did we think?

What We Drove

Our 2014 Cadillac ELR tester was priced at $77,870, and was equipped with the luxury package--with upgraded ultra-bright 20-inch machined aluminum wheels, side blind spot and rear-cross traffic alert, and Intellibeam headlamps--as well as carpeted floor mats and a front license plate bracket. An optional Full-speed Adaptive Cruise Control package ($1,995) is available, and brings the ELR up to the $80k range. But every ELR comes with a bevy of standard equipment, including LED headlights and taillights, 20-inch ultra-bright machined wheels, Rear-park assist and camera, CUE infotainment system embedded with navigation with 8-inch color screen, three USB ports, front bucket heated seats remote keyless entry and starter system, and much more.

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The Commute

In theory, the Cadillac ELR's electric range, paired with its gasoline engine and gas tank, provide an ideal way to get around. Your work commute (or a portion of it) can be driven tailpipe-emission free, using little or no gas. But, should you not have time to charge or plug your car in, you can still take a long road trip on the fly without a second thought. There's a liberating feeling in driving to work knowing you haven't used a drop of gas. But like on the Chevrolet Volt, the real-world electric range was significantly less than the stated range. I had to dip into the fuel reserves on a commute of just under 32 miles to get me to work.

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If your commute is under 30 miles, and very little of it is on the highway, then you can probably make it on electric power alone. Another thing we noticed is that the heated seats take a while to really heat up, and the air conditioning and heating are slow to respond unless you use max settings, a measure to conserve power. There's a slight learning curve, but after a weekend, you'll have an idea of which settings will get you to your desired comfort level. Important to note, a welcome chime and graphics greet you when you enter and start up the car, and offer a modern, unique touch. The ELR battery can be fully recharged from a depleted state in under five hours.

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The Grocery Run

The Cadillac ELR Coupe is meant to be a stylish, fuel-efficient coupe, and it achieves high marks based on that criteria. But the dramatic roofline means taller passengers will find little headroom in the rear, and cargo space is limited. While the ELR's 10.5 cubic feet are sufficient for a grocery run or to stuff a couple of carry-on bags in, it's certainly not meant for family airport runs. The rear seats do fold--the center console does not--which allows for a little more storage if you need it. Thanks to its compact proportions, the ELR can easily glide in and out of parking spaces.

The Weekend Fun

For a plug-in hybrid, the 2014 Cadillac ELR is especially pleasant. While its dramatically styled looks will turn heads, on the inside, it's all luxurious materials and Caddy design. The center console is sleek and features the touch-sensitive buttons of the automaker's other models. The bucket seats are comfortable, supportive and draped in fine leather. The build quality is excellent, and there's a real feeling of craftsmanship present throughout the modern cabin. Most surprising is the performance. The ELR is quick and gets up to speed in a hurry. While in electric mode it's quiet, but the engine noise--when engaged--is unrefined. The brakes are good and don't have any of the awkward engagement of some cars equipped with regenerative braking. While the ELR isn't a canyon-carver, it's a fun, pleasant way to get around town.

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Summary

The 2014 Cadillac ELR Coupe offers buyers a luxuriously appointed, stylish, and well-equipped plug-in hybrid. Employing an electric motor and traditional 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, the ELR allows for tailpipe-emission free commutes and a range anxiety-alleviating option of longer road trips with its large gasoline tank. The Cadillac ELR also impresses with its modern, plush interior. If efficiency and environmental consciousness--without sacrificing technology or luxury--are primary considerations, we'd also consider the fully electric Tesla Model S. The ELR's starting price north of $75,000 is also enough to give us pause. But if price not a primary concern, the 2014 Cadillac ELR offers an attractive, unique proposition.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $77,870
Fuel Economy: 82 MPGe in electric only mode
EPA Combined: 33 mpg gas and electric
Cargo Space: 10.5 cubic feet, rear seats fold, though center divider does not
Estimated Combined Range: 345 miles gas and electric.
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: 5yr $80,878, below average rating

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1 comments
TheJode
TheJode

Quick? I know that electric motors have instant torque and all that, but calling the ELR quick is a stretch, especially considering the price. I've driven the Volt, and the torque is nice, but not "quick". You really should drive a Tesla Model S. That's quick! The Toyota RAV4 EV, the BMW i3, and the Chevy Spark EV are quicker than than the ELR. All of them are significantly cheaper as well.

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