The $80K Cadillac ELR Review: Socket to Me-e-e-e?

2014 Cadillac ELR

Cadillac’s ELR exhibits Art & Science design – with more science…


Ford, oh-so-famously, has its Edsel; GM’s discontinued Pontiac Division, infamously, had its Aztek; and Cadillac, god-bless-‘em, has its Cimarron. On showrooms from the fall of 1981 (as an ’82) and built through the spring of ’88, the compact Cadillac was built on a J-body platform (think Chevrolet Cavalier…or try not to), onto which was thrown semi-distinctive sheetmetal and a bevy of amenities. Positioned – at least in price – to take on BMW’s 3-Series, the Cimarron was hopelessly outclassed with its low-to-mid-teens window sticker. Jump ahead 30+ years, and more than one review of Cadillac’s 2014 ELR references the earlier Cimarron. And the references are not flattering…

The Cadillac ELR has, at least on the surface, a lot to recommend it. Based on the Cadillac Converj concept, the ELR’s exterior sheetmetal establishes, we’re told, a “new, progressive proportion for the brand.” And while we’d agree it’s a progressive move for Cadillac, the basic proportions – albeit on a smaller scale – had been used on Honda’s Civic almost a decade ago. The cab-forward profile, raked windshield and aggressively angled C-Pillar were all reflected in Honda’s Civic coupe when redesigned for the 2006 model year, and whose basic proportions continue today. As configured by the Art & Science team at GM, the end result is – as you’d guess – dynamically different, but we’re some years away from being able to call it a ‘progressive’ proportion.

2014 Cadillac ELR Interior

A contemporary take on luxury, functionality

Inside, the story is better, as you won’t see the acres of leather offered by the ELR in anyone’s Civic. What Cadillac terms a ‘continuous feature line’ runs from the instrument panel to the back glass via – of course – the doors. And there’s clear evidence that the $40K (or so) price premium one pays for the Cadillac over its Chevy Volt stablemate is due to the interior appointments – think semi-aniline leather seating – and subsequent execution. Chock full of amenities, we liked the overall look of the ELR’s instrumentation and functionality, while wondering why Cadillac can’t come up with some infotainment system more user-friendly than CUE.

When seated, the driver and his-or-her front passenger will find a comfortable amount of room, good visibility to the front and sides, and limited visibility to the rear. The limitation is ameliorated, at least while backing, by the rearview camera, but for those still preferring to actually turn their head they’ll find little to see beyond the C-Pillar (clearly a misnomer…) itself. And while we’re discussing limitations, note that the ELR’s front cupholders are more oriented to the espresso than the Big Gulp. But then, in the interests of efficiency we were trying to lose weight, anyway. Weren’t we?

Access to the rear ‘2+2’ seating area is exactly what we’d expect from tightly drawn 2-doors, and makes a great argument for the growing popularity of the 4-door ‘coupe’. Even for someone 5’7” and height/weight (for now) proportional, the contortions necessary for rear seat access are significant. Happily, once seated the console separating the occupants will limit any other rear seat contortions. (To those advising ‘Make Love – Not War’: In this backseat it’d be easier to conduct a war…) Once seated visibility is OK, but you won’t confuse it with that in Greyhound’s Scenicruiser. And the Caddy’s headroom is predictably restrictive. To its credit, the rear buckets employ a full-depth seat cushion, so support is adequate. You probably won’t want to be there for much longer than a lunch run, and commit the phone number of your chiropractor to memory.

Of course, the heart of the ELR is its drivetrain, one it shares with the more democratic (small ‘d’) Chevrolet Volt. That, we’re told, is the only significant common component, as the ELR rides on its own platform, and is designed to create its own ethos. What is described as an industry-leading Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) powertrain combines pure electric drive with a 1.4 liter gasoline-powered electric generator for a combined range of 340 miles. With the battery pack providing but 35 miles (or so) of that, if you have a longish commute or use the ELR for the majority of your driving you will undoubtedly dip into the fuel tank more often than not.