2016 Cadillac ELR
The Cadillac ELR is a plug-in hybrid coupe aimed at environmentally-conscious buyers who also have a taste for luxury and style. Though it shares much of its architecture and powertrain with the Chevrolet Volt, the ELR justifies its higher pricetag with an eye-catching exterior, a coddling cabin and quicker acceleration.
The ELR received a significant overhaul for the latest model year, including a completely overhauled propulsion system, enhanced handling, and an all-new performance package. OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity and an onboard WiFi hotspot have been added to the CUE infotainment system.
With crisp lines and an athletic, forward-learning stance, the ELR represents a striking evolution of Cadillac's "Art & Science" design language. All-LED exterior lighting adds a dash of flair while simultaneously increasingly efficiency, and, because the cooling facilitated by a normal upper grille isn't needed by the plug-in hybrid system, a distinctive false grille improves aerodynamics by sitting flush with the fascia.
Like the Volt, the ELR's powertrain consists of a T-shaped 17.1-kWh battery pack, two electric motors that drive the front wheels, and a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that primarily acts as a generator and fires up to provide electricity once the battery is depleted.
The latest revisions mean the ELR is noticeably more powerful than its bowtie kin, producing 233 horsepower and 373 lb-ft of torque. That output is sufficient to facilitate a zero-to-60 mph sprint time of just 6.4 seconds in Sport mode (or 8.8 seconds in EV mode).
The ELR is capable of driving on electricity alone for 37 miles; regenerative braking and a "regen on demand" function, which lets the driver temporarily turn the ELR's momentum into electricity by engaging steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, can extend that range. Total combined range for the system is 340 miles.
Like all plug-in hybrids, the ELR boasts essentially infinite fuel economy if the driver travels less than the distance of the electric-only range and recharges afterwards. Fully replenishing the battery takes 12 hours with a 120-volt household outlet or in 4.5 hours by using a 240-volt outlet at a charging station.
In all-electric mode, the ELR is rated at 85 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent. When the range-extender engine fires up, mileage is reduced to 31 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
The ELR offers a choice of four different drive modes that each provide a different mix of efficiency and performance. Tour mode is essentially the standard configuration; Sport mode reconfigures the accelerator, steering and suspension settings to deliver heightened responsiveness; Mountain mode adjusts the powertrain for more power in hilly areas; and Hold mode allows owners to direct when the ELR uses its four-cylinder generator motor, saving the battery charge for later use.
Underpinning Cadillac's plug-in hybrid is a suspension composed a torque steer-reducing HiPer front arrangement with components borrowed from GM's European market performance lineup, while around back is a Watts link torsion beam setup. Electronically-controlled adaptive dampers are designed to deliver a mix of handling agility and cruising comfort.
For the most recent model year, the suspension was upgraded to improve the ELR's driving dynamics. Upgrades include revised suspension and steering tuning front and rear, stiffer spring rates, new bushings and up-rated brake hardware.
The Inside Story
Resplendent in stitched leather upholstery, suede microfiber, genuine wood and carbon fiber trim, the ELR's interior sets a new standard for GM cabin quality. The dashboard features dual eight-inch LCD screens, with one taking the place of a traditional analog instrument cluster and the other serving as a capacitive touchscreen display for Cadillac's CUE touchscreen system.
Similar to tablet devices, CUE lets users tap, flick and swipe to control Bluetooth connectivity, entertainment and navigation functions while also providing access to weather information, local fuel prices, Pandora internet radio and more. CUE also integrated 4G LTE OnStar coverage and an onboard WiFi hotspot.
However, the system has faced criticism for delayed responses to control inputs, confusing design elements and a lack of conventional buttons for frequently-accessed functions. At least a natural voice recognition system provides an intuitive alternate means of controlling CUE, allowing users to place hands-free calls, enter navigation destinations and select songs without clunky and cumbersome memorized phrases.
Notably, the CUE screen can motor up to reveal a hidden storage space and a USB outlet for recharging smartphones and iPods.
The ELR promises to deliver an unusually quiet driving experience due to an active noise canceling system that uses the standard Bose stereo to emit a signal that eliminates undesirable powertrain din.
Standard and Features
The ELR is fitted as standard with stitched leather upholstery, genuine wood and chrome trim, a navigation system, Cadillac's CUE infotainment system, a 10-channel AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM Bose stereo system, all-LED exterior lighting, heated and power-adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, heated exterior mirrors, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, a proximity key, remote start, Bluetooth connectivity, a universal garage door opener and 20-inch alloy wheels. A number of advanced safety technologies (detailed below) are also standard.
New for the most recent model year is a Performance package, which improves the ELR's dynamics at the expense of some ultimate range. Included in this package are 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires, front Brembo four-piston brake calipers and a sport steering wheel. Vehicles equipped with the Performance package also feature unique calibrations for the steering and suspension.
All ELR models are equipped with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Other safety features include Lane Departure Warning, which alerts the driver should the ELR begin to drift into an adjacent lane, and Forward Collision Alert, which provides a warning if it detects an imminent crash with another vehicle.
Optional protective measures include Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, the latter of which alerts the driver to approaching vehicles during back-up maneuvers.
As a luxury-oriented plug-in hybrid coupe, the ELR is in the unique position of having no true rivals. Eco-minded buyers willing to consider a sedan should check out the all-electric Tesla Model S, which offers rapid acceleration, capable handling and a range of up to 265 miles.
Those who don't need the comfort of a luxury vehicle can try less cushy but more affordable plug-ins like the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Energi.