2014 Cadillac ELR
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Aug 5, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
No, we’re not talking about a sequel to Harold Ramis’ cult-classic “Caddyshack”. This is Caddy Shock, as in Cadillac’s first foray into extended range electric cars. While some may be shocked that it’s more than twice the price of GM’s other extended range electric car (the Volt), this one is a visual stunner—almost identical to the Cadillac Converj concept. It’s called the Cadillac ELR, and it’s a shoe-in for future classic car status. John Grafman reports.
By John Grafman
Promises, promises. Cadillac never said the ELR would be a supercar, it didn’t have too. Just look at this wedgy coupe. This just looks bad-ass. How many cars on the road have a grill that looks like it was created for Captain America? This is superhero ready!
And that’s the issue. This looks too damn good to be believed. Most wide-eyed on-lookers expect this to scale buildings or attempt other unbelievable feats based just on the sharp, Arts & Science styling. Cadillac makes good on the promise of the design based strongly on the Converj concept.
From time-to-time, us jaded media wags lose sight of what is remarkable. But, it didn’t take more than a couple hours to take the pulse of car enthusiasts. A few minutes into traversing the Sierra Madre foothills we witness an enamored driver of another car that nearly gets splattered by opposing traffic. Why? This rocket scientist simply wants to get a quick couple of snaps of the ELR.
This does tell us something. Either this is something extra special, or that driver has a screw loose (or both). It doesn’t matter where we travel, Malibu, the San Fernando Valley, Carlsbad, or Murietta; the reception is pretty much the same story. The Cadillac ELR constantly conveys an unspoken covenant between the GM brand and the public. No longer is the future coming, this says it’s here now!
Yes, this is dynamic, but what does that really mean? If you were thinking this is a rocket car running on unobtainium material in some twenty-first century flux-capacitor, you would be very wrong. On the other hand, if the understood definition is ultra silent, extra efficient, and advanced technologically, the answer would be right on the mark.
General Motors states the ELR’s T-shaped, 5.5 foot long battery system has a thermal radiation shield and steel tray along with a glass-filled polyester structural composite with aluminum. Now that’s either the makings of a superhero or transformer according to my Tech-to-English dictionary. The GM EREV system is pretty sophisticated engineering. Yet, as cool as this is, we can only suspect this will be even more advanced in the next gen.
The Cadillac ELR is an extended range electric vehicle. What that really means is the ELR is only driven by electric motors, so this has instantaneous reaction to the accelerator pedal as only EVs do. The gas engine, when it turns on, is only to generate electric energy to recharge the lithium batteries or it directly routes it to the electric motor. So, the small 1.4-liter internal combustion engine never directly drives the wheels.
Owners can plug in and recharge at their destination, or simply opt for filling the 9.3-gallon gasoline tank. But, for those with limited commutes daily, this doesn’t require any fuel as long as it is recharged between short jaunts. However, it does take 12.5-18 hours to recharge using a 120V outlet, or five hours using 240V.
For even greater efficiency, the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel allow the driver to effectively slow the ELR, similar to downshifting, and recapture energy via regenerative braking. The recapturing of energy is interactive in a similar way that cars with manual transmissions are. So, drivers can have fun and be eco-minded at the same time. (Editor’s note: When the Volt first debuted, LA Car suggested to GM that the paddle shifters be enlisted to engage “low” gear via regenerative braking)
Over a week of semi-civilized driving we average close to 40MPG with only occasionally plugging in. Traveling far beyond what the stored juice in the battery will provide for does diminish the average fuel economy. Sure, we could try to maximize the potential range, but that would create unrealistic results and expectations.
From a driver’s perspective, and forgoing a hypermileage approach (using a light foot, and drafting close behind 18-wheelers), this really feels like is an oversized electric kart. This drives in a flat manner with very little sway, with perky off the line reaction. The electric motors have a subtle, high-pitched sound, unlike a big, husky V8. This zippy sound connects with anyone that’s played around with slot cars.
It’s important to dispel any ideas that this isn’t a fun ride. Stabbing the go-pedal from a stop the 295 lb-ft of torque is enough to produce a tad bit of wheel spin before the oversight systems negate the misbehavior. This won’t be confused with the likes of a Fisker or Tesla, but this isn’t lifeless either. The best the OEM claims is 0-60 in 7.8 seconds in range extending mode. However, this feels much more alive than the numbers indicate.
In fact, this only manages 84 horsepower from the range-extending four-cylinder, dual overhead cam engine at its maximum speed of 4,800 RPM. The two electric motors are good for up to 181 ponies each. And, even with a slippery .305 coefficient of drag the ELR is only good for 106 at top speed. Certainly the 4,050-pound curb weight does deter from improved figures, but it is important to consider that 435 pounds of this is due to the batteries.
The Cadillac ELR also demonstrates a heightened sense of smoothness, and a sense of infallibility that eludes most IC cars. Taking the road less traveled, or in this case a road that’s still under construction, provides its own set of thrills. This private drive is just about a half minute down the road on Malibu Canyon from the HRL Laboratories - coincidentally a former GM and Hughes Research Lab (as in Howard Hughes) facility. Driving up this insanely steep and treacherous Francisco Canyon Road the ELR provides a unique level of confidence in spite of the twisty and slippery street. A slight bobble by the driver or vehicle would result in a tumble of hundreds of feet, and a painful death. Yet, in a situation where only sherpas and bighorn sheep would dare, the electric drive of the Cadillac ELR feels far more reliable and responsive than a typical car.
On roads and highways that are less than perfect, the Cadillac provides a ride quality that drivers of other luxury cars would feel right at home in. This no doubt could be attributed in part to the suspension that utilizes a HiPer Struts in the front with continuously variable real-time dampening along with driver selectable modes. The rear is fitted with a compound crank with Watts link. The result is both a compliant ride, and one that doesn’t get weak in the corners.
The ELR is very similar to the Volt in several ways. Perhaps the most unappreciated aspect is the trade-off between range and performance. Sadly, this leans towards a useful 37-mile range or less on pure electric without an over-ride for greater performance. True, a typical commute to work is within the stated range. Nevertheless, GM is not taking full advantage of the EV virtues. Okay, maybe a boost at a touch of a button would sacrifice EV range to a fleeting ten miles, but oh what fun! Just imagine sub 4-second times 0-60! A GM rep did give us a wink in regards to improved stats in future models, but we will have to wait for that.
The driver is treated to an engaging visual display on the CUE center screen and instrument panel. However, after the special effects cease it’s very similar to what one expects in Cadillac from technology to materials. There’s nothing here that would scare away anyone, even those with a phobia to anything more advanced than a flip-phone.
The hypatic feedback on center console buttons works, but isn’t as intuitive as possible. This requires fishing around and glancing over at the functions being adjusted while driving. On the flip side, the hypatic feedback from the seats works marvelously, quickly and effectively redirecting the driver’s attention to a more pressing matter. The sensation is similar to a rapid drum roll on the driver’s thigh. It’s just intrusive enough to do the job.
The cabin in the ELR is whisper quiet in EV mode. Even when the gas engine kicks-in it’s still undeniably a luxury vehicle. This environment is tranquil, and allows decompression even during rush hour. Taking the loop down from Pasadena to Oceanside, and then back up through the scenic parts of Temecula, the Cadillac is unusually pleasant and serene. The din of traffic is whisper quiet.
The wood and carbon-fiber trim, along with the synthetic suede headliner, add nice accents to the interior. The layered suede-like microfiber on the dash and upper door panels remind me of something akin to a sports shoe (perfect for limited edition celebrity sports figure endorsement deals). Conversely, the contrasting stitching in our vehicle is just slightly less than perfect. Sure, only the eagle-eyed passengers might catch this, but once noticed it’s hard to ignore.
One of the unfortunate standouts are the rather cheap looking plastic interior rocker panel cover plates really degrades the status of the ELR at the point of entry. This undeniably needs to be upgraded in order to convey premium status.
Aside from these couple of sore points, the ELR rewards the passengers and driver with comfy Cadillac seating. The exterior might seem coupe-like, yet you can get two people in the back seat of this sub-compact. We even found that the moderately sized trunk space can be enhanced with the split fold down seats. This is no Escalade, and that’s just fine by us.
Unfortunately, in GM releasing the Volt first, it steals some of the ELR’s thunder. But, as this is a stylish coupe, and more than twice as expensive as a Volt, this EV has an exclusiveness that will be favored by owners for years to come. However, as rapidly as technology is advancing, we all just might be driving around on unobtainium in a few years after all.
Perfection is just a few tweaks away.
For more information about Cadillac products, go to www.cadillac.com
SPECIFICATIONS Price: Base $75,000 as tested $82,135 EPA mileage estimates Combined City/ Highway: 82 MPGe (electricity) / 33 MPG (gasoline) Total range: Up to 340 miles Up to 37 miles electric only Up to 303 miles extended range Engine type: Two front-mounted electric motors: 157 -181 hp / 117-135 kW max drive power; 55 kW generating power, 162 kW (total system power), 295 lb-ft torque. Battery: Center mounted T-shaped, lithium-ion, 288 prismatic cells,16.5-kWh Extended range gas engine: 1.4-liter, cat iron block / cast aluminum head, dual overhead camshafts; four valves per cylinder, continuously variable intake and exhaust cam phase, 84hp, sequential multi-port fuel injectors with electronic throttle control. 63 kW generator. Horsepower: 314-362 hp total (2 x 157-181 hp motors) Torque: 295 lb.-ft @ 0 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / front-wheel drive Transmission type: Electric drive system Suspension Front: HiPer Strut with continuously variable real-time damping and driver-selectable modes, specially tuned coil springs with side load compensation, direct-acting hollow stabilizer bar, hydraulic ride bushings Rear: specially adapted compound crank with Watts link; double-walled, U-shaped profile at the rear; specifically tuned coil springs, hydraulic bushings; shocks with continuously variable real-time damping and driver-selectable modes Wheels and tires Front: 20 x 8.5-inch cast aluminum, 245/40R20 all-season Rear: 20 x 8.5-inch cast aluminum, 245/40R20 all-season Brakes Power four-wheel disc with ABS; electro-hydraulic; fully regenerative to maximize energy capture; dynamic rear brake proportioning Front: 12.6 vented, single 60mm front / rear piston w/ steel body caliper Rear: 11.5 solid; steel body caliper with single 38mm piston Dimensions Overall length: 186” Overall width: 72.7” Overall height: 55.9” Curb weight (lbs.): 4,050 0-60mph (97 km/h) = 7.8 sec. – range extending mode 8.8 sec. EV mode Top Speed = 106 mph