The Cadillac ELR was a luxury plug-in hybrid that allowed owners to commute on clean battery power and go longer distances on gasoline power. A high price tag and an unrefined gasoline powertrain limited its sales, but if the price is right, a used Cadillac ELR makes for a nifty and unique ride.
With its angular lines, rich leather interior and long list of standard amenities, it was easy to forget that the four-seat Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid was based on the humble Chevrolet Volt. Unfortunately, the differentiation didn't extend to the driving experience. The noisy gasoline engine and unpolished ride quality felt too much like a Chevy and too little like a Caddy. Factor in the ELR's stratospheric price tag, and it was no wonder that its sales were so poor or that we had a hard time recommending this four-seat coupe when it was new.
Still, the basic idea of a plug-in hybrid luxury coupe isn't a bad one. Drivers whose habits fit the Cadillac ELR's 39 miles of all-electric range could spend their weekdays commuting on clean battery power, then take advantage of the onboard gasoline engine with weekend jaunts to faraway places where electric-vehicle plugs could not be found. If you can find a used example on the cheap, the Cadillac ELR offers a unique blend of style, luxury and frugality that's difficult to find, even in other luxury hybrids.
Used Cadillac ELR Models The Cadillac ELR was introduced as a new model for 2014. Cadillac offered it in a single, well-equipped trim level. Standard equipment on the 2014 cars included a leather interior with heated, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker Bose stereo and Cadillac's CUE touchscreen interface. No ELRs were produced for the 2015 model year, but 2016 models featured even more standard equipment, including lane departure and collision warning systems. Cadillac discontinued the ELR after the 2016 model year.
All ELRs shared the Chevrolet Volt's powertrain, with an electric motor that delivered 157 horsepower and 295 lb-ft to the front wheels. The 2014 model year motor was fed by a 16.5-kilowatt hour battery that powered the ELR for an EPA-rated range of 37 miles. Total system power was 217 hp. For 2016, the battery was upped to 17.1 kWh for an EPA-rated range of 39 miles. Once the ELR's battery got low, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine kicked in and the ELR operated like a regular hybrid-powered car. When plugged into a 240-volt EV charger, the ELR's battery could be charged in four to five hours. No charger? No problem — as long as there was gasoline in the tank, the ELR was ready to drive.
We were impressed by the ELR's styling inside and out, though we were not fans of the CUE interface, which was slow (and sometimes downright reluctant) to respond to touchscreen commands. Though the ELR was comfortable enough up front, the back seat was so small as to be practically useless. The sloping roof reduced the tiny trunk's opening to little more than a mail slot. The Cadillac ELR was nowhere near as practical as the Chevrolet Volt.
We were generally satisfied with the driving experience of the Cadillac ELR. Acceleration of the 2014 model year car was smooth and silent in battery mode, though once the engine cut in, it made a decidedly unluxurious din. The 2014 cars made the 0-60 mph run in 7.8 seconds, which was quick but not pulse-quickening. The 2016 versions had a Sport mode that upped the total system's output to 233 hp and 373 lb-ft. Cadillac said that was enough for a 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds, though in other modes, acceleration was similar to that of the 2014 car.
Handling on 2014 model year Cadillac ELRs was respectable, but not up to the standards of other luxury coupes. Cadillac improved the suspension and brakes for 2016. We had not yet driven the 2016 ELR in time for the review, and at that point, our concern was ride quality: The 2014 ELR delivered a harsh ride over broken pavement. We speculated that most buyers would expect better refinement in a car with a price tag as high as the ELR's.