The Cadillac ELR might be electric, but it’s the price that shocks

2014 Cadillac ELR

Here's to hoping the ELR doesn't become another Cadillac Cimarron or Catera.

The Cadillac ELR is here and it’s looking to take on Tesla and the big boys of the electrified driving world. With production starting in January, the ELR represents GM’s ongoing commitment to alternative drivetrains following the introduction of the Chevy Volt in 2010.

Like the Volt, the ELR is a plug in hybrid, which is driven almost exclusively by its electric motor. The onboard gas engine is almost exclusively used to charge the batteries. The only point the 1.4-liter gasoline engine drives the wheels is over 63 mph.

Unlike the Volt, the Cadillac ELR is not just about basic transportation; this is a mean, green luxury machine. And it has the prices to prove it; the MSRP is a whopping $75,995 – a little more than twice what a Volt costs. This price doesn’t even include tax, title, license and dealer fees. So you might not be walking out of your local Cadillac dealer for less than $80,000.

For comparison sake, you can get a Cadillac CTS-V with 556 horsepower or $63,215 for a Tesla Model S for $59,900. This makes the ELR not just expensive for a Cadillac, but also pretty expensive for a light aircraft.

Uncle Sam will give you a tax credit for your choice to ride around on top of a big pile of batteries, bringing the cost down by as much as $7,500. Chances are, if you can afford the ELR, you will be paying enough in taxes that a $7,500 tax credit might just mean something to you.

So what are you getting for this big sack of money? Well, the ELR shares a lot of its underpinnings with the Volt, including GM’s Delta II platform and the Voltec powertrain. With its 16.5 kWh battery pack and 1.4-liter gasoline engine, performance won’t quite be anemic, but it could probably stand a few days of bed rest and a good meal. However, it will take you 35 miles on the batteries alone. So if efficiency is more important than power for you, the ELR is ideal

Where the ELR shines is in its luxury features. It comes standard with all the tech goodies you would expect, like Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system, navigation, and safety features like lane departure warning and forward collision alert.

One of the niftiest features is the brand new Regen on Demand system. This is basically electric motor braking, allowing the driver to temporarily regenerate energy from the vehicle’s momentum, as when coasting to a stop, via steering wheel paddles. In the grand scheme of things, a feature like this may not be that important. But when you spend this much on a car, you expect the designers to have made driving fun. And it seems like Caddy designers at least tried.

Styling is another strong point. It may just be a compact car that shares its architecture with humble cars like the Chevy Cruze, but you would never know from this coupe’s strong lines. Cadillac may have taken its sweet time – more than a decade – but it has finally gotten “Arts and Science” design language down. Helping along the exterior is an interior replete with handcrafted leather and wood trim. Personally, I think that the ELR is one of Cadillac’s better-looking efforts.  

However, what I am less sure of is whether the ELR will be another Cadillac Cimarron or Catera, a humble mid-level car in a fancy set of clothes trying to masquerade as one of the big kids. Let’s just hope that GM can deliver a product that backs up that price. 

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