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2014 Cadillac ELR Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2014 Cadillac ELR was new.


Performance: 5.8

The 2014 Cadillac ELR is praised for its performance in electric-only mode, with test drivers saying power is immediate and smooth. Their opinions change when the gas engine kicks in, though, reporting that the engine is unpleasantly loud. Though critics point out that the ELR is a heavy, front-wheel drive, plug-in hybrid car, they say its handling is respectable.

  • “For a 4050-pound, front-wheel-drive car, the ELR drives pretty well." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "And at the end of the day it's not that quick, not that engaging to drive. Cadillac would like us to think of the ELR as a 6 Series or Tesla Model S competitor instead of a hyper-expensive Volt, but that's how it drives, for the most part." -- Edmunds
  • "While the ELR will never be mistaken for a sports car, it drives well." -- Motor Trend
  • "The ELR makes a wondrous EV." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Cadillac ELR’s powertrain consists of a lithium-ion battery, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors. The gas engine acts as a generator for the electric motors, which send power to the ELR’s front wheels. The powertrain makes 217 total horsepower. The ELR has four driving modes that alter throttle response and suspension settings: Tour, Sport, Mountain and Hold. The Cadillac ELR gets 85/80 mpg-equivalent city/highway in EV mode and 31/35 mpg in hybrid mode.

Test drivers are impressed with the instantaneous power the ELR delivers in EV mode and how quiet the powertrain is when the car is running solely on battery power. On the other hand, when the gas engine kicks in, they say it is very loud.

  • "On the road, the ELR feels quick, but never fast. Like most electric vehicles, it jumps off the line, but after that it feels pretty flat. On the positive side, I'm not sure anything feels as luxurious as the fluid pull of a near-silent electric motor. Acceleration is smooth and constant and even the best automatic transmissions can't match a shiftless experience. Sadly, when I was up in the mountains I found the gasoline engine isn't as well-isolated as it could be. When it kicks on and is running at a constant rpm, it becomes a bit annoying. It might be that it's such a stark contrast to all-electric operation, or it really might be just that loud." -- Motor Trend
  • "Running in electric mode for the first 30 or so miles of commuting, the ELR operates with the ease and quiet expected of a fossil-free car. But once the charge in the batteries has been consumed, that 1.4-liter lump kicks in and, droning away, heads for its torque peak. Such a drone may be tolerable in a Volt, but this is an $80,000 luxury coupe; it should feel slicker, less harried, and more sophisticated." -- Car and Driver
  • "Acceleration out of corners is impressive, just as it is on city streets and freeways. Even so, you most notice the seamless gush of electric propulsion in the cut-and-thrust of urban driving when cars surround you, since you can effortlessly accelerate into open slots in the traffic pattern." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Unfortunately, after 28 miles had passed beneath the ELR's nearly flush belly pan, the lithium-ion battery pack was exhausted and the combustion engine fired up. The ensuing racket shattered the silence." -- Autoblog
  • "The spell is broken at mile 38 when the gasoline engine comes to life. We were never fans of the 1.4-liter, iron-block, premium-swilling, 84-hp gasoline engine in our own 2011 Chevrolet Volt test car, and it seems even less tolerable in this pricey machine." -- Edmunds

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The 2014 ELR can travel a total of 340 miles on combined battery and gas power and 37 miles on battery power only, according to the EPA. The lithium-ion battery can be recharged in five hours using a 240-volt charging station, or in 12.5 to 18 hours using a standard 120-volt household outlet. The ELR has a Hold drive mode that lets the driver turn on the gas engine that acts as a generator for the electric motors and conserve the battery’s charge. This mode lets the driver save battery power for city driving, for example, where the ELR is more efficient in full electric mode, though it can run in EV mode at any time.

Handling and Braking

Most test drivers say the Cadillac ELR’s steering is accurate, but some wish it provided more road feel. Some think the brake pedal feel is excellent for a hybrid car. Other critics say the ELR is poised and steady on a winding road, though some are disappointed that you can feel small road imperfections.

  • "A trip through the Malibu mountains shows the steering to have appropriate heft and reasonable response, but something is missing. We never feel the urge to push harder, squeal the tires a bit or court the ire of local law enforcement. Similarly, the ride is serene when the road is smooth, and there's precious little bob and weave, but tiny ripples and nearly unseen imperfections make their way through unfettered. This does not feel like $75,000 worth of ride and handling." -- Edmunds
  • “Steering is direct and feel is good for an electric rack. The brake pedal is also fantastic for something connected to a regeneration system. (Are you listening Infiniti?)" -- Motor Trend
  • “The ELR handled the sweeping corners with confidence, its wide track and low stance contributing to its stability. The steering was light, but felt stable and the tires were easy to place. Only when pushed into corners far faster than what any sane owner would attempt with a 4,000-plus-pound hybrid did the tires squeal in protest, their tread blocks rebelling with understeer." -- Autoblog
  • "The electric power steering is precise but, like so many systems, isn't particularly communicative." -- Automobile Magazine

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