2016 Cadillac ELR Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Cadillac ELR was new.


Performance: 7.1

Reviewers say that when driven in EV mode, the Cadillac ELR delivers smooth power and good acceleration. However, they complain that the gas engine is very unrefined and noisy. Most test drivers report that the ELR has a comfortable ride but say it's not the best option if you're seeking fun driving dynamics.

  • "For a 4050-pound, front-wheel-drive car, the ELR drives pretty well." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "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 (2014)
  • "While the ELR will never be mistaken for a sports car, it drives well." -- Motor Trend (2014)
  • "The ELR makes a wondrous EV." -- Autoblog (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Cadillac ELR is powered by a lithium-ion battery, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors, which combined make 233 horsepower. The gas engine acts as a generator for the electric motors, which send power to the front wheels. The ELR has four driving modes that change throttle response and suspension settings: Tour, Sport, Mountain and Hold. According to the EPA, the ELR gets 85 mpg-equivalent in combined city and highway driving in EV mode and 32 mpg combined when using gas power. Those are better fuel economy estimates than what many upscale midsize cars in the class get.

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 noisy gas engine kicks in, they say the interior gets loud.

  • In full-electric mode, the 2016 Cadillac ELR has a smooth power delivery and this, along with the coupe's well-insulated interior and standard active noise cancellation system, makes for a quiet ride. But things change once you've depleted the batteries' charge and the 1.4-liter gasoline engine awakens. This engine simply isn't very quiet or refined, and when you're accelerating to pass or climbing a significant grade, its raucous soundtrack upsets the calm in the cabin. Fortunately, performance has been increased and with its zero-to-60-mph time down to a snappy 6.4 seconds, the 2016 ELR is a lot more competitive with other sport luxury coupes." -- Edmunds
  • 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 (2014)
  • "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 (2014)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The EPA estimates that the 2016 ELR can travel a total of 340 miles on combined battery and gas power, and 40 miles on battery power alone. 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 allows the driver to turn on the gas engine that acts as a generator for the electric motors to conserve the battery’s charge. For instance, this mode lets the driver conserve battery power for city driving, where the ELR is more efficient in full electric mode. It can run in EV mode at any time.

Handling and Braking

While most automotive journalists agree that the Cadillac ELR delivers a comfortable ride, they note that its handling isn't particularly sharp through turns. A few complain that the ELR doesn't absorb road imperfections very well. Reviewers point out that although the ELR's steering is accurate, they wish it were more responsive.

  • In other words, the ELR probably isn't the plug-in hybrid for the shopper who's serious about attacking curvy roads during the weekend. But the ELR does offer a smooth ride, thanks to an adaptive suspension system that's not available on the Volt." -- AutoTrader
  • "In addition to more power, this revamped ELR has had its chassis and steering retuned for improved handling." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2014)
  • The electric power steering is precise but, like so many systems, isn't particularly communicative." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)

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