Hated the Commercial, Loved The Car: 2014 Cadillac ELR Plug-In Electric Hybrid Review

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Another plug for electric technology is that electric cars are wonderful to drive. The engine in my housemate's electric Fiat 500e was rated one of 2014's ten best, not just of electric engines, but all engines. I found the Cadillac ELR to be exceptionally smooth, quiet, and powerful. Electric engines have full torque available at zero RPM, which makes acceleration easy and fantastic for things like getting on the freeway or passing when necessary. The lack of vibration and engine noise is delightful; it's what makes the ELR truly luxurious to drive.

Since the ELR is a Cadillac, other high-end luxury features let you know it is a premium ride. Plush, 16-way-adjustable leather seats are standard, and the model I drove had upgraded 20-way seats (although I'm still a little unsure of how much I liked the two-tone contrast of the brown leather seating and the black interior trim and surfaces). The Bose stereo provided fabulous sound. GM's CUE touchscreen infotainment system isn't generally well reviewed, but I found it slightly easier and preferable to use than my Ford SYNC system. And I loved the optional upgraded safety package with cutting-edge technology like a vibrating Safety Alert Seat that kicks in if you get too close to other cars or objects, and automatic braking to ensure that you stay a safe distance from the car ahead of you when you have cruise control engaged. The model I was loaned also had a gorgeous "Crystal Red Tintcoat," which is a $995 upgrade option. When the base price of the car is $75,000, what's another grand for it to look that pretty?

On a side note with respect to pricing, you probably want to consider leasing when it comes to electric vehicles. Leasing often does not make the most financial sense for cars you drive for personal (rather than business) use; buying (preferably paying cash, rather than financing) a used car in order to avoid the initial depreciation hit is generally recommended. But given how fast electric vehicle technology is evolving, leasing a new car so you can take advantage of the incentives, then trading in when more advanced technology comes on the market, can be a smart choice.

Another selling point for the Cadillac ELR versus its most obvious competitor, the Tesla Model S, is that you can buy a Cadillac ELR in all 50 states. (Tesla is currently fighting entrenched dealership laws that restrict their ability to sell in many states.) And because it's a hyrid, if you live in a state where charging stations are less common than they are in places like California or Oregon, you don't have to plan on getting back home to recharge when necessary.

The Cadillac ELR definitely has some potential downsides. It is a two-door coupe, which means that the doors are wide and heavy. The ELR's sexy,swoopy design leads to nonexistent headroom in the cramped back seat. I'm only 5' 5" tall, and my head scraped the roof while sitting in the back seat. I would say you could only fit small children back there, but with a car seat, they might be too tall. So the back seats really are only fit for stashing your coat or bag while driving. Compared to other super-luxury cars— not just luxury electrics, the ELR is poorly reviewed. It is often dismissed as an overpriced Chevy Volt. And GM gets the side-eye from some for killing off its pioneering and beloved true electric model, the EV1, for delayed recall of vehicles for problems that resulted in several deaths.

However, if you are concerned about climate change and the role gas-powered automobiles play in causing that environmental danger, I would encourage you to learn more about GM and Cadillac's innovation and commitment to developing cleaner technology. One example is a program Cadillac is developing with utility providers, starting in Southern California, where you can arrange for your car to charge using only renewable energy sources.

I spoke with Shad Balch, an Environmental and Policy Expert for GM about these issues, and he expressed Cadillac's vision of providing a car with the highest in technology and ultimate luxury. It's a niche Cadillac is qualified to occupy, and, as Blach sees it, once car drivers better understand what electric vehicle technology offers, manufacturers won't be able to keep up with demand. Even though Cadillac has sold fewer than 1,000 ELRs to date, Blach assured me that, unlike Fiat Chrysler's CEO, who is begging buyers NOT to buy the money-losing Fiat 500e (which was developed primarily to meet California's higher-than-federal fuel efficiency standards), GM and Cadillac see tremendous opportunity in the electric vehicle market.


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