June 2, 2014 1:30 PM | By Michael Bettencourt for MSN Autos

2014 Cadillac ELR first drive



2014 Cadillac ELR (© Photo: Michael Bettencourt)
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  • 2014 Cadillac ELR (© Photo: Michael Bettencourt)
  • 2014 Cadillac ELR (© Photo: Cadillac)
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2014 Cadillac ELR

Cadillac hops on the growing luxury plug-in parade – and adds serious style to the party

2014 Cadillac ELR (© Photo: Michael Bettencourt)

Toronto, Ont. – The question that keeps popping into my head about Cadillac’s all-new $78,000+ plug-in ELR is whether or not it is as quiet as the $400,000-or-so Rolls-Royce Wraith coupe. If so, this would likely make the mostly electric ELR the quietest two-door luxury car on the planet. And I’m fairly convinced that the ELR is the quietest – at least until the futuristic Caddy's good 'ol internal combustion engine kicks in.

Not to start powering the wheels, mind, unless they’re being thrashed ragged, but to recharge the battery that is used to power the motor that propels the car. The main priority for style-conscious ELR buyers, who will appreciate reducing their carbon footprint as much or more than chopping their fuel bills, will likely offer that defining, ultramodern, comforting silence.

Panache and pampering are certainly this car’s greatest strengths. Its price and sporting performance? Not quite so much. This ELR appears a good deal next to the aforementioned gas-guzzling V12 Rolls-Royce coupe, and comes in well under six-figure plus plug-in rivals such as the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, Tesla Model S P85, and the upcoming $150k BMW i8 exotic sports coupe. But up against conventionally powered similarly compact luxury two-doors? The ELR’s 80 grand price tag seems expensive – but only if you’re not totally smitten by its looks.

Price not as out of line as it first appears

2014 Cadillac ELR (© Photo: General Motors)

As it stands now, the Cadillac ELR would seem a much better deal if it came out before the Chevrolet Volt, which uses a smaller and less powerful motor, but largely the same powertrain. It starts at about 41 grand less than the ELR, or just about half the Caddy’s price, and comes in a more practical five-door hatchback package.

Thes luxury-first approach is the usual path for expensive advanced technologies to come to market, with high-end buyers absorbing such high-end costs into their more profit-laden MSRPs. But when the Volt hit the market in 2011, and a year later in Canada, GM’s prime market target was the Toyota Prius, even if GM’s Bob Lutz admitted then that the Volt program was pushed on by the relative success of the low-volume all-electric, six-figure Tesla Roadster two-seater.

Instead, gas-only luxury coupe rivals like the Audi A5/S5, BMW 4 Series and Mercedes-Benz C and E-Class Coupes all start closer to $50,000 or $60,000. Dig deeper into the matter, however, and it’s apparent that many of these two-doors can easily approach or surpass the ELR’s high 70s or 80k price range, once engine, safety and convenience options are added. Granted, the ELR plays the options game to a lesser extent as well, offering a bunch of different options and two key option packages (Safety, which includes radar cruise control at $2,095, and the Luxury package which nets you Cross-Traffic Alert and other active safety aids, plus bling-ier 20-inch wheels for $1,785). Case in point, our tester’s $86,505 sticker.

When talking price, it’s also important to keep in mind that those other conventional cars also don’t receive potential clean car rebates from the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, effectively removing $8,231 and $8,000 off the price of the ELR, to owners in those provinces, respectively.

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