The Chevrolet Volt hasn’t sold well, despite its fantastic technological design. The reason Volt hasn’t sold is because it costs around $40,000 when a Toyota Prius costs around $25,000; who would’ve guessed, but most cost-conscious consumers would rather save their extra fifteen grand.
GM knows the Volt is in trouble, so they’ve decided to attack the problem from a different angle — if the Volt is too expensive, then why not make it into a Cadillac, called the ELR, which can command a higher price. On the surface that seems like a good idea: take an over-priced economy car, turn it into a luxury car, and add a couple grand to the price tag.
Here’s the problem, though. GM didn’t just add a couple grand to the Volt’s price tag, they went and doubled it. So now, a way over-priced economy car has become a way over-priced luxury coupe.
Knowing all of this, when given the opportunity to take an ELR for a spin, I decided to put my predispositions aside, and see what the car had to offer. Maybe, just maybe, GM could’ve sprinkled it with some sort of magical pixy dust that would make it worth the $80,000…
A Chevy Volt and a Cadillac ATS did the nasty, and the ELR was the born.
To say that the ELR is just a Volt with a Cadillac body is bit of an understatement. Cadillac has done a nice job of putting their own touches on the car and the way that it drives. It surely improves on every aspect of the Volt, which I quite enjoyed to begin with.
On the surface, the ELR has a striking and attractive design, somewhere in between the understated ATS Coupe and the exotic Cien concept car. It will turn a few heads in town.
Inside, Cadillac has really done a beautiful job with the fit and finish, utilizing a variety of materials such as suede, carbon fiber, wood, metal, and, of course, leather. The inside of the ELR has a rich, inviting design that will surely add to its appeal for anyone considering forking out eighty large.
On the road, the ride, steering, and handling all feel similar to a Cadillac ATS, which is to say it is sporty, but refined. I must stress that the ELR is surely not the full-on, Nurburgring-tuned sports car that an ATS is, but it drives lot tighter than the Volt. The ELR will be plenty enjoyable for the sort of person who would forgo a loaded BMW M4 at this price.
In terms of the powertrain, the ELR is just a little quicker than the Volt (in Sport mode), with 207hp available versus the Volt’s 150hp. The best part is having a delicious 295 ft/lbs of torque hit instantly when you touch the gas, making the ELR feel quick and eager to go. Don’t kid yourself, though, the ELR isn’t fast by any means, but its extremely smooth, and has enough power to get onto the highway safely.
Fuel economy really depends on how you use the car. Many Volt owners have been able to rack up hundreds of MPG because they live close enough to work and the grocery store that they never need to use the gas motor. That being said, when using the 1.4L gasoline generator, the ELR’s fuel economy is pretty awful for a car that’s main focus is fuel economy, especially when it costs $80,000. The EPA says the ELR will average 33mpg when the gas motor is in use — I’ve seen that much from my Volkswagen CC when I’ve been well behaved.
So, for $80,000, the ELR looks great on the inside and outside, drives like a mix of two $40,000 cars put together (Volt and ATS), gets great fuel economy if you use it right, and pretty bad fuel economy if you don’t.
The ELR is a nice package, but the price ruins everything.
When thinking about who would buy an ELR, I found myself entirely stumped. Obviously people who like the car on some subjective level, and can afford it, will buy one. But, thinking in practical terms, I really don’t see any buyers for it.
The ELR’s existence is effectively negated by two of its competitors in the same price range, the Tesla Model S and the Audi A7 TDI (or insert the diesel German luxury sedan of your choice). A loaded Cadillac ELR costs around $83,000 (people at this price level tend to buy their cars loaded). For the same $83,000 you can also buy a loaded A7 TDI or a well-optioned Tesla Model S 85 (the battery with the full 265 miles of range).
Someone who has to drive a lot for work, like many sales people do, should definitely choose the Audi A7 TDI because it can do over 800 miles per tank of fuel, and will be able to see 38mpg on a long cruise. The ELR, on the other hand, only manages 35mpg on the highway, and will have to stop for gas every 325 miles. Simply put, if you drive a lot, you will waste double the amount of your life filling up an ELR as you would with the diesel Audi.
The ELR can be a full-electric car and see MPG in the hundreds if you drive less than 40 miles per day, and thats great. The problem is that for the same $83,000, the Tesla Model S 85 can do 265 miles per day without using a drop of fuel — because it doesn’t even have an internal-combustion engine.
So the Tesla is a much greener car than the ELR, but its comparative advantages don’t end there. The ELR is a coupe that can only seat four people, whereas the Tesla can seat up to seven people. The ELR only has one tiny trunk, the Tesla has a two large trunks, one in the front and a hatch in the back. Even though we’ve established that speed would be largely irrelevant to this buyer, the Tesla is also a lot faster than the ELR, even without being the “Performance” trim.
Most of all, though, the Tesla offers its customer a substantial brand identity that Cadillac cannot hope to match at this point. Tesla is a hot company with a revolutionary leader, Elon Musk, at the helm. Musk is doing a lot of bold things in the world, even outside of the auto industry, and many people want to “wear his brand,” if you will. Put simply, Tesla is “cool” right now.
So where does this leave the Cadillac ELR? Really, its only advantage is to play off of buyer’s “range anxiety” for a full-electric car.
An executive who lives close to work but has to take a trip more than 130 miles away a couple times per month may be very tempted by an ELR. Day-to-day they could reap the benefits of an electric car, but then have the extended range from the gas engine for the longer hauls. The only problem with this customer profile is that business executives who can afford to spend $80k on a car make a lot of money, and their time is expensive for their company. It becomes worthwhile for the company to buy a plane, or train, ticket for the business trip instead of having their executive waste a whole day’s worth of productivity driving themselves.
So the case for the Cadillac ELR, as it sits, kind of falls apart. Obviously some people will just buy the car because they “like” it, but any informed consumer will go for a Tesla or a luxury diesel over this conceived Cadillac coupe. Maybe, if they had made it a hard-top convertible or a rear-drive coupe with 300hp, I would be saying something different.
The ELR is WAY too expensive, like $20,000 (or a brand new Honda Accord) too expensive.
The ELR, as a car, is not a bad thing, in fact, I actually enjoyed driving it a lot. If they actually want to give it a chance, they need to take the Tesla completely out of the picture, which means pricing it below the Model S.
I think that a $55,000 starting price, and a loaded price around $63,000, would work splendidly for the ELR. I actually agree with the premise that the Volt needed to become a luxury car to sell in its price range, however, $80,000 is a totally different ball game than $40,000. At the current price level, I don’t think the ELR will catch on — but just wait for Lexus to come out with a fancy Prius Coupe for fifty grand, that will sell like hot cakes.
Cadillac is trying hard to create a new segment with the ELR, but just like their efforts with millennials, they’ve shown they don’t know anything about setting new trends. People who spend $80 grand on a car don’t care about saving every little dime on gas, and most of them want a damn sight more than 200hp. In fact, I think the ELR might just have the worst horsepower-per-dollar ratio of any car on sale right now.
So the Cadillac ELR is a nice car that is built well, and it drives just fine, but at the end of the day it is a total ripoff, a Chevy Volt in a tuxedo for twice the price. I did enjoy driving it, and I wish I could recommend it, but I just can’t. GM can thank their naive marketing division for yet another mistake. Someone should’ve told them that you can’t add demand for a struggling product by doubling its price — I remember learning on the first day of economics 101… just saying.
WoM Score: 2015 Cadillac ELR
Primary Function: Luxury: 2
Secondary Functions: MPG(1) Performance(0) Practicality(1): 0.5
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 0
Final Score: 6.5/10
-By Nick Walker