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DESIGN
Test Drive: 2014 Cadillac ELR
DESIGN
Test Drive: 2014 Cadillac ELR
A hybrid that marries luxury, efficiency and freedom with a healthy dose of design
by Evan Orensten
on 19 November 2013
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"I don't want people to buy our cars simply because they're made in America. I want them to buy them because they're the best." -Bob Boniface, Director of Exterior Design

Based on the 2009 Converj concept car, Cadillac's new electric ELR is finally hitting showrooms, with deliveries starting in January 2014. The car is rooted from GM's successful Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) platform, which also powers the Chevrolet Volt—though it has been tuned specifically for the ELR. This is no GM rebadge; other than the powertrain the only other shared component is the protective cover between the battery pack and the passenger compartment. From the interior's high quality fit and finish to the car's aggressive stance, the ELR is a bold and successful statement. This is a Cadillac you—not your grandparents—want to drive.

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We spent the day driving the ELR in and around Palm Springs, up the mountains through picturesque Idyllwild and around the town's neighborhoods of vintage furniture dealers, where we had a serendipitous encounter with a mint 1968 El Dorado convertible belonging to the owner of Modernway, one of our favorites. The car still has its original "Car Telephone," a rotary dialed phone that operated on radio waves through a large system installed in the car's enormous trunk. It's an apt comparison—the El Dorado was the pinnacle of design and engineering in its day, and the telephone was the type of exclusive luxury accessory only few sought out. The ELR similarly makes a strong design statement, though it's a more aggressive, refined and performance-based one. Both cars speak to the success of their owners, and to an optimistic future. Today's driver wants the status, style and performance, but also wants to live in a world of electric luxury that this car enables. You will notice (and be noticed in) this car, which is exactly what Cadillac believes ELR owners are seeking.

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An electric propulsion system along with a gas-powered generator give you the option to run the car entirely on electricity, as a fuel-powered car, or a mix of both. Cadillac's version of luxury is linked to freedom; most ELR owners will be able to drive to and from work using only electric power (the car can travel up to 35 or so miles on a single charge), but should the desire arise you can head out of town without a thought to your battery's charge. The gas-powered generator can deliver another 300ish miles and can of course be refueled, relieving any performance anxiety. We averaged 99 mpg on our test drive, and Cadillac claims that many drivers will see averages of around 900 miles per tank with typical driving and regular charging. Impressive. Recent models across the Cadillac range have substantially evolved the quality, fit and finish of the interiors, a needed move to compete with their European competitors. "Everything in the interior is cut and sewn and hand-wrapped," says Cadillac's Director of Exterior Design Bob Boniface, "All of the old-world crafted details in conjunction with the technical details, no one does it better than Cadillac."

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Likewise, the car's safety, performance and handling have all been stepped up. You won't buy a Cadillac only because of these features popular in the competitive set (such as the CUE touchscreen entertainment and control system which easily connects to your phone or tablet, all LED external lighting, a seat that vibrates when you leave your lane and adaptive cruise control), they just level the playing field and allow you to make your choice based more on taste and lifestyle.

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While the ELR is not a powerful sportscar like its beefy brother the CTS-V Coupe (and not as much fun to drive), it delivers on its promise of sporty, athletic driving. It handles city streets, highways and mountain roads deliberately and easily; steers, accelerates and brakes decidedly; and performs most any aggressive driving task with ease.

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The 2014 ELR comes very well-equipped with a MSRP of $76,000. Our car had a few options including adaptive cruise control, upgraded leather seats and a clear paint finish which added around $5,000 to the cost. Orders are now being taken at dealers, with delivery starting in January 2014. For more information check out the Cadillac ELR online.

Photos by Evan Orensten

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