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Cadillac ELR event first impression

Apologies for the long post but wanted to get it out there while experience is still fresh in my mind. This might sound like an attack on the ELR but it is really just my admittedly biased but honest observation. I actually want this vehicle and all PEV to do well to help raise awareness to the non early adopters and eventually bring them to fully BEV.

GM is hosting a Cadillac ELR launch party and weekend test drive at the local shopping mall in Corte Madera. I happened to walk into it en route to my morning coffee.

They have 10 cars waiting to be test driven. A stylish kiosk and lounge is set up on the sidewalk where customers can sign up for test drives and get questions answered (sounds familiar...)

That is about where the similarities to Tesla ends.

Out of sheer curiosity I spent some time at the kiosk in earnest to find out more about the ELR and gain knowledge from their sales people. At first I did not mention that I was a model S owner.

During the sign-up process we are asked to answer a few short survey like questions regarding the vehicles we currently drive and the likelihood of us purchasing a vehicle next time frame etc. I found it very interesting that the drop-down list for selecting the vehicle I currently drive did not include Tesla! Every other model of car is on the list. I doubt this was an oversight from GM. Especially when the final question on the survey is "what is your impression of Tesla Model S"!!

Here are my observations:

1. Their sales force consisted of 6 young attractive women and 1 young man (all less than 30 years old) dressed to impress, and quite friendly

2. Cadillac is offering free test drives all weekend and free charging stations with installation "($4000 value)"for the first 1000 customers to purchase the ELR

3. Starting price is $75,000 with additional free flow options for interior upgrades

4. The team there is quite eager to get you in to test drive the vehicle but somewhat limited in their knowledge base for answering important questions regarding the vehicle mechanics and technology.

5. Ironically they heavily emphasized the gas powered part of the vehicle over the battery electric feature. Keep in mind this shopping mall is in Northern California where most buyers are hungry for environmentally friendly technology. The overarching message that I got from the saleswoman was that this vehicle overcomes the inherent problems with Tesla and all other BEVs.

They mention range anxiety like 20 times in their first four opening sentences.

6. When I tried to ask questions about the charging technology, battery life, different options for charging the car at home or while traveling, what algorithms the vehicle uses to preferentially utilize BEV before gas, was met with blank expressions and of course more pep rally for the glorious gasoline engine

7. apparently the vehicle gives up to 320 rated miles (combining 40 battery miles with the remainder gas powered). Of course the sales people didn't mention YMMV.

8. Only seats 4 in a 2+2 distribution with very limited cargo space in the trunk. To me this overshadows some of the supposed merits of being a long range vehicle

9. On the plus side this vehicle is luxuriously appointed. Comfortable but cushy like a Cadillac leather, blind spot monitors adaptive cruise control etc. Perfect for the those who complain that a vehicle at this price point must include these features

10. I was the first to test drive the vehicle. Literally threw up in my mouth a little. Maybe someone who has never driven a model S wouldn't know the difference and might just might love this car. But there was no love from me. No torque response despite driving in EV mode. Sales guy says to me "hey what do you think of that 295lb-ft of torque?" I had no response. 0-60 in 7.8 seconds, no regenerative braking response, cushy smushy brake pedal (even on the so called "sport" mode). Of course the test drive route avoided the highway, hmm.

I would sum it up to say that the Cadillac ELR is a pretty much a very expensive luxury minded Chevy volt.

Really not a fair comparison BEV vs plug in hybrid, but other than price, ELR is the polar opposite of Tesla Model S.

Those poor kids trying to sell this car, especially in Bay Area, should take test drives of the Model S so they can at least recognize what customers who comparison shop will be asking them.

" Literally threw up in my mouth a little"

Lol.

I laughed.

And that is why it will only remain a token novelty like the Equus (not a bad car for the price, but too much considering the other options) and never see significant numbers...Hopefully Cadillac has made peace with that, as Hyundai did from the start.

Sounds worse than the Volt. :-)

I was really hoping this would be a good vehicle. My parents drive Cadillacs (my mom just loves them for some reason). They were hoping this would be a good vehicle so they could drive to Florida on gas then drive around town/Florida on electric. My mom tends to pack everything for the trip including the kitchen sink...(seriously she even packs light bulbs) so if the storage is compromised they won't look any further at it.

As far as the sales reps not having answers, sounds typical for the majority of dealers (except Nissan and Toyota isn't too bad). I have a friend trying to purchase a plugin hybrid and so far his best bet has been to just get the manual from the salesman and read it himself. It kind of reenforces Tesla sales model reasoning.

Honestly, at the end of the day Cadillac would much rather sell you the extended version of the Escalade which looks long enough to double as a limo in Vegas, than the ELR. They made a wave or two with that Super Bowl ad, but I haven't heard a peep since.

Thanks for the excellent review. I

hate the looks just enough that I'd never even bother with a test drive.

@P85marin - I saw an ELR in Cincinnati a month ago, and my impressions of the Caddy were less complimentary than yours. You would think that GM (post bankruptcy)had learned its lesson from taking the same car and putting a different flag on it. The XLR was a Corvette in Cadillac clothing, and the ELR is nothing more than a glorified Chevy Volt. I wonder how little the ELR will sell for on Ebay in a year.

I heard they are selling something like 2 a day and have enough inventory already for the next 2 years at that rate :)

GM actually might have had a car people would want to buy if it was all electric and had a 200+ mph range and < 5.5 seconds to 60 but that would mean they actually have to create an innovative product people want to buy.

As it is you need to have quite a few brain cells missing to buy an ELR over even the most basic Model S.

I hope GM doesn't give up, but sees an opportunity to develop something better. The basic idea of a "commute length" electric range with gas range extender is not bad. Personally I prefer all electric, of course, but still.

The big killer with the ELR is the horrible performance. 0-60 in almost 8 seconds won't cut it in that price class.

They will probably end up selling them at 30% discount and try to forget the whole thing.

The sooner the ELR dies, the sooner GM can actually innovate. I don't put it past Mary Barra but she hasn't had the chance to put her stamp on any new products.

CADILLAC ELR: It's... passable -- if you drive it like a Hippie Treehugger...

P85marin: Very good impressions of the car and its sales staff. Thanks!

I'm convinced the car would have cost 20 or 25 thousand dollars less if the Tesla Model S didn't exist. I feel so sorry for General Motors at times... On the one hand, they hire a bunch of engineers that are so willing to do well... On the other hand, they hire a bunch of accountants who only care about the bottom line... Then they wonder why the result is so often cars that are not... quite... there.

Further, GM has to live with a Dealer network that won't allow them to make across the board changes. The Dealers want to continue supporting their Service departments with Remove & Replace duties dubbed 'Repairs'. Since they are all part of NADA, none of the Dealers speaks with a voice of their own to say, "Hey! I wouldn't mind trying something different!" Especially not after Saturn was assassinated.

The Cadillac ELR is a prime example of why I just can't get fully excited over ICE vehicles anymore. I just keep feeling how much... better they would be on the Tesla platform instead. This car in particular, with the dividing wall of batteries down the center of the interior is just repulsive. And the total mess of how things look under the hood, combined with the tiny trunk just make me cry for a frunk and liftback configuration instead.

If only GM would just make two firm decisions and live with the results:

  1. Release a zero compromise, ultra high-end, fully electric Cadillac limousine class car that rivals Rolls-Royce and Bentley 'for a few dollars more' than the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz S600 V12 cruiser, and see what happens.
  2. Take on Tesla directly with a Buick Electra, 100% Battery Electric Vehicle, and see what happens.

A real shame they aren't likely to accept either challenge, ever.

VIDEO:
Consumer Reports - 2014 Cadillac ELR Review (2:21)

MotorWeek - Road Test: 2015 Cadillac ELR (6:22)

CNET On Cars - On the road: 2014 Cadillac ELR (8:56)

Everyman Driver - 2014 Cadillac ELR First Drive & Review (9:44)

Jay Leno's Garage - 2014 Cadillac ELR (15:14)

Cadillac used to call itself the standard of the world. it is now just substandard IMHO.

That "Everyman Driver" review was not a review, that was a commercial. Having a rep from Cadillac in the car tell you everything he wants you to hear, is not reviewing a car.

Yeah, sorry about that. I mistakenly thought it was was video from a different series that has a similar name. The other guys are on EverydayDriver instead, and it seems they have not yet reviewed the Cadillac ELR, though they did a great review of the Tesla Model S.

Even so, there was a Tesla Model S video by Motor Trend where Franz rode along for a bit, before they had the car to themselves. Another had Fisker on a ride-along with someone in the Karma.

Red Sage, no apologies need. My remark wasn't directed at you, it was that they themselves considered it a review, when it wasn't. A review is generally the reviewer's observations and opinions. That was far from that. I did find it funny how the guy asked what would be the EV from Caddy that would hold a family for a trip. The Caddy rep sidestepped the question and repeated about the car having the generator so that you can go on the long trips. Since the reviewer obviously doesn't have balls, he didn't call the Caddy Rep out on this point.

Yup! I noticed that too. If I ran Cadillac, I would...

"Release a zero compromise, ultra high-end, fully electric Cadillac limousine class car that rivals Rolls-Royce and Bentley 'for a few dollars more' than the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz S600 V12 cruiser, and see what happens."

...and thereby reinitialize 'The Standard of the World'.

But then, I'm like, totally enjoying Tesla-Flavored Kool-Aid, and stuff.

;-)

(LMB spouse)

Per the Caddy rep on Jay Leno's Garage at 3:15, the drag coefficient is 0.305. That's 25% worse than the Model S Cd = 0.24.

(LMB spouse)

Sorry, 27% worse.

Well, I really like the styling of the ELR, I probably would have bought the thing if it came in around 45k. It did get me interested in electric cars too. Always hated the hybrid look. I would have never bought a Prius or Leaf. When I saw the ELR I finally saw a hybrid with style. So glad Cadillac decided to put a 75k price on it. It made me take a look at Tesla, wow, what a difference!

I would have liked to see an all electric ELR with 150 mile range and be at 50k. That would be a winner.

What was the response when you finally 'fessed up to being a Model S owner? Did they shoo you out fastest?

@Brian H - I revealed my status as a model S owner as the test drive was ending, only because the young sales associate asked me the usual "so what vehicles do you have the pleasure of driving now?" question.

I calmly replied "Tesla Model S."

There was brief silence and a half hearted "ooh that's nice" from salesperson, immediately followed by "have you ever taken your Tesla on long distance drive?" Obvious attempt to point out his perception of Tesla's weakness (vs the glorious ELR long rang capability no less).

I said "of course" and went on to try to explain how Superchargers worked but by then the ride was over. The salesperson had never heard of Tesla Superchargers. Must have been brainwashed by GM training that a Tesla simply cannot go beyond it's rated miles.

To be fair, the Tesla is limited in some areas by the still incomplete Supercharger network. I still would not ditch my Model S in favor of the Cadillac Volt.

Marketing tactics aside, what's happening is quite plain:

Cadillac can only succeed in EVs by making cars people want. If they don't, people won't buy them, no matter how they market it.

The ELR is simply not compelling. It's expensive, mushy, and slow. And nice interiors can be had for far less money.

It has none of the simplification benefits that come from eliminating the gasoline engine and transmission.

So it's not selling well, and it won't ever.

The Model S is a car that people want. Even though it's pricey, it drives better than any car of the same cost, and it's cheaper to fuel than a Prius.

So it sells very well. Really well. Worldwide. And it's sales are growing.

The ELR is what happens when you try to design something by avoiding risks, instead of building what people want. Ordinarily smart executives act comparatively dumb when they are so conflicted.

This conflict is like a cancer that will destroy the legacy car industry if they don't soon accept their burden to build what people want. The majority of brands will not change quickly enough, and many will likely fail.

The collapse of gasoline cars will always be assumed to be many years away, until the year it happens, at which point it will catch everyone by surprise. That time will come sooner than most expect because the differential benefits are so compelling.

All of this is like watching an epic, slow motion train wreck. We see it coming, but no one seems to be able to avert it. This will rank as one of the most historic disruptions of any industry in our lifetimes.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are many great engineers in those companies. But the cancer runs deep, and the patient is refusing help.

The day may yet come, when Tesla actually buys one of those household names for a song, and retools it based on new technology.

It will take time, but much will change.

I don't think it's unusual that my family is just tired of hearing about it. They're happy I have a new hobby and that I'm now much more likely to want to go somewhere than stay home, but just stop talking, please.

My daughter emailed me a copy of an article about the Tesla from The Slate a couiple of weeks ago. Of course, I had read it previously but this wasn't her just sending me an article that i might be interested in. She called me later that day to explain that she sent it to me because she wanted to know when she'll be able to put down a deposit on the Gen 3.

If she had asked me this on father's day she wouldn't even have had to buy me a card. Right now she drives a 2011 Equinox and she loves her car, but it's likely to be the last ICE she'll ever drive.

As long as they get it as right as the S, the Gen 3 is going to be huge!!

@Mark K

Very true. I am wondering what is a full cycle of a car. Not once it hits the road, but from design specs, R&D and test cycles.

These guys are probably working now at what they think people will be driving 5 to 8 years from now. So what do most car makers have to offer 5 years from now to compete with Model S, Model X and third generation Tesla?

@Al1 - I suspect GM in five years will offer the new ELR2 with even plusher seats and two new exterior colors, although based on the older ELR platform.

And did I tell you it has plusher seats!!! Of course the price will have gone up to accommodate the new plusher seats.

Nice writeup. The ELR appeals to me so much more than the ugly little i3. Beautiful car, great technology and the best looking PHEV, till the some i8 is out.

Mark K: +1 UP! Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. This is something I imagined happening 40 years ago. It is something I saw as a solid possibility 30 years ago. It is what I thought we were on the cusp of 15 years ago with the GM/Saturn EV1. And now, it's finally here!

The really strange thing is that I honestly thought that General Motors would be the one to bring electric cars to market in full force. Their concept cars always seemed to be so... FORWARD thinking. They were swoopy, and imaginative, and cutting edge. Or, so I thought.

It has only been in recent years, since the assassination of the EV1, that I realized it was all a sham. I felt so cheated. Now I know that all those pretty show cars -- were just for show.

Oh, people are surprised that the Cadillac ELR came to market looking so much like the show car it was based upon... And that's nice, I guess. But the looks do not live up to the implied promise behind them. Just like everything else from GM..

It's really not that complicated.

Tesla put together a battery system and designed a car around it. Everybody else is taking existing car designs and trying to shove a battery pack into them.

The battery system is where you start: it's not an add-on.


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