2014 Cadillac ELR: Gorgeous, Too-Pricey Electric Luxury Coupe Page 3

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2014 Cadillac ELR test car in New York's Hudson Valley, March 2014

2014 Cadillac ELR test car in New York's Hudson Valley, March 2014

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We look forward to repeating our test in more temperate weather, when we presume that the ELR will largely leave the engine switched off until the battery is depleted.

Some random impressions from our three days at the wheel of the ELR:

  • The symphonic tones produced when the car is powered up definitely impress passengers
  • Figuring out how to operate the electrically-actuated doors, both inside and out, can baffle first-timers (on the outside, it's a rubber-covered switch inside the depression behind the door; inside, it's a small pushbutton on the vertical surface of the door armrest)
  • The digital instrument cluster and center touchscreen have excellent graphics that pack a lot of information into easy-to-parse displays
  • The speedometer ends at 120 mph, meaning that the highway-speed portion is top center--far more useful than the absurd 160-mph speedos on other luxury cars, where 30 mph is only one-sixth of the way along the scale
  • The right-hand door mirror is set so low that the interior trim blocks a portion of the glass--something we've never seen on any other production car
  • The black plastic key fob is far below the quality expected of a $75,000-plus car, with tiny lettering that's impossible to read in the dark
  • Aren't we done with shiny piano-black plastic yet? It still accumulates dust just as it did six years ago; can we move along, please?
  • The regenerative-braking-on-demand feature does in fact slow the car substantially when you pull back and hold either steering-wheel paddle, excellent for avoiding use of the brake pedal except for the last 10 mph (when regen declines toward zero)
  • The Sport mode definitely makes the car peppier, though we found Normal mode adequate for most driving circumstances

Overall, we enjoyed our time in the ELR. It's more luxurious than most cars we test, the seats were superb, and it proved a relaxing and comfortable place to spend time at the wheel.

Here's the problem: We asked a dozen different people what they thought the 2014 Cadillac ELR cost.

2014 Cadillac ELR

2014 Cadillac ELR

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$30,000 over

The answers uniformly came back from the low 40s to about $60,000. The most common reaction when we revealed the $82,000 sticker price of our test car was stunned silence.

In our test car, the $75,000 base price was supplemented by the $2,450 interior package, comprising elegant Kona Brown full leather seats with black accents, including 20-way adjustment for the front seats (power on the seats and their lumbar supports, plus manually adjustable head rests and thigh supports).

Then came the adaptive cruise control, plus auto-collision preparation and brake assist, for $1,995. Another $1,695 added a "luxury package" of 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, premium paint, intelligent headlights, plus rear cross-traffic and side blind-zone alerts.

With a mandatory delivery fee of $995, the total sticker was $82,135. That's some pretty heady territory for a small car with 35 miles of rated battery range and a bit more than 200 hp.

It is, in fact, slightly more than the list price of an 85-kilowatt-hour Tesla Model S, which has 265 miles of electric range, fits four adults comfortably, and accelerate considerably faster--though as Cadillac highlights, the ELR has total electric and gasoline range of 340 miles.

Still.

2014 Cadillac ELR

2014 Cadillac ELR

Enlarge Photo

Akerson's call?

One General Motors source who insisted on remaining anonymous told us that now-departed CEO Dan Akerson personally insisted on the $75,000 price to ensure that every ELR sold covered its marginal cost to the company.

If that's true, GM likely won't lose money on the low numbers of ELRs it expects to sell: 2,000 the first year, and no more than 6,000 a year thereafter, according to various executives at various times.

Perhaps no compact-sized car that isn't a supercar justifies a price tag above $75K in the minds of the public.

Certainly we can't imagine too many people paying that price for the ELR, as nice as it is.

But, as a different Detroit insider commented, it'll probably be a hell of a deal when the first ones come off-lease.

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