2014 Cadillac ELR: Gorgeous, Too-Pricey Electric Luxury Coupe Page 2

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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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It's also more powerful than the Volt. While it uses the same 16.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, a more powerful electric motor along with the 1.4-liter range-extending four-cylinder engine gives a maximum output of 162 kilowatts (217 horsepower).

In other words, this isn't a Chevy Volt with new badges.

Winter takes its toll

Our test drive came in another of this winter's Northeast cold spells. Over a total distance of 299 miles driven--two-thirds of it long stretches of highway--we ended up driving 96 miles on grid electricity and 203 using the gasoline range extender.

Over that period, the range extender consumed 6.3 gallons of gasoline, for fuel efficiency of 32 miles per gallon. That's only fractionally below the ELR's EPA combined rating of 33 mpg.

On grid power, however, the ELR was slightly disappointing: It used 40.0 kWh to cover 96.2 miles, not even 2 miles per kWh.

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

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There's an obvious explanation for this, however: It was cold, and one night, it was quite cold indeed (8 degrees F at the low point).

Like all batteries, the ELR's pack is less efficient when it gets cold--and that was reflected in charging times of more than 12 hours using the accessory 120-Volt charging cord and the ELR's built-in 3.3-kW charger.

Not being able to leave the car stationary for more than that time, we didn't get an entirely full battery recharge either night we plugged in the car, adding 30 and 31 miles respectively (and another 10 miles during a 5-hour stopover at a friend's).

Engine on a lot

More disappointing yet, the vaunted all-electric running of the ELR simply wasn't there in the cold. The engine routinely started up soon after we powered up the car, even with 30 miles or more of battery range showing.

Cadillac's Brian Corbett confirmed that ambient temperatures below 35 degrees F will cause the engine to switch on, to provide additional cabin heat.

(Other reasons include battery temperatures either too low or too high, and of course a depleted battery.)

While we found the seat heaters--turned up to their top rating of 3--provided enough warmth within a few minutes to make the cabin tolerable, when combined with the heated steering wheel, it was nice to get that rush of hot air out of the dash vents. Hence, the engine.

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