The Cadillac ELR is Beautiful, But at $75,995, is the Cost of Entry Too High?
I really like Cadillac, despite a less than positive article I wrote regarding the unveiling of the newest iteration of the Escalade. I’ve been interested in the brand more closely associated with elderly buyers than cutting edge luxury sedans ever since the starring role the CTS enjoyed in the General Motors promotional film The Matrix Reloaded. Finally, Cadillac understood that courting dying buyers wasn’t the most practical long-term solution to cure ailing sales, and began making cars that young people would like to own like the German brands have done for years. Successful implementation of its Art and Science design theme and an array of semi-sporty cars lowered the age of the average Cadillac buyer even as some models stalled (R.I.P. XLR). Aside from the XTS that hearkens back to the giant FWD sedans of yore, Cadillac is looking forward, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the creation of the ELR coupe. Driven by the same battery/engine combination as the Chevrolet Volt, the ELR is a gorgeous two-door that looks like a smaller CTS Coupe with a faux grille. Considering the starting price of $34,185 (before tax credits), many outlets like Motor Trend pegged the price somewhere between $55-60K. This week, Cadillac announced that the battery-powered car will begin at $75,995. That’s a tough pill to swallow, and that also makes the ELR nearly $2,000 dearer than the more powerful Tesla Model S.
Of course, there are advantages that the ELR enjoys that the Tesla doesn’t. An expansive dealer network, a range boosting gasoline motor, and the
Cadillac and General Motors name all make the ELR that much more attractive. From a subjective standpoint, the ELR looks a lot better than the Model S. While the Tesla is more distinctive than many sub-$100,000 sedans, the ELR’s futuristic bodystyle looks great no matter what it is compared to. The ELR also retains some semblance of buttons: there are designated areas outside the main screen for ancillary controls like air conditioning; these are pressure sensitive areas but at least you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to bump up fan speed. The gasoline engine helps to alleviate range anxiety, and the car enjoys GM’s newly found preference for actually good interiors competitive with other luxury automobiles. The high points unfortunately end there, and the negatives seemingly overwhelm the positives by a large margin.
Compared to the Model S, the ELR is less practical, less innovative, less powerful, and more expensive. Being a coupe, the ELR is going to offer compromised room for any more than two passengers, and four is the maximum; the Tesla has four doors, a full back seat, and two rear-facing jump seats in the back. Total occupancy maxes out at seven. Tesla’s car is far more innovative, with the entire system driven by electricity; for an extra $2,500 on the base Model S, Tesla adds the hardware necessary to interact with the company’s fast-delivery Supercharger stations (the 85kwh versions include the hardware at no additional cost). Although the ELR is only $2,000 more than the Model S, the Caddy is way down on power. The base Model S packs 300 immediately available horsepower, while the ELR, when optioned with the electric motor, makes a grand total of 207hp. That makes it more powerful than the Volt, but also marginally heavier (3,729 versus 4,070).
Although I am predisposed to like Cadillacs since I got behind the wheel of a CTS-V and fell in love, I don’t see this working out well for GM’s premium brand. I hope that the costs of developing the car are low considering the Volt provides all basic underpinnings, and Cadillac’s senior vice president, Bob Ferguson, admitted that the ELR will be sold in limited quantities. The exclusivity will help justify some of the car’s price, but I’m not sure how far exclusivity will go considering the ELR’s (in my opinion, superior) competition.
We will find out soon enough, as the ELR will begin making its way onto dealership lots in January.
Cadillac ELR interior photograph courtesy of General Motors