The luxury eco-car is well worth a look.
Long before Chevrolet pulled the plug and discontinued the Volt, Cadillac had the harebrained idea of turning it into a luxury coupe. The result was the Cadillac ELR and after just three years with poor sales, General Motors killed it off as well. When it was on sale, the ELR was lambasted because it was essentially a gussied-up Volt for twice the price.
Buying a brand-new ELR at full price would have been a terrible financial decision but because the car was such a failure, used values quickly plummeted. In 2020, however, buying an ELR is no longer feels like a gut punch in the wallet. In fact, used examples are much cheaper than you'd expect.
Cadillac's execution on the ELR was highly questionable but the basic idea behind is still a pretty smart one - take the drivetrain from a Volt and offer it in a prettier luxury package. So long as you are ok with a small back seat, the ELR, to this day, is still one of the most efficient ways to travel in a luxury vehicle.
The Volt's drivetrain was (and still is) different than almost any other hybrid vehicle sold today because the gasoline engine rarely sends its power directly to the wheels. Instead, it acts as a generator, keeping the electric motor charged. The ELR could be charged using the engine or via a plug, so if your daily commute was short enough, you could actually treat it as an electric vehicle while rarely ever filling it up with gasoline.
When it was new, Cadillac had the audacity to sell its restyled Volt for $75,995. The ELR qualified for a $7,500 federal tax credit but it still carried an outrageous starting price and buyers quickly shunned it. After skipping the 2015 model year, Cadillac dropped the price by $10,000 in an attempt to stoke sales. The attempt failed and Cadillac only managed to sell 2,958 of them in total.
Today, used examples of the ELR can be found starting around $16,000 to $18,000 with mileage ranging from around 50,000 to 80,000. Even the nicest examples we found with less than 30,000 miles are selling in the low-$30,000 range and there are still a few certified pre-owned ones floating around.
Like the Volt, the ELR uses a 119-135-kilowatt electric motor, paired with a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline generator motor. Total output was rated at 217 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which was raised to 233 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque for the 2016 model year. The additional grunt also dropped the 0-60 mph time from 7.8 seconds to around 6.3 seconds.
The ELR wasn't meant to be a fast car, it was meant to get around using as little fuel as possible. It could travel between 37 to 39 miles on electric power alone before kicking on the gasoline engine, extending the range to around 340 miles total. The EPA rated the drivetrain at 82 MPGe on electric power and 33 mpg when using the gasoline engine.
The ELR's interior was certainly not worth a price tag of over $70,000 but for the prices they are now selling for, it's not a terrible place to spend a long journey. Aside from a unique gauge cluster display, the cabin in the ELR isn't too different from any other Cadillac you could buy at the time, so the issues are similar.
There is a ton of gloss black trim, which attracts fingerprints and dust. Most of the controls are touch-sensitive, meaning they are more difficult to use than ordinary buttons. Then there is Cadillac's CUE infotainment system, which was maligned at the time for slow response times and poor graphics. We've already brought up the rear seats but with just 33.6 inches of legroom and 34.7 inches of headroom, they are a tight squeeze.
At the time of its release, the Cadillac ELR was a highly flawed vehicle and the sales numbers are the proof. Fewer than 3,000 examples of these cars were ever sold but because the ELR was such a failure for Cadillac, you can now get a pretty cool looking, fairly luxurious, fuel-efficient coupe for less than the price of a new Toyota Prius. It may have been a failure when it was new but Cadillac's loss could be your gain when the ELR randomly gets recognized as a rarified classic.