The Cadillac ELR Will Continue To Combine Fuel Economy And Luxury For 2016

What changes will make it different?

This is one of a growing number of extended-range plug-in electric vehicles that uses a gasoline engine to extend its approximately 35-mile electric-only range. The claimed total range is a very usable 340 miles, which makes it a truly practical alternative to traditional gasoline-only vehicles. It doesn’t sound as if much will change regarding its looks for model-year 2016, but there will be some “engineering enhancements” that are currently shrouded in mystery.

Why should I wait for the 2016?

Because it is so unique among Cadillacs, it’s not as easy as looking at developments elsewhere in the company’s lineup to see new engines, transmissions or the like that may appear in the next model. It’s therefore very difficult to recommend that anyone should wait for the ’16 before taking the plunge.

Should I buy a 2015 model instead?

This isn’t the sort of car that rolls off the production line day and night, like a Honda Accord does. When you also consider that some dealers have been offering incentives of as much as $30,000 on the ELR, you can see why it might not be in your best interests to wait around too long. If you want one, especially at the kind of discount that is being offered at the moment, we think it’s a good idea to buy now. There’s no getting away from the fact that $75,000 is an awful lot of money for this car, but if you can get one for closer to $45,000, that’d be a good deal.

Will the styling be different?

The modifications for the ’16 are going to be mechanical, technological or both. The stunning styling of the little Cadillac is still extremely cutting edge, so there’s no need for the automaker to rush to change it. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s also not in everyone’s price range.

Any mechanical changes?

At the moment, we are pretty much guessing at what the “engineering enhancements” will be. The combined range is already more than acceptable, so it would make more sense if the electric-only range could be extended. There’s also a degree of criticism about the performance of the car, suggesting it’s more of a luxury compact coupe than a sporty one and meaning there could be changes to the suspension or even the output from the electric motor and 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine.

Will fuel economy improve?

Economy isn’t really an issue, as this vehicle is already so far ahead of any sort of conventional gasoline competitor. The ELR rates the equivalent of 82 mpg running on a combination of electric, hybrid and gas power, which should be more than satisfactory for anyone right now. There may be improvements in this area, but it’s unlikely to be a major priority for engineers.

Will it have new features?

This is a Cadillac, so it certainly won’t be lacking in creature comforts. Furthermore, a car with such a modern propulsion system would look pretty silly if it wasn’t packed with infotainment and connectivity features. Technology like the Cadillac User Experience (CUE), which controls the car’s audio, phone, climate and efficiency-monitoring systems regularly needs updating, meaning you can expect some software enhancements.

How will 2016 prices be different?

Pricing is obviously a sensitive issue; if it wasn’t, dealers wouldn’t have offered such big incentives to buyers so early in the car’s lifecycle. There may or may not be major engineering enhancements for model-year ’16, but it’s extremely difficult to see how Cadillac could justify increasing the car’s price beyond what it is now. If anything, a price reduction could be offered to reduce the temptation for dealers to potentially devalue the car by offering huge discounts to move inventory, as they appear to have been doing.

What Is the Expected Release Date?

Look for it to appear in the first half of 2015. Exactly how early in the year will probably depend on the magnitude of the enhancements.

Best competitors

BMW i3, Chevrolet Volt

What changes would make it better?

For a luxury offering, the ELR delivers a somewhat unrefined driving experience and a powertrain that is a lot noisier than most people would expect from a plug-in hybrid. Both of these issues must be addressed to stop people who like this sort of technology from looking elsewhere. While some commentators question the luxury credentials of the car’s current wedgy styling, we think it’s actually an enduring quality and should be left as is.

Quick hit

The ELR’s biggest problem is that it’s essentially a Volt in Cadillac clothing. It uses the identical powertrain and therefore delivers almost the same statistics as its considerably cheaper cousin. The Cadillac is a vastly more luxurious car than the Volt, but is it worth paying double the price to do your bit in saving the planet? We’re not sure.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]