Hoping to improve sales, Cadillac has announced that the ELR is receiving a refresh for 2016. Updates to the exterior appear to be limited to an updated grille that includes Cadillac’s new badge, but other than that, the design stays essentially the same. The ELR was already a good-looking car, so there wasn’t much need to change a lot. Instead, Cadillac spent its money improving nearly everything else about the car.
The most notable improvement is not to the car itself, but rather to the price tag. The updated ELR receives a new MSRP of $65,995, which is just over $9,000 less than the original MSRP. With the $7,500 federal tax credit, that gives the new ELR a net price of $58,495. For a car that is receiving a whole host of upgrades, such a significant price drop is surprising. Then again, the new price is probably about what the ELR should have been sold for in the first place, so it’s mot likely a necessary reduction.
On top of being less expensive, the new ELR is less slow, too. Improvements to the hybrid drivetrain mean that it now makes 25% more power. That translates to a 1.5-second reduction in the ELR’s zero to 60 time, a speed that now clocks in at just 6.4 seconds. That’s a second slower than the slowest Tesla Model S, but it’s still a marked improvement over the original time. Its all-electric range is also improved, now allowing for up to 39 miles of driving. With the engine working as a generator, however, the ELR’s total range is stretched to 330 miles. Unlike the Tesla Model S, it doesn’t need to be recharged and can instead be refueled with conventional gasoline.
The already luxurious interior gets an update, too, now offering nicer materials like optional semi-aniline leather seats, a suede headliner, and suede trim. The instruments, infotainment system, and center console have been updated, while a number of optional features are now standard. That means it now comes with side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, and intelligent headlights. It also comes with lane change assist, and adaptive cruise control is available.
To make the ELR more engaging to drive, Cadillac has created the Performance Package. While the suspension has already been stiffened, the regenerative braking has been re-calibrated and the steering improved; the Performance Package offers an even sportier suspension, larger Brembo brakes, a sportier steering wheel, and summer tires. Equipping the ELR with that package will certainly make it more fun to drive, but it also reduces the all-electric range by four miles.
Looking at the improvements and added content, the $9,000-cheaper Cadillac ELR makes a much more compelling case for itself than it did when it first came out. It was never a bad car, but even though it was good looking and offered a luxurious interior, it was way too expensive. For the money that customers had to spend, it was still too similar to the Chevrolet Volt to be worth it. It certainly didn’t help that its $75,000 price put it in direct competition with the much nimbler Tesla Model S.
Whether Cadillac’s updates to the ELR will be enough to save it have yet to be seen. The Model S has the advantage of being a much cooler car for people to own, and it’s also one of the best-looking cars on sale right now. Then again, even with the addition of more Superchargers, the Model S still comes with the inherent limitations of a fully electric car. For buyers who are worried about having access to charging stations, the now-cheaper Cadillac ELR offers an alternative that’s still luxurious and attractive but also comes without any range anxiety.
Maybe this update will be enough to finally convince people to buy more than 100 or so ELR hybrids a month. If so, there may actually end up being a second generation. If not, Cadillac has done about all it can do to convince people to buy its version of the Volt. Without higher sales, the ELR is destined for the great junk yard in the sky, and honestly, that’s a little sad. The excessively high original price ruined what could have been a very nice, fuel-efficient, luxury coupe. Now with more content and a lower price, it has some serious catching up to do. Hopefully it does.
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