Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid vs. Cadillac ELR: What’s the Difference?

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid
The second electrified Cadillac is a considerable improvement over the first | Cadillac

In the not-so-distant past, Cadillac released a plug-in hybrid coupe named ELR to ostensibly compete with Tesla. It did not have an all-electric drivetrain, four doors, or impressive performance specs, but it did have GM’s marketing team on its side. Hence the pretty graphics telling us why ELR was the better deal. Besides, it carried the same price tag, so folks naturally compared the two. Unfortunately for GM, nearly every comparison between ELR and Model S went the Tesla’s way.

By early 2016, GM had killed production of ELR after admitting it was a disappointment. While the L.A. Auto Show was going on, the automotive giant launched the Chinese-built Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid for U.S. audiences. Once again, it offers 30-plus miles of electric range and operates as a plug-in hybrid. Likewise, its MSRP of $75,095 brings it back near — actually, well above — Tesla’s base Model S buy-in of $68,000.

2016 Cadillac ELR
Gone but not forgotten: Cadillac ELR | Cadillac

Beyond these basic similarities, the CT6 plug-in and ELR share little in common other than a Cadillac badge. For starters, the electrified model of the brand’s new flagship is a four-door sedan. As John Voelcker pointed out, trying to sell a small coupe is a fool’s errrand these days, especially in the high price point where ELR debuted. It didn’t work for the superior ATS in a lower price point, so the death of ELR was not surprising.

Cadillac improved upon several other aspects of its plug-in hybrid with the new release. Here are the key differences between the CT6 Plug-in Hybrid and the departed ELR.

CT6 Plug-in delivers legitimate performance

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid
Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid | Cadillac

You couldn’t blame people for wondering why the Cadillac ELR ever existed. After all, a market segment intrigued by big, powerful cars did not seem like the obvious audience for a plug-in car that wasn’t much for performance. ELR took about 8 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour upon release. Adding insult to injury, it operated on front-wheel drive. We are not sure if Cadillac buyers ever heard these specs and got excited.

The CT6 plug-in is a legitimate performance vehicle. Capable of 335 horsepower and 432 pound-feet of torque, it reaches 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds, per Cadillac. That number beats the base CTS model by a few ticks. If you are in a Cadillac dealership and want an upgrade over the CTS but not the high-powered V8 ($85,595), the CT6 hybrid with rear-wheel drive presents an actual alternative. Green specs would theoretically seal the deal for customers impressed by fuel economy.

Cadillac first, green car second

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid
The CT6 Plug-in Hybrid peaks at 65 MPGe in electric mode | Cadillac

Though ELR may have missed its audience, it was a bona fide green car with close to 40 miles of EV range and 85 MPGe. Those specs beat plug-ins like the Audi A3 e-tron and actually came close to Tesla Model S’s 98 MPGe. The plug-in CT6 never intended to top those specs, but it delivers on green driving with 30 miles EV range and 65 MPGe. Compared to other cars Cadillac shoppers would consider, this model will likely be their most economical option.

Yet that is not the point of the electrified CT6. It breaks 400 miles of range on a full charge and full tank of gas — far better than ELR (340 miles) and beyond the range of any current Tesla. Its 122-inch wheelbase is well over a foot longer than what ELR boasted (106 inches) as well. In sum, you are riding in comfort with rear-wheel drive and power in the CT6 plug-in. Electric range and overall economy are bonus points. We think more Cadillac consumers will appreciate this car now that its priorities are in order.

Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY