2014 Cadillac ELR, the electric luxury mashup: Motoramic Drives
Pop music inevitably leaves older generations behind, but I find myself enjoying more of it lately through mashups, those unauthorized remixes that feature, say, Snow Patrol playing with Sting, or show that Taylor Swift's breakup lyrics fit perfectly within Weezer's breakup power chords. The best mashups feel like jigsaw puzzles of sound, with genius DJs finding the common edge between songs to craft a new whole without destroying what made the parts hits.
And it was only apt to make them the soundtrack of choice while driving the 2014 Cadillac ELR, a rolling mashup of electricity and gas, thrift and fashion, Motor City steel and Golden State dreams. The question was just how well Cadillac fit all of these notes into harmony — or dissonance.
Every auto show produces a few concept cars that look production-ready, and after a warm reception for the Converj show car in 2009 based off the Chevrolet Volt, General Motors brass ordered a street-ready version with the bare minimum of necessary alterations. (Designers kept the show car parked next to the mock-up in the studio.)
The Cadillac ELR not only improves on the Converj in exterior design, it arrives pre-loaded with history. It's the first electric-powered production car to wear a Cadillac badge, using the range-extending technology of the Chevy Volt. It gives Cadillac a model unlike any offered by its German or Japanese competitors. More significantly, the ELR will be the first model built by an established automaker directly in response to the Tesla Model S. Of the couple thousand ELRs Cadillac plans to sell every year, it hopes to land the majority among California's moneyed environmental elite who might otherwise give Elon Musk their stock options.
And here's where the ELR mashup first loses a beat. Tesla buyers have a fervency about their cars rarely seen among automakers, in part because Tesla owners often view themselves as champions for the environment, driving a car that demands (in theory) no compromises. Yet GM built the Volt and ELR as rolling compromises, for drivers who want electric-drive benefits, but at a lower cost, with the security blanket of a gas engine lurking underhood for long travels. Volt owners can match the fervency of Tesla buyers for loving their cars, but most often express their satisfaction in terms of gas gallons saved — a bragging point that inevitably weakens when the car costs $75,995 as the ELR does before $7,500 federal tax credits instead of $27,000.