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As some of you may remember, I leased a 2014 Cadillac ELR for about 15 months and had a lot of complaints. Now I'm driving a 2015 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium... and I was really loving it until I drove the refreshed 2016 ELR this afternoon!

You aren't going to be reading any reviews for the 2016 ELR criticizing the acceleration or handling, that's for sure. Nor are you going to hear many reviewers grumbling about the engine noise (assuming they even notice it) in Sport Mode or Extended Range mode. Cadillac has made some significant improvements to the ELR for 2016, and I bet that if this was the version of the car released at the end of 2013 at its new price of $65,000 base, Cadillac would have enjoyed a completely different sales outcome. Now with competition from the redesigned Gen II Volt, the updated 2016 ELR may not have quite the shine it would have had two years ago, but the ELR is still in a class all its own when it comes to appearance and styling.

The 2016 ELR I drove had the white Crystal White Tricoat exterior color, Jet Black interior, and 20" Satin Graphite painted aluminum wheels. What an amazing combination! The exterior of the car looked like it was covered with diamonds, while the interior looked plush and expensive. It still has the useless motorized cup holder cover and unnecessary power glove compartment release, but I guess some would argue the point of opulence is to include features that help wealthy people avoid all possible manual labor!

Surprisingly, the first thing I noticed when sitting in the car was how extraordinarily clear and unexpectedly vivd the side mirrors appeared. I don't know why, but it seemed like I was looking at a hyper-real reflection with unusual depth and clarity. Can't explain why the mirrors looked like that to me, but the salesperson agreed with my assessment when I pointed it out. The reverse mirror in the car looks the same as it did in the 2014 model.

The original 2014 ELR accelerated from 0-60 in about 9 seconds in EV mode, or as fast as 7.8 seconds in Extended Range mode (i.e., after the battery was depleted and the gas engine engaged, which for most owners was a rare occurrence). I'm not sure what the actual acceleration statistics are for the 2016 in EV-only mode (i.e., "Touring Mode"), but it feels a LOT faster. Perhaps not Tesla fast, but still very robust. When switching to Sport Mode (which now engages the engine to provide additional power), the acceleration is even greater and the car stiffens up for more aggressive handling. It's very easy to believe that the 2016 ELR will accelerate from 0-60 in a little over 6 seconds in Sport Mode, and - more surprisingly - probably in just over 7 seconds in Touring Mode. I didn't have any diagnostic equipment with me of course, but the ELR felt at least as fast as my wife's Toyota Rav4 EV which can go 0-60 in 7 seconds.

The only grumble I have is that the driver has no control over whether Sport Mode engages the engine, but frankly EV-only Touring Mode is so much more improved you may not really care. You won't need Sport Mode to merge on to the highway, pass, or launch off the line to beat someone trying to cut in front of you at a light. I didn't have the opportunity to drive the ELR up any steep hills, so I can't comment on how the car feels doing that. I remember my 2012 Volt and 2014 ELR always felt zippy until I had to go from a full stop at the bottom of a hill, and then it felt like both vehicles struggled. Something tells me the 2016 ELR (or 2016 Gen II Volt) won't have that problem.

One other surprise was that the fully-charged ELR I drove showed an estimated range of 48 miles! That's about 8 more miles than Cadillac promises, so I'm very confident that the increase in range is very real and will meet expectations.

The 2016 model is similar (or identical) to the 2014 model in many respects - size, layout, passenger space, regen paddles, seat comfort, trunk space, etc. Still no cooled seats, but that's the only omission that disappointed me. Air conditioning, adaptive cruise control, and other such features found in the 2014 model all seemed to work the same.

The ELR I drove didn't have the optional $1,295 Performance Package, so I don't know what benefits that may add to the car. I suspect it's just a different driving experience (i.e., stiffer suspension, stronger brakes, and more road feel).

The C.U.E. system felt much more responsive, but the general functionality hasn't changed much. It still has many of the flaws found in the 2014 model, but the interface does appear cleaner and more efficient on some screens. A/C still can't be configured to turn on in Eco Mode instead of Max; still can't cycle the A/C modes without going to the main C.U.E. Climate screen; still can't see your Media Favorites (station pre-sets, etc.) on the A/C screen; and the HMI still has to completely index your media device (iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, etc.) for some reason. Thankfully, though, you can now control your device via Bluetooth (instead of just skipping forward or back one track at a time), including selecting albums, tracks, artists, etc. to play - all without connecting the USB cable.

On top of that, if you have an Apple device, you can transfer to Car Play to use apps like Music, Maps, and Messages directly on the C.U.E. screen with no C.U.E. interference. I'm not sure the integration was as seamless and intuitive as I would have liked, but it's sure leaps and bounds better than what was available in 2014. Since the HMI indexing was taking forever, I didn't have a chance to see if the track/artist/album listings were in the correct order when only using C.U.E.'s proprietary Audio interface. But listings were perfect when using Bluetooth or Car Play.

Regarding two of my biggest complaints about the 2014 ELR, I'm happy to say they've been mitigated somewhat, but disappointed that they haven't been completely resolved. (1) The Rear Vision Camera still doesn't look as high definition as it should during the daytime - at least as compared to my Fusion and Rav4 EV - but it's definitely a little better than the 2014 image. Unfortunately, I didn't have any chance to try it at night or in a dark garage to see if the crappy blurred undefined camera image from the 2014 model was fixed. (2) The "Vehicle Left On" triple-honk alert still can't be turned off, and it's still loud enough to be annoying, but it seems to have been toned down a little bit.

I also wasn't able to test the brightness of the screens at night or on a cloudy day, nor test whether the Rear Vision Camera displays its image at full brightness even when the Illumination Control Wheel is dialed all the way down, and I forgot to see whether I could toggle the car into full Night Mode during the daytime (in the 2014 model, all that changes is the clouds on the map screen turn into stars).

So will I buy the 2016 ELR? Well, it's definitely tempting! But no, probably not. While Cadillac's repurchase of my 2014 pretty much paid for the Ford Fusion I drive, meaning I could trade it in and not care what Cadillac gave me for it since I'd likely come out ahead, I know myself well enough to anticipate still hating the triple honk and C.U.E. interface deficiencies. But perhaps now that I'm aware of all those problems, I could talk myself into accepting them in order to get back into my Batmobile. I guess we'll see...

For anyone who has no problem with C.U.E. and never leaves their car running for A/C while stepping out to get the mail or run into a store (or doesn't care if the car honks at you when you do), then the improved acceleration and lower price make the 2016 ELR a no-brainer. It's gorgeous, it's fast, it's a plug-in hybrid with class-leading electric-only range, and there's no range anxiety at all. With all the improvements made, I believe the $65-73k price is well justified. Still, it may be worth learning from my own past mistakes by waiting several months before walking into a dealership... if this model year fails too, you may have access to some great deals. And if it succeeds, I suspect Cadillac will continue to make more of them.
 

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So, you are saying the 2016 ELR does indeed have the Gen II drivetrain and battery? Any clue how much of the battery capacity is usable?
 

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Great review, Blastphemy. Thanks for taking the time to share your observations. Did you notice which size ICE it has? I wonder if they put the new Voltec drive in there, or just the bigger battery.
 

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So, you are saying the 2016 ELR does indeed have the Gen II drivetrain and battery? Any clue how much of the battery capacity is usable?
Nope. 17.1 battery and 1.4 ICE.
 

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There's a workaround for the triple honk on the volt, open the driver side window, exit the vehicle with keys in hand, reach in breaking the plane of the window, auto-rais the driver side window bringing the keys out. That eliminates triple hold for the volt, op I wonder if that works for the ELR.

I too fear the 2016 is too little too late. Here's hoping they get similar huge discounts in 2017/18 just about the time my youngest daughter will be getting her learners permit/driver's license and I can hand her the keys to the volt and get one of these sexy beauties heavily discounted. I was ready to pay $50k in late 2013 for an ELR, but now that we've seen prices go to around $35-40k after all the rebates and incentives, it will be tough for me to buy one for more. I'm just a self proclaimed cheapskate.
 

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The difference you feel is that the ELR has different motors than the Gen I, Gen II Volts...and a lot more torque available from the primary drive motor.

Gen I Volt: Transmission 4ET50, Motor A 55 kW, Motor B 111 kW.........I don't have torque specs for the individual motors
Gen II Volt: Transmission 5ET50, Motor A 48 kW (118 Nm torque), Motor B 87 kW (280 Nm torque), but these motors can now be linked to produce more power/torque than Gen I despite each being smaller.
2016 ELR: Transmission 4ET55, Motor A 55 kW, Motor B 174 kW...also note that Motor B is rated at 373 ft (506 Nm)!
 

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and that is what is so wrong with this car. I figure all their effort will be in the CT6 and this 2016 ELR is just to burn off all the parts they accrued for the first run
That's pretty much it.
 

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The difference you feel is that the ELR has different motors than the Gen I, Gen II Volts...and a lot more torque available from the primary drive motor.
No, the drive train is identical, the torque is simply a function of current provided to the motor. Its just software limits tweaked, nothing else. GM was very conservative with the peak current draw on the battery pack, with 4 years of experience and a billions of total miles driven on the fleet of Gen1's they have the data to allow more aggressive use to the components
 

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A Blast from the past! ;)

Hello Blast!

Thanks for your usual thorough review. I've been extremely happy with mine, 8,933 miles in only 4 months. Mine shows high 50s AER estimate after a full charge - I've hit 60 miles several times (see photo below).

2014 ELR 60 miles AER.jpg

I'll stick to my 2014 ELR until the wheels fall off. Only thing I wish it had is the Kona brown leather. Apple CarPlay sounds like a much needed addition/improvement to CUE.

Triple honk is a non-issue for me as I NEVER leave the car with it "on".

I've noticed an anomaly with "phantom ICE miles driven" after a full charge and subsequent downhill drive. And it's only happened when the estimated AER is 58 miles or higher. It will register 0.1 or 0.2 ICE miles driven with ZERO gallons used. Since I have to run the ICE daily, I don't get OCD about ICE miles like I used to.

Now dump that Fusion non-sense and come back to the dark side of ELR. I understand the car seat will be too narrow for you compared to Fusion, but that's the price of admission for driving the "batmobile".
 

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If it had super-cruise I'd get one. It would have made sense for Cadillac to introduce this feature on the ELR first, where it would A) draw positive attention to the ELR; B) improve sales; C) burnish a high tech image for the ELR to replace the "glorified Volt" image it managed to acquire the first time around; D) let Cadillac get its feet wet on a smaller scale to see how automated driving will fare in the hands of the real-world driving public. Instead it's supposed to debut on the CT6. Here's a wildly optimistic hope for the 2017 ELR.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
So, you are saying the 2016 ELR does indeed have the Gen II drivetrain and battery?
No, the 2016 ELR has a 17.1 kWh battery. When the battery discharged on my test drive, I believe I saw 12.9 kWh used, but don't quote me - it wasn't a detail on which I focused. I could have noticed that number prior to full discharge and misremembered.

The Gen II 2016 Volt has the 18.4 kWh battery, not the 2016 ELR.
 

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Great review Blast. Interesting that sport mode engages the engine immediately. I wondered if that would be the case as opposed to just engaging when under hard throttle (which opens the door to challenges like having the engine come on when cold and zing to full throttle, etc.). Given your comments about the improved EV only acceleration, this (just having the engine engage all the time in sport mode) is likely the best solution from Cadillac.

I actually wish the gen2 Volt would operate the same way. Now that I think of it, I wonder if the gen 2's hold mode will function slightly similarly given Motor Trend's review.
 

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Unbelievable nitpicking. Enjoy your Ford. Now go away.
I for one would much prefer to be in an ELR than a Fusion Hybrid. I would find a way to live with the CUE flaws. Lord knows I've heavily tested the volt Bluetooth syncing with phones. I tolerate it, even though it isn't perfect. But I keep my cars forever, would never dream of trading any of them in get something different, thus I spend a lot more time making sure my cars are exactly what I want to drive for a really long time.
 
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