Is the Cadillac Electric Car Drowning in Negatives?

Cadillac ELR

At a glance, there’s plenty to love about the stylish Cadillac ELR, GM’s (NYSE:GM) entry into the luxury plug-in market. However, a closer look at the sticker price and inside the car may reveal less than a consumer would expect for the MSRP of $75,000. In fact, it risks drowning in negatives before its scheduled release in January 2014, especially when compared to a Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA).

Limited Electric Range

The most disappointing feature of the Cadillac ELR may be its limited range. GM estimates the car will be able to cover 30 to 35 miles on a full charge. At that point, the gas engine will kick in, giving a drivers more than 250 miles of driving before needing to fill up the gas tank. A Tesla Model S covers an EPA-estimated 208 miles on a full charge in the base 60 kWh model ($74,070) and 265 miles in the 85 kWh version ($81,070).

GM executives have mentioned the company is working on an electric vehicle with greater range, but the Cadillac ELR is limited in a glaring way. Its price point may take away another potential advantage it had over cars from Tesla.

Excessively High Price

Why does the Cadillac ELR cost so much? Some analysts believe the pricing is between the two versions of the Model S to establish Cadillac in the luxury electric vehicle category. However, the specs don’t immediately justify the price tag, especially when looking at the powertrain.

The ELR can generate 207 horsepower on 295 pound-feet of torque. GM has been criticized on several occasions for re-branding the Chevy Volt powertrain in a luxury package, and that charge seems justified by the fact the ELR only generates an extra 58 horses compared to the Volt. Customers shopping for a luxury Cadillac may have a hard time opting for the ELR when the gorgeous CTS-V packs a 6.2-liter V8 capable of generating 556 horsepower. That sounds more like a Cadillac, and it’s even more affordable at $64,515.

A Bridge Car

Most of all, the 2014 Cadillac ELR may suffer from the idea that it is a “bridge” car, the automobile that allows GM to enter the luxury EV game without delivering the thrills of the competition. There is plenty to love about the car’s innovative style, yet the consumer may wonder if the specs won’t soon be obviated by GM itself.

With respect to range and power, it can seem as if GM rushed a product to the market that was more show pony than workhorse. Criticisms of the Tesla Model S have often revolved around the car’s “limited” range of 208 miles (60 kWh) or 265 miles (85 kWh). GM has barely met that standard, and has done so with the overhwleming majority of the drive in gas-powered mode.

Though it is a plug-in electric, GM may have missed the mark by supplying the Cadillac ELR with such a limited scope of performance in electric mode. Customers wowed by the Tesla can hang a hat on the car’s performance. The base Model S generates 302 hp on 317 lb-ft torque; the 85 kWh model generates 362 hp on 325 lb-ft torque.

Those specs are impressive, and the reason reviewers were so enthusiastic about the much-lauded Model S. By contrast, the attention given to Cadillac’s ELR is mainly focused on the car’s lofty sticker price. GM envisioned the ELR as having limited-edition appeal, but it may need to mount a convincing marketing campaign to justify the investment.

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