Test drove an ELR today...(short)
OK, so I will apologize right now for this review - you won't get my usual novel write-up. My test drive was way shorter than I had hoped and on mostly crowded streets. I can also completely kick myself for NOT trying the regen paddles or hold mode acceleration! In fairness, the "paddles" are hidden and not like traditional paddles that stick out from the sides of the base of the wheel...ok, yeah, that's an excuse.
Anyway, some of my takeaways:
Like a lot of you I have stared at pictures long enough that there were no surprises here. It looks like it looks in the pics, but it does have more presence in person. The rear haunches in particular appear beefy and overall the car has that sloped forward NHRA funny car look about it (in a good way). I really liked the head on grill view and those headlights are really slick. The side view could have a little more interest as it is a little slab-sided. Probably didn't help that it was black and dirty from all the rain we've had.
Even in black (which I find to be the least interesting of the interior color choices), it looks sharp. There is leather and suede everywhere (except in the lower section of the rear seat area side panel). The multiple layers and textures are perhaps a bit overwrought, but its nothing you can't get used to, and really a matter of taste - I love the suede headliner. I have never used CUE before, and I've read the 18 billion reviews criticizing every Caddy with it. However, I found it IMMEDIATELY usable, and the screen and graphics were very nice. Touch screen was actually easier to use than the Volt in many respects. I was a bit mesmerized by the sleek screen and general sharp look of the console. The haptic feedback feature was fine and the thing it does when your fingers get close to the screen (i.e. menu of icons pops up) was slick too. Now, admittedly, I tried many of these features out in the parking lot before I pulled away, so use "in flight" might not be as easy. Heck, even after having owned the Volt for a year I find myself hunting for "buttons" on its crazy center stack. The navigation was slick too - just a richer looking map layout than the Volt's more "cartoon like" layout.
The seats were comfortable, and reasonably supportive (as best I could tell on this limited drive) and electric of course. There was no sliding under thigh bolster like you find on BMW's sport seats, but I didn't miss it.
Visibility is typical of a sport coupe (i.e. somewhat limited), but more than tolerable. You want to feel like you are in a German gun turret at Normandy...get a Camaro.
The doors were typical of this class of car - that is to say a bit too big, and heavy. Hardly a deal breaker, but understand that's what you are getting yourself into...think more 6 series BMW and less two door Miata. As a frameless door, the windows do the little pop down a 1/4 inch and pop back up when you open and close the door (for a tight seal). For some reason, I've never liked that on a car...but that's just me.
As noted, it was short. According to Google Maps, it was exactly 4.0 miles and a square (i.e. pull out of dealership and make right onto frontage road, turn right at first light, drive a bit on city street, another right, etc. back to dealership). All told there were 4 right turns not counting the ones out of or into the dealership. I provide this detail so you'll understand what I was up against in trying to determine anything. The salesman was a bit hesitant about a test drive at first, but I purposely go on week days so as not to waste their time when there are "Saturday buyers" walking onto the lot. I was up front with him when I said my lease wasn't up for quite a while, etc.
My first impression was when I shut the door...heavy solid thunk. I then pulled out of the parking lot and felt the next defining characteristic as compared to the Volt...the weight. You can really feel the weight difference. It is immediately apparent. I feel the weight of passengers in the Volt and its impact on performance, but this was different. It was more of that big heavy "German" feel. I had the car in Low immediately (since that's what I drive in with the Volt), and I didn't notice anything unusual which probably tells me the regen was similar (sorry, we were talking and driving so I didn't pay nearly as much attention to this). The brake pedal itself seemed to feel a bit spongy...so much so that I noted it...take that for what it is worth. When I pulled out of the dealership I hit the go pedal (dang, its in tour or whatever mode is like "Normal" I thought) so I planted it. Its kind of weird. I could tell this drivetrain felt stronger than the Volt, but with the added weight the end result was similar. The torque didn't appear to drop off a cliff quite as dramatically as the Volt, but again, hard to remember.
It is definitely quiet, and appeared to be a whole notch above the Volt in this area - maybe a notch and a half (how's that for being scientific). Unfortunately, I drove my wife's SUV to the test and wasn't able to 100% A/B against the Volt when I left. I can say it was a heckuva lot quieter than her small luxury SUV!
When I got to that first light I scrambled to find the drive mode switch (on the console, FYI) and quickly moved it to Sport (which I think is the mode that firms up the dampers and sharpens throttle response). I then proceeded to drive in slow traffic on the city street....not the best test of "sport" mode. I left it in this mode for the rest of the journey since the "drive" is one of the areas I want to address on my next ride. A railroad track was a bit bumpy as I crossed it - no more so than the Volt though - perhaps more isolated. I would have liked to drive over it again in normal mode to see if damper settings make a difference.
I did some accelerating (foot to the floor) on the last two roads and swapped lanes a few times to try and get a feel for the handling. My last impression after this (limited test) was the same as the first. This is a heavier luxury car as opposed to a more tossable fun coupe. Steering was light - since I had drive the wife's SUV which is a heavier than the Volt it might have seemed lighter than it was, but I think it is fair to say it was comparable to the Volt. The acceleration was modest and didn't really inspire me to any kind of hooliganism. Indeed, because of the weight, it probably inspired a bit less. Instead, I was more inspired to simply enjoy a nice luxury coupe.
Ultimately, the ELR is a nice car and we all know electric offers a "luxury" driving experience. In 10 years, we'll see a ton of cars with electric drive trains and they'll all have that benefit. Today, however, there are a handful and none are as luxurious as this ride. If the acceleration were stronger, the steering feedback a bit tighter and the handling sharper, I might be inclined to streeeeeetch for one of these - but those are my priorities. Not all prospective buyers might agree. In reality, I might still be inclined if the General released ridiculous lease deals. The used car market is another option, but low production numbers will probably keep the values a bit higher than I would like.
A few weeks ago I posted my test drive review of a Tesla Model S...put that car's acceleration in this body and tighten the handling and I'm trying to find a way to justify a purchase to my wife.
Well, lookie there, I almost got a novel after all...
Last edited by cab; 01-10-2014 at 06:30 PM.
2012 Blue Topaz Volt - Loaded
2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
1997 BMW M3
2002 BMW M5 (Sold to buy Volt!)