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Car Report: Cadillac ELR is a head-turning hybrid

Monday - 5/19/2014, 5:08am  ET

The Cadillac doesn't shout to the whole world that it's a hybrid. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
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WASHINGTON -- If you want a two-door plug-in hybrid with a luxury car interior and exclusiveness, the 2014 Cadillac ELR might be the special vehicle for you.

The 2014 Cadillac ELR, a premium plug-in hybrid, hits the streets in the form of a sharp-looking coupe. The Cadillac ELR uses the same electric drive unit and gas- engine range extender as the Chevrolet Volt, and that's a cool high-tech system.

The ELR looks really good as a two-door coupe, and the styling really fits the car. It's even better looking than the CTS coupe. Cadillac has made a car that people notice. I was met with questions every time I drove it -- pictures were snapped and I even got a few thumbs-up from other drivers.

The ELR operates on electric power for the first 37 miles. I saw 39 miles on one charge. One nice thing is it doesn't announce "I'm an electric hybrid," with 20 badges all over the car. It just looks like a premium sports coupe with an extra gas door for the electric plug-in on the front fender.

I charged the car overnight with the provided 110v plug. You can also charge much quicker if you use a 240v plug. The first 1000 ELR buyers will get a complimentary home charging station and installation, valued at up to $3,000. Not a bad offer.

I drove the ELR 389 miles and used four gallons of fuel in a week. The only time I used gas was on a round trip to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The gas generator kicked in after the first 37 miles and hummed along, only raising its voice while climbing up the mountains before Hagerstown on Interstate 70.

Coming down the mountain and stopping allowed some recharging of the batteries with Regen On Demand paddles on the steering wheel, which allows for some extended battery range. You can also choose from different driving modes. One allows a hold feature, saving your current battery range for later in a trip, and it proved useful when I knew I was heading to a stop-and-go situation.

A nice bonus of the electric drive is the instant power -- no waiting for a turbo or the engine to rev. It just moves. This isn't a track car, but it's a nice grand touring coupe with some pep, and it does well in the turns. It is just as happy whispering along in stop-and-go city traffic.

The interior is a really nice place to be. This is where some of that $82,135 has gone, with rich Kona Brown 20-way adjustable full leather front seats. The rear seats are best kept to shorter people or children. I found them comfortable, but anyone more than 5-foot, 8-inches tall might not think so.

The Cadillac ELR is no cheap date, with starting price of $75,000. My test car came loaded with great seats and a full speed/range adaptive cruise control that works really well -- set a speed and distance and the car does the rest. The other option was the luxury package, which has some nice safety features such as side blind zone and rear cross-traffic alert. They work with the safety alert seat, which vibrates when you wander from your lane.

The reconfigurable dash cluster has four different modes to choose from so you configure the car your way. The blue LED ambient lighting seems to calm your mood when you take a seat.

Even though I got some looks and questions, I enjoyed my week with this cool luxury, environmentally-friendly coupe.

Editor's Note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI ,FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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