Depreciation Appreciation: Cadillac ELR

Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation. Every month, we dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used car deal.

After my morning browse for interesting pre-owned cars on autoTRADER.ca, I stumbled upon this month’s topic: the Cadillac ELR.

Built on the same powertrain architecture that propelled the Chevrolet Volt, the ELR is a plug-in hybrid luxury coupe that looks like nothing else on the road, offers a striking cabin, and can give drivers access to luxurious sports coupe motoring, all while slashing fuel bills and emissions.

If it’s in your budget, a 2016 or newer unit might be the way to go, as the engineers executed several important tweaks to the steering, suspension, and braking systems for that year, making Brembo brakes optional and adding the latest in modern smartphone connectivity by way of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Important Stuff

With a 1.4-litre engine teamed up with an electrified driveline, ELR’s driving range exceeds 500 kilometres, though trips of less than about 60 kilometres can be handled solely via stored electricity if you plug the ELR in and recharge before bed. With regen-on-demand braking, vivid digital driveline displays, and full control over charging times via on-screen menus, drivers are engaged in full with the electrified side of the ELR’s personality.

Note that plugging in to recharge the ELR is never mandatory – drivers can plug in when convenient, but if there’s gasoline in the tank, the car is always ready to drive. Regular recharging saves fuel but is never required.

Expect a full range of luxury features on board, including a premium audio system, upscale materials and trim, a central touchscreen interface with full smartphone connectivity, advanced hazard-detection safety systems, and the ELR’s unique motorized storage covers.

Beyond that, it’s all about the styling: the ELR’s body flaunts dramatic and angular lines that accentuate its futuristic coupe-like shape. On board, the cabin is leather-lined, accented with plenty of stitching and metal, and accentuated by vivid display screens.

Though it’s a four-seater, most drivers will enjoy the ELR primarily as two-person tourer that’s efficient and flashy.

Approximate New Value

Buying an ELR once required shoppers to part with the better part of $80,000, and that’s before adding any optional equipment packages or accessories.

Approximate Used Value

Today in the used market, the ELR has seen prices drop to less than half of their original value over the course of just a few years.

Selection is limited, however. Cadillac did not sell many ELRs, but if you shop patiently, you’ll find units like this and this on offer from the low to mid-30s, and you’ll probably have the only ELR anyone’s ever seen on the road, too.

Expect reasonable odometer mileage, typically accumulated during the warmer months. Note that the majority of the miles on a used ELR may have been electrically propelled, meaning that the gasoline engine and driveline might have had an easy life.

Test Drive Tips

Several considerations are notable before buying any used ELR.

First, plan to have the vehicle inspected in full by an ELR-trained technician in a Cadillac dealer setting. This may require making an appointment with the dealership and arrangements with the seller to have the vehicle in for an inspection. In quick order, a professional inspection with a diagnostic scan can reveal a multitude of potential problems that may not be apparent on a test drive, making this your best defence against buying someone else’s headaches.

Next, approach any used ELR assuming it needs new tires and brakes until you confirm otherwise. The ELR’s lightweight, sports-tuned suspension, and regenerative braking mean it’s not hard on consumable parts, but replacement brakes and tires may be pricey, and you’re best to know before you buy.

Check the charging gear. Closely examine the provided power cord and plug, noting that any signs of cracking, abrasion, damage, or breakage are good reasons to buy a new charging cord, for maximum safety. Open and close the charging door several times on your test drive as well, confirming that it works as expected.

Check the air conditioner system too, noting that poor performance or inconsistent system response may be the cause of a system leak, improper refrigerant level, or a clogged cabin air filter.

Next, quiet the ELR’s cabin fully and accelerate at light, moderate, and full throttle, several times. Then, decelerate by coasting for a few seconds, and a few seconds more using the transmission’s “L” gear setting. Do this several times.

If you notice a band-saw-like whine originating from somewhere beneath your feet, hold off on your purchase until the vehicle has been assessed professionally for a possibly problematic bearing in the driveline. This isn’t a common problem, and thankfully, the owners who have experienced it say it’s fairly obvious, if you’re looking for it.

A final note: for all pre-purchase inspections and future servicing of the ELR during ownership, visiting a Cadillac dealership is highly advised.

The Verdict

For the money, the Cadillac ELR might be one of the most striking, rare, and fuel-efficient luxury coupes on the road – but be sure to exercise patience in selecting and inspecting a used unit before you buy.

Concept-car looks and thrifty performance from $30,000 5/22/2020 7:30:00 AM