Cadillac ELR Review Series – Driving Modes & Dynamics
The Cadillac ELR features 4 distinct driving modes. Tour, Sport, Mountain, and Hold Mode. If you are familiar with the Chevy Volt, you’ve probably heard of these modes, but the ELR adds some additional dynamics to the mix as compared to the Volt in each of these modes.
The variables at play when you change driving modes are the following:
1.) Throttle Mapping: Basically this controls how aggressively the ELR Accelerates depending on how far you push the pedal.
2.) Power Steering Assist Calibration: Depending on the driving mode, the ELR’s electric power assist will either make the car steer with less effort or more effort. This is done by controlling how much “assist” the power steering motors gives you.
3.) Suspension Settings: The ELR features CDC shock absorbers or continuous damping control shocks. Unlike conventional shocks which have a fixed dampening rate, the ELR’s shocks can be adjusted on the fly. The system constantly adjusts this, but the way in which the shocks are calibrated seem to be adjusted based on drive mode settings
4.) Gas Engine Behavior: Both Hold Mode and Mountain Mode can force the ELR to start it’s gas generator before the ELR’s battery runs down, but they behave differently.
The Cadillac ELR’s default driving mode is “Tour Mode”. It is the most comfortable mode to be in because of the ease of maneuvering the car with the power steering assist as well as its comfort oriented suspension settings. By no means is the ELR a “bouncy” car, but in this mode you can really feel the ELR absorb the road. When you ride down the road, you can tell that a good portion of the extra 300 lbs on the ELR as compared to the Volt went into sound absorbing materials and what feels like thicker sheet metal.
Rolling over bumps in the Volt, you feel and hear a thud thud. Rolling over bumps in an ELR you feel a Boomph Boomph. You know the bumps are there, but they are well controlled. The ELR feels much better composed on the road when riding than the Volt.
One interesting thing about Tour mode as compared to the Volt is how the ELR delivers its torque as compared to the Volt. Even though the ELR on paper is no faster than the Volt due to its additional weight – it feels a more confident in its acceleration. I believe this is because the ELR delivers its power in a way that you feel constantly building acceleration to a point. Whereas the Volt could sprint quickly but lose steam, the ELR feels like it builds power (very gradually thorough its acceleration)
When I drive the Chevy Volt, this was my default setting. Now with the ELR, its not my obvious go-to. Why? Well tour mode is actually exciting enough – and you can feel a slightly “tighter” suspension when you are in Sport mode. When in sport mode, you feel the ELR’s suspension trying to recover to neutral much quicker. This changes the noise of the car when you are rolling through bumps and impacts the ride quality slightly. I wouldn’t say that it feels like driving a super tight track car or that the changes are huge, but they are noticeable.
When in sport mode, you definitely notice the lower power steering assist setting. It makes it less convenient for maneuvering around a parking lot, but more accurate when you are driving at speeds on the freeway. Compared to the Volt where i would always drive it in sport, I think that sport will be a fun mode for taking on hilly switchbacks. I very much enjoyed the extra control and road feel of the reduced power steering in this mode when driving through the hills.
And of course, the acceleration in sport mode. The ELR lets you unleash all 133 Kw much faster in sport mode, but I haven’t necessarily found this to be the most interesting way to drive the car, for the reason that you blow all the fun away so quickly – kind of like when San Diego fired off all of its fireworks in 30 seconds a few years back. You definitely accelerate faster, but I’ve found the more measured acceleration experience of tour mode to be quite pleasant.
I haven’t had a need for mountain mode – (there are no big mountains where I live) but as a reminder, this causes the ELR to save or build up enough energy in the battery to be able to climb a fairly tall mountain without running out of steam and slowing down in the middle.
Hold Mode & (Extended Range Mode)
Running the gas engine in the ELR is much less obtrusive than the Volt. This seems to be for several reasons.
1.) More sound deadening material
2.) Active noise cancellation speakers
3.) The engine is set not to rev as fast in response to acceleration needs.
The first two are pretty straightforward, but the third is a conscious decision to improve the driving experience while running the generator. I believe that this is part of the reason why the ELR’s fuel economy is lower than the Volt’s aside from the extra weight and higher aerodynamic drag.
The ELR seems to run the engine longer at lower power to get the energy it needs (lowering the overall volume and reducing noise spikes) and doesn’t rush to shut it off as much as the Volt when you approach a stop. In fact when the engine powers down at a stop light you can hear it and feel it cutting down into what feels like a “sub idle” rpm before fading out. I wouldn’t be surprised if while the engine was powering down, the generator was kicking in a little juice to slow the engine down gradually instead of just letting it sputter out by cutting off the fuel flow.
Compare this approach with the Volt, which was originally set to mimick engine revving as you demanded more power (one original intent was to tell you that you were indeed accelerating) And I’m sure that the Volt is calibrated to be more efficient about its engine usage by putting less into the battery and channeling more of it straight into the power motor.
Of note, I could not get the ELRto go over 133Kw of power in just Hold Mode, even flooring it. I’ll need to test to see if you can get full power after I drain the battery completely.