Cadillac offers a sexy electric in Detroit
But will the upscale, Volt-based ELR boost sales of EVs?
In 2012, sales of the Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle, reached 23,461, more than triple the 2011 figure but still nowhere near the 60,000 units Chevrolet had forecast. The Volt simply hasn't caught on like the last technological game-changer, the Toyota Prius hybrid, due in part to its $40,000 price tag, which is driven by the cost of the EV's advanced engineering.
So if price is a problem, why not build a sexier version of the Volt that people won't mind paying for? With the ELR, unveiled at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, Cadillac is doing just that. To be built in limited quantities, the Cadillac ELR probably won't boost the sales of GM's electric vehicles significantly, but it will help defer the cost of building cars that use the latest technology.
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2014 Cadillac ELR
What is it? A luxury coupe based on the Chevrolet Volt.
What's hot? Instead of power, the ELR delivers excellent fuel economy, thanks to its extended-range electric powertrain. Cadillac says the car runs on electricity alone for up to 35 miles and has an overall range of at least 300 miles. A selectable Hold mode allows drivers to use the electric propulsion in city driving, where it helps the most. Similarly, Regen on Demand (an energy-regeneration function activated by steering-wheel paddles) enables the vehicle's momentum to generate electricity.
The ELR's design is similar to the Cadillac Converj concept from 2009, an extension of the brand's Art and Science design language, with a forward-leaning profile, large wheels pushed to the ends of the car and a fairly slippery 0.305 drag coefficient. Inside, it features what Cadillac says will be the direction of future interiors for the brand. The ELR interior has cut-and-sewn leather upholstery and trim accented with chrome, wood, Alcantara leather and optional carbon fiber. The Cadillac Cue interface is standard, with an 8-inch configurable instrument panel and center-stack displays.
What's not? Straight-line performance likely won't match the price, at least if the ELR is compared with other luxury coupes such as the BMW 6-Series or Mercedes E-Class coupe. However, the ELR will have more power than the Volt by using more of the battery's energy. Cadillac says its extended-range electric drivetrain has 207 total horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque versus 149 horsepower and 273 lb-ft in the Volt.
Ride may also be compromised due to standard 20-inch wheels and a solid rear axle. To be fair, the Watt's linkage suspension works well in the Chevrolet Cruze and Buick Verano, and standard Continuous Damping Control should soften the ride on rough roads. Handling should be fairly capable, thanks to GM's HiPer Strut front suspension and a wide track, but it will also likely be limited by the low-rolling-resistance tires.
How much and when? Starting at more than $50,000. On sale in early 2014.
MSN Autos' verdict: Cadillac probably won't sell many ELRs, but we are curious to see if the idea of an extended-range luxury coupe will find a big-enough audience to make the ELR worthwhile. It should appeal to early adopters who want to be "green" and look good while doing it. It's worth a shot.
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
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Once again, rebadge it and add $20k. For a company that is suppose to be going in a new direction you sure seem to be making the same old mistakes.
How about, selling the Volt for $20K and actually moving some of them???
You would not be able to build them fast enough. I would have bought two to get away from the gas pump.
Really don’t see a need to “upgrade” to a Cadillac. I have owned a Volt since August 2011. It is a sport sedan and fully equipped with everything I want or need. I’m not much impressed by the brand or model name. I am impressed with how well a car is built and how it handles. The Volt nameplate says Chevrolet but it is equal to a BMW or Audi in feel and performance. The ability to power the car on USA produced electricity 85% of the time is very important to me. I just charge up every night (kinda like charging a cell phone – just bigger). Every morning I have about 40 mile of electric power before I have to use gasoline. So far, over 17,000 miles driven - 61 gallons of gasoline used. Foreign oil producers don’t like the Volt. They won’t like the plug-in Cadillac ELR either. Loving it.