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Cadillac is giving an old concept—the personal luxury coupe—an entirely new spin: by plugging it in, and reinventing it as an extended-range plug-in electric car, the 2014 ELR.
Like the Chevrolet Volt on which it’s based, the all-new ELR will be first and foremost an electric car, able to go a certain number of miles in all-electric mode, after which a gasoline engine starts up, functioning mainly as a ‘range extender’ to generate more electricity for the motor system. But the ELR will go well beyond the Volt’s green-icon status in offering improved handling, more refinement, and a very stylish, uniquely Cadillac look inside and out.
If you’re a loyal reader of our auto-show coverage, you’ve essentially seen the ELR before—at least on the outside. Styling for the ELR builds on the 2009 Converj concept car, and surprisingly, GM has managed to carry the exterior design of the concept through, almost unchanged—with massive 20-inch wheels helping keep the concept’s sense of proportion. The sweeping upkick of the deep shoulder crease helps make the ELR look especially rakish, while headlamps and taillamps are elongated to sharp points and emphasize the body creasing. Headlamps are all-LED lighting units (low beams, high beams, running lamps), with the front lamps feature four vertically staggered rectangular beams. The grille is a new EV-oriented twist on the eggcrate look—directing most of the air up and around, with a louver system only letting it in when needed (and sealing a 0.305 coefficient of drag). In back, vertical columns of light correspond, aesthetically, and jewel-like ‘Cadillac’ emblems are within the enclosure. The gradually sloped roofline tapers down all the way to the rear, as if it will be a hatchback, only the ELS has a trunklid. Underneath the ELR has a full set of aerodynamic panels and diffusers, while the tailpipe is hidden within the rear fascia.
Inside, Cadillac aimed for a complex yet warm look, with multiple layers and surfaces, to yield an almost bespoke appearance. Materials include a sueded microfiber headliner, real piano-black wood trim, olive ash wood, trivalent chrome, and real carbon-fiber accents, along with exposed stitching throughout. The instrument panel—incorporating both Cadillac’s CUE touch-screen interface and an eight-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster—curves around and downward to a full-length center console, then back around the two rear passenger positions. But the rear highlight of the interior are the plush 16-way sport seats, covered in Opus leather.
Fundamentally, the ELR employs the same Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) technology and hardware that’s used in the Volt, including the same 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The electric-motor system is identical as well—as is the system’s ability to use the gasoline engine as a supplemental traction motor at high speeds to aid efficiency. Cadillac has managed to cut a few pounds from the 16.5-kWh battery pack, but it remains the same as in the Volt, too. Yet through some tweaks for the software controls, the electric motor system delivers a bit more: 207 hp (154 kW), with 295 foot-pounds of instant torque.
In addition to Tour (normal), Hold, and Mountain Modes, there’s also a special Sport Mode, which firms up the damping system, makes the accelerator map more aggressive, and gives the steering a little more effort. Also of note is Regen on Demand, a feature that allows the driver to pull back on paddle-like buttons at the back of the steering wheel to momentarily (as long as they’re pulled) increase regenerative braking
The ELR’s chassis is very different otherwise. GM has raided its premium parts bin in many respects and given this model better handling and a more sophisticated ride. The so-called HiPer Strut suspension, with a track that’s 40-mm wider, aids controllability, steering centering, and road feedback, while a Watt’s link in back boosts control, especially on imperfect surfaces. There’s a special transverse link bridging the bottom of the strut assemblies. GM has also added the Sachs adaptive suspension with continuous damping control (CDC) that’s used on several other Cadillac models, including the SRX and CTS, and adjusts damping every two milliseconds. Hydraulic ride bushings provide further isolation, and active noise cancellation is standard.
Although GM hasn’t released any information about energy consumption of MPGe figures for the ELR, it’s said that the ELR’s total range will exceed 300 miles; its electric-only range will be about 35 miles, or slightly shorter than that of the Volt—due to the ELR’s more aggressive calibration, plus its heavier (around 200 pounds more) curb weight. Charging times will be the same as the Volt, with a complete recharge in 4.5 hours on 240-volt power.
Cadillac’s CUE will be standard in the ELR—along with proximity sensing and the same menu system as in Cadillac’s other cars—but it and the instrument panel have special EV-relevant displays. Also like the Volt the ELR will have a smartphone-based interface with programmable charging, charging alerts, and other features.
The ELS’s interior is essentially that of a rakish mid-size coupe; there are two backseat positions, in small individual buckets, but full-size adults will have trouble getting in, and feeling comfortable with the very limited amount of headroom and legroom. The ELR’s wheelbase is 0.4 inches longer than the Volt, but it may end up feeling quite a bit smaller inside due to that roofline. Entertainment will be provided via standard ten-channel Bose audio, while safety features will include an adaptive cruise control system with crash mitigation.
Production will start in late 2013, at the same Hamtramck plant that builds the Chevrolet Volt, and the ELR will go on sale early in calendar year 2014.
- An electric car, without range anxiety
- Luxurious cabin trims
- Sporty driving character
- Edgy, stylish look inside and out
- Lower EV range than the Volt
- No fast-charging