The cars we loved.
Feeling bad because you can’t afford a Karma or Model S? If the Chevy Volt does not tickle your fancy,well you’re in luck because Cadillac is about to step into the fray. Based on the Chevy Volt architecture, the ELR (Electric Luxury Range) takes the exotic looking Converj concept of a few years back and turns it into a real production car. Unlike the concept of the Volt, the ELR looks remarkably like its conceptual mother. The ELR is smaller than both its Chevy counterpart and the Camaro.
Although the ELR is closely related to the Volt, it differs significantly in mission and driving character. The ELR is a bona-fide sports coupe with choice tweaks that set it apart from the Volt. The ELR’s 84 hp four-cylinder and 154 hp electric motor pair are like the Volts, but are tuned for more power. Although the front wheel drive ELR aspires towards performance, it can’t approach the performance (or price) of the near exotic Karma or Model S sedans. Expected to start around $60k, the ELR will cost about $40k less than the cheapest Karma and nearly equal to the base Model S, while costing 10 to 15k more than the Volt. While the boost to the gasoline engine is only 5 hp more than the same engine in the Volt, the Cadillac uses up to 70 percent of it vs. 60 in the Volt. The increased power use cuts down on ELR’s range by 3 miles over the Volt (38 miles), but reduces its 0 to 60 time to 8 seconds. Its top speed is expected to jus crest triple digits at 100 mph. While the run to 60 mph may not look all that impressive for a Caddy with sport intentions, the ELR was designed to be a true driver’s road car. Despite being 300 more pounds than the Volt, the ELR sure to offer more grip and poise on rough roads thanks to big 20” wheels and wider tires. After all, the ELR is a Cadillac so a smooth compliant ride had to be achieved thanks to select chassis and suspension tuning.
To further establish the ELR from the Volt, the Caddy uses struts from the sporty Opel Astra up front. Although it may sound down market the ELR has a twist beam rear axle, like the Volt. That might sound very Cimarron-like and is unlikely to be advertised. The rear does offset that seemingly old school suspension with Watts link trailing arms (again like the Volt). Unlike the Volt, the ELR features a continuous Damping Control that allows monitors the road conditions and makes adjustments accordingly. The driver can switch between a softer riding Tour or less compliant Sport setting. A Paddle shifter allows you to shift in to a low range, although the ELR like the Volt really has only a one (continuously variable) speed transmission.
The low slung roofline reduces headroom and gives the ELR a more intimate cabin compared to the more practical minded Volt. It’s not as cramped as the Karma, but matches it in luxury with one of Cadillac’s most elegant interiors. Three interior schemes give you a choice between olive-ash, open pore wood or real piano black trim with a lacquered finish. The touches of luxury extend to the leather panels on the door that feature stitched seams. The centerpiece of the interior might be Cadillac’s 8” tablet-like CUE system that functions as a communications/entertainment/and monitoring control. The touch based system operates with a familiar Android tablet like functionality. All light sources inside or out are LED powered, from the headlights to the charging indicators on the dash. despite the long hatchback-like C pillar, the ELR is not hatchback. The small trunk opens up to reveal just enough space for two golf bags or a row of grocery bags if you can inagine the ELR doing domestic duty.
The ELR will be built alongside the Volt in Hamtramck Michigan later in 2013 and will go in sale as a 2014 model. It will be sold like the Volt in Europe and eventually China. Some might wonder why Cadillac followed Chevy in introducing a hybrid electric to the market. The fact that GM chose Chevy first implies that it’s serious about making the electric and alternative energy cars mainstream and affordable in America. The rollout of the ELR is just icing on the cake.
Presumably Cadillac did not rush the ELR on the Volts coattails because it was trying to make an acceptable compromise between the extended range of an electric car and the luxury expectations of a Cadillac. Expected to sell at just under $60,000, the ELR looks to be a stylish bargain. How it will stack up against two door models from Tesla has yet to be seen, but the Cadillac back by GM vast dealer network will likely be a hit for those who want to think they are saving the planet, but want to look good doing so.