Friday, January 18, 2013

2014 Cadillac ELR is making green sexy in Detroit

Cadillac has pulled the wraps off of its newest family member, the long-rumored, Voltec-powered, eye-catching extended range hybrid coupe called the ELR. The car makes use of the same basic architecture as the Chevrolet Volt, but has been thoroughly layered on with design, technology and performance tuning – with the goal of being a properly situated product for the Cadillac brand.

In terms of styling, inside and out, the ELR hits the ball out of the park. Designers set an aggressive goal of staying as true as possible to the original Converj show car from 2009. The resulting vehicle is, frankly, as sexy a Cadillac as can be found on the road today. A low, fast roofline is handsomely accented by the ELR's strong shoulder line, while the stance is super aggressive thanks to monstrous 20-inch wheels pushed out to the extreme corners of the car. Exterior trim is wrought in either satin chrome or a very subtle black satin chrome (the dark panels inside the egg crate grille wear this finish, as does the outermost frame of the headlights).

All exterior lighting (and interior lighting, for that matter) is by way of LED units, with some pretty cool detailing to be found the closer you look. The taillights are made up of two LED strips, both of which light up during braking, while the outside-most element alone repeats when a turn is indicated. The sideview mirrors also carry LED indicators, though the driver's side light doubles as a state-of-charge meter when the ELR is plugged in.

The new Cadillac's interior is every bit the measure of its exterior styling, and rather lavish. (It's fair to point out that the interior prototype we saw was still not 100-percent approved for production, but we were told that it is very close.) The cockpit is as leather-bound as anything we've seen this side of a Bentley, with the ELR wearing cowhide in virtually every standard "soft-touch" area. Our tour guides were hot to point out that such normally forgotten-about places as the entire surround of the instrument panel, the horn pad and the door panels – all the way to the floor – have been leather-bound.

The in-cabin technology seems impressive, as well, with Cadillac's CUE system running the show, a malleable digital instrument panel informing the driver of near-countless datum and a 10-speaker Bose system with noise cancellation (in an electric car!) providing the soundtrack. ELR even boasts an industry-first (as far as we know) "power-assisted" sliding cupholder cover... we kid you not.

In terms of performance, the front-wheel-drive ELR is likely to be a bit subtler in its entertainment value than rear-drive fun machines like the Cadillac ATS and V Series vehicles. Total system output maxes at 207 horsepower (154 kW) and 295 pound-feet of peak torque, which should offer adequate, if not stirring, get-up-and-go for the 4,070-pound coupe. Cadillac is claiming a much more enthusiastic driving character for the ELR, still, based a lot on a stiffer body structure, and an available sport program that alters throttle response, steering effort and damper settings. The ELR also has a "Regen on Demand" feature where, by using steering-wheel mounted paddles, the driver can temporarily increase the regenerative braking level to mimic the effect of a downshift – as if the ELR had a traditional transmission. Of course, the ELR is anything but traditional.

The lithium-ion battery pack is refined (read: a bit lighter) versus the Volt's unit, though basically the same, and the ELR has the same 1.4-liter gasoline engine for use as a range-extender, as well. Total electric-only range for the car is estimated at 35 miles (the Volt gets 37); recharging takes about 12 hours on a 120v charger, and about 4.5 hours on a 240v charging station.

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