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Cadillac Introduces the Son of Volt

February 28, 2013

Introduced : 2014 Cadillac ELR

What is it? The next chapter in the industry’s quest to prove the value and viability of electrified cars. The ELR is a plug-in hybrid luxury coupe based on the Chevrolet Volt.

Is it real? Yes, but patience is required. The concept that spawned the ELR, the Cadillac Converj, was shown in Detroit four long years ago. And the production version will not arrive until January 2014.

What they said: The scrutinized, oft-criticized Volt has fallen shy of initial sales projections. But Robert E. Ferguson, Cadillac global vice president, said that luxury buyers were more likely to pay a premium for a stylish, deluxe plug-in hybrid. “There is high enthusiasm for this car, and all the data tells us that,” Mr. Ferguson said. “It shows acceptance is growing.”

What they didn’t say: Cadillac wants to build an air of exclusivity around the ELR by building a limited number of units. But it’s hard to avoid suspicion that this strategy is about having a built-in excuse if customers do not materialize — blame the supply, not slack demand.

What makes it tick? The ELR wraps a sleek two-plus-two coupe body around the Volt’s 16.5-kilowatt-hour battery, a 1.4-liter, 84-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine and an electric drive unit that produces roughly 160 to 180 horsepower and 295-pound feet of torque — a bit more than the Volt’s 149 horses and 273 pound-feet. The ELR trades a bit of range for speed and sportiness, traveling an estimated 35 miles on electricity before its range-extending engine kicks in. There is also sportier suspension tuning, 20-inch wheels and steering-wheel shift paddles to activate regenerative braking; that boosts the battery and mimics the feeling of shifting into a lower gear.

How much, how soon? The ELR goes on sale this time next year. Its junior partner, the Volt, starts around $40,000, with a federal tax credit knocking off $7,500. General Motors has not released ELR pricing, but Mr. Ferguson pointed to the neighborhood of a Cadillac CTS-V, so figure roughly $60,000.

How’s it look? The ELR’s interior is the new template for coming Cadillacs, including a redesigned CTS, and it’s the most luxurious cabin in Caddy history. The ELR is muscular and handsome, like a front-wheel-drive, cab-forward take on its CTS coupe.

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