While the 2014 C7 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray understandably was a huge hit at January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., parent company General Motors unveiled another star car: the 2014 Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid.
The quick-and-dirty description of the ELR is that it's Cadillac's version of the Chevrolet Volt, a fancier example of GM's advanced electric technology. But make no mistake about it, this isn't a case of the company trying to put Cadillac lipstick on a Chevrolet. Far from it, in fact.
While under the skin, there's a lot of commonality between the ELR and the Volt, they are wholly different products geared to very different audiences.
Although Cadillac has not officially announced what the price of the ELR will be when it goes on sale late this year, the buzz in the automotive trades is that it will be priced somewhere between $55,000-$70,000.
The ELR clearly goes way beyond simply providing an electric platform and competent transportation, which are the Volt's two main claims to fame.
No, the ELR was designed to be a "halo" car - a superstar - that show's Cadillac's design and technology capabilities.
"I believe it's a landmark in Cadillac's history," said Bob Ferguson, Cadillac's global vice president, when the ELR was introduced at the Detroit show.
"It sits at the intersection of beautify and design and the best of engineered. It's a special car that exemplifies Cadillac's greatest achievements through history."
Bold words, perhaps, but not unrealistic ones.
The highly influential Wired.com called the ELR, "the most compelling car to roll out of Caddy in a generation," adding, "It brings sexy sophistication and a dash of luxury to the extended-range EV segment."
The ELR even captured the coveted "Eyes On Design" award for the best new production car at Detroit, defeating the new Corvette in the process.
The judges for that award are active and retired design heads of auto companies, transportation design chairs from top art schools, and designers from other fields. In other words, it's a big deal to win.
So what's so great about the ELR? In a word, style.
The Volt had to accommodate four people in reasonable comfort and fit strict price constraints, neither of which was much of a factor in the ELR.
Cadillac's design team began with the Converj Concept, which was the star of the 2009 Detroit show, and built a production car that closely resembled the original concept. Much of the dramatic angularity of the Converj was maintained in the ELR and it shows in the sexy and sleek design.
More importantly, perhaps, GM seems to have finally gotten the message that the interior is the last place you want to cut corners and not the first.
On the inside, there are two available interior trims, including an optional Opus semi-aniline leather seating package. Real wood trim is prominently featured, along with optional carbon fiber. For tech buffs, there are "eight-inch configurable instrument and driver information displays, offering four configurations ranging from elegantly simple to technologically detailed information," according to Cadillac.
Regardless of the bells and whistles, this interior is one of the nicest ever offered in any GM product.
Under the skin, the ELR is powered by 154-horse electric motor, which also puts out 295-pound-feet of torque, right from a standstill. That's up from the Volt's 149/273 numbers. The ELR is expected to accelerate to 60 mph from zero in about 8.0 seconds, which is a full second quicker than the Volt.
The ELR has a range on electric-only power of about 35 miles, down from 38 for the Volt and has a range of more than 300 miles when the gasoline 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine cuts in to act as an electric generator.
When you're done for they day, just plug it in at home for the night and repeat. A full recharge of the ELR's battery takes about 4.5 hours, depending on ambient temperature.
The ELR will produced in limited quantities and be exported to key markets, including Europe and China.
At first blush, it certainly looks like a home run for Cadillac, showing that one way to sell new technology is to wrap it with a beautiful piece of sculpture.
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