Cadillac's Volt Will Be a Sexy Coupe, the ELR

By · August 18, 2011

Cadillac ELR

The Cadillac ELR is based on a 2009 show car everybody loved. But will it be a showroom magnet? (Cadillac photo)

So it’s official, the snazzy-looking Cadillac Converj that General Motors first showed at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show is going into production as the ELR, the first spin-off of the Chevrolet Volt. It’s an interesting choice, since GM also showed off a crossover version of the Volt called the MPV5 that would have the plug-in hybrid utility market to itself.

As a luxury-oriented green car (costing maybe $50,000 or more) the ELR will be up against not only the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid that’s reaching dealers now but also the battery-powered Tesla Model S, which it will resemble in attitude and style.

One clue here is a new study by the respected CNW marketing firm that notes fewer people saying they were “very likely” to buy a Volt than affirmed that in March. Back then, 21 percent of early adopters said they were in that category, but in July “very likely” slipped to 14.6 percent. Just “likely” dropped from 38.1 percent to 31.1. Not a huge drop, but worrying anyway. You could read the ELR as an attempt to rekindle the excitement by rolling out a new model, but it seems a bit early for that—the Volt itself is barely out!

Maybe GM will build the MPV5, too, but for now it’s the Caddy that’s headed for production. Details are scant, but it may not reach the market until 2015 or later. And there are likely to be a whole lot of changes from the fanciful show car—which everybody loved. Cadillac marketing’s Don Butler promised “the combination of electric propulsion with striking design and the fun of luxury coupe driving.” It’s telling that they’re calling the car a “2+2,” which means the rear accommodations are going to be compromised—and how could they be otherwise with that sexy roofline?

But if GM is going to produce a less-useful Volt and try to charge more money for it, then it will need a lot of upgrades. The likely solution is to load the ELR up with luxury features (which is tough, because the Volt is already pretty loaded). The show version of the Caddy had a bunch of these, including an adaptive magnetic suspension (for better handling), 21-inch wheels and a rear-view camera. The interior boasted wool floor mats (a Rolls-Royce feature), post-industrial suede seats and a silk headliner. My guess is that the stereo is going to be bitchin'.

As the Car Connection noted, “It’s likely that the Cadillac ELR will have stronger acceleration to suit the Cadillac image, plus an exclusive interior and exterior. One concern, however, would be that the Cadillac’s extra weight and luxury features would cut electric range.” So a beefier electric motor and a larger battery pack may be indicated. Another option is using more of the existing pack, since the Volt accesses only 10.4 kilowatt-hours of the 16-kwH pack.

Nearly all the green cars are going to have families. GM also showed a crossover concept based on the Volt, and that could still see production. Toyota is bringing the extended Prius V to showrooms this fall. And Honda’s Fit is being enhanced with a similar wagon variant called the Shuttle. The latter isn’t yet scheduled for the U.S., but I’m saying here its coming (maybe to be produced in the new $800 million factory that Honda is building for subcompacts in Mexico).

The plug-in hybrid field is also getting crowded, because Fisker has already delivered the first Karma (to Leonardo DiCaprio, no less), and the plug-in Prius is coming early next year. I love the concept, because you get 13 (Prius) to 50 miles (Karma) of all-electric travel, then can go another 300 miles or so on the gas engine. What’s not to like?

GM didn’t say when the Cadillac ELR would roll out, nor did they offer pricing details or what’s likely to be under the hood. And the company didn’t respond to my requests for more details. I wanted to know if the package will include the larger battery and/or motor, and how much the styling will change. Right now, the company just wants you to look at that two-year-old show car, and drool.

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