Cadillac’s First Electric Car

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2014 Cadillac ELR.

2014 Cadillac ELR.

It looks a lot like a concept car you’d see on the stand at an auto show. The sleek Cadillac coupe was indeed a concept a few years ago called the Converj, but its production name is ELR. A clever variation on Caddy’s current three-letter naming scheme, with EL also being the first two letters of “electric.”

Yes, this rakish two-door with the low roofline is a plug-in electric vehicle, able to go about 35 miles on a fully charged battery. But you won’t be stranded after that, as there’s a gasoline engine under the hood to further power the electric motors and allow you to essentially drive anywhere.

If this power arrangement sounds familiar, it should. The Chevrolet Volt pioneered it a few years ago, and with a few tweaks here and there, the ELR operates the same way. General Motors spent millions developing the plug-in-but-also-gas-powered platform, so it makes sense that they spread it around a little.

The Cadillac ELR has actually been touring the auto show circuit for the past few years, with the original Converj morphing through some subtle changes before the final design of the production car was locked in.

To separate the ELR from the more pedestrian Chevy Volt, lots of content was crammed inside its gorgeous interior. Cadillac is marketing the vehicle as more of a sports car, hence the reduced practicality of two doors instead of four and losing the Volt’s hatchback layout. There are two rear seats and a surprisingly large trunk, but those rear seat occupants will have to do a bit of contorting to climb in and out.

And there’s one other thing that separates the two mechanically similar General Motors plug-in vehicles: price. While the Volt now has a base sticker price of under $35,000 before incentives, the ELR starts at a rather lofty $75,995. Yes, it’s more than double the price of its less prestigious and less luxurious sibling.

To be fair, the Cadillac is a premium car, brimming with all kinds of things that are either optional or unavailable on the Volt. The show car style 20” wheels and tires alone would end up being about a $3,000 option on the Volt, if they’d even fit inside its smaller wheel wells.

There were some jaws that dropped on industry watchers when Cadillac did reveal ELR pricing a few months ago, with many early guesses pegging the car’s sticker at closer to $60,000. But if you look at the history of GM sharing platforms, keep in mind that the Escalade SUV was (and still is) priced a whole lot higher than the Chevy Tahoe on which it’s based, and GM sells tons of them.

And keep this in mind. The all-electric Tesla Model S is priced in the $70,000 to $110,000 range, and there’s still a two to three month waiting list to get one, according to the folks at Edmunds.com. With so many upscale buyers desiring a car that can be driven without gasoline, General Motors must be wanting in on the action that Tesla is seeing.

And just like the Volt and other vehicles that travel on battery power, there’s a $7,500 federal tax credit (plus state and some local incentives) which instantly knocks the price down. Furthermore, the ELR qualifies for those special stickers from the California DMV that allow you to drive solo in the carpool lane.

The other selling point to the ELR is that it’s a gorgeous sporty car that performs like a gorgeous sporty car. Stab the accelerator pedal from a stop and the electric motor’s torque will press you back into the driver’s seat, but without the noise you normally get from a car engine. There are selectable driving modes, including one that will let you use just the gas generator to save your battery power for low-speed city street operation. When it is time to charge up the ELR’s battery pack, connection to a 240 volt (Level II in electric car speak) charging cord for about four hours will top it up.

Times have certainly changed, for sure. It wasn’t all that long ago that Cadillacs weren’t known for conserving fuel, though that’s changing across their line. And their newest car can get around for short trips without using any at all.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz

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