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The 2014 Cadillac ELR brings Chevy Volt efficiency to a sleek luxury coupe

We knew that it was coming well in advance due to hints and teasers from the automaker but yesterday at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, General Motors unveiled the new 2014 Cadillac ELR – a high end luxury coupe packing the super efficient electric drivetrain of the Chevrolet Volt and when it hits showrooms, it will be the most efficient luxury car available in the United States.

The 2014 Cadillac ELR extended range electric vehicle (EREV) is based closely on the popular Chevrolet Volt both in terms of the drivetrain and the basic chassis architecture but you wouldn’t think that for one second in looking at it as the ELR is a far cry from being a “rebadged Volt”. There had long been talk of a Volt-based Cadillac with many voicing their concerns about the pitfalls of building a Volt rebadged as a Cadillac but with the debut of the ELR – those concerns are put to rest. Most obviously, where the Volt is a 4-door hatchback, the Caddy ELR is a 2-door coupe with a conventional trunk design and that transformation coupled with the heavy dose of distinctive Cadillac design allows the ELR to look absolutely nothing like the Volt. Instead, the ELR looks nearly identical to the 2009 Cadillac Converj Concept on which it is based.

“ELR is an unprecedented combination of luxury, advanced engineering and progressive design in a coupe that is both sporty and environmentally friendly,” said Bob Ferguson, Cadillac global vice president. “This is a pivotal moment in Cadillac’s history, as we continue our product-driven expansion.”

Across the front end, the Cadillac ELR has a similar big, bold grille to what we see on the rest of the Cadillac lineup but unlike the traditional gas-powered Caddys, the ELR grille is filled nearly solid in a similar fashion to the Volt and the Chevy Spark EV. However, the ELR uses a smooth, flashy design where the Spark and Volt use filler panels that are stamped with designs to provide a sportier look. On the outer edges of the lower front fascia are a set of LED driving lights with more LEDs at work in the headlights – both in the actual headlights as well as the sexy LED trim. These headlights closely follow the “up and over” design featured on the rest of the Cadillac lineup as opposed to the Volt headlights that start near the grille and wrap around the front end. This bold Cadillac front end is topped off with a hood that also has a very big, bold feel to it with sharp lines extending from the grille, through the hood to the steeply sloping windshield. This creates a low roofline which quickly heads back down to the trunk lid in a sleek fastback design that both looks great and offers incredible aerodynamic properties to help improve the efficiency of the ELR.

Along the side, the 2014 Cadillac ELR really separates itself from the Chevy Volt with the removal of the rear doors and the growth of the front doors but the side glass also plays a big role in giving the ELR a spirit of its own. Surround by chrome trim, the ELR windows come to sharp points in the front and rear to give the car an even sleeker look while a set of massive, lightweight 20 inch wheels that are designed with aerodynamics in mind are wrapped in low rolling resistance tires to add more luxury feel to the compact EV without negatively impacting the efficiency. The sides also feature very unique door handles that are mounted inside of the trailing edge of the doors with a pocket of sorts indented into the rear quarter panel to provide access to the push-button door system.

Out back, the Cadillac ELR wears a set of LED taillights that stretch up over the top of the quarter panels for a very classy look that helps the electric Caddy fit in nicely with the rest of the brand. The most prominent feature of the back end shy of the bright LD taillights is the huge rear window that is nearly flat as it runs from the roof to the trunk to create a truly slippery form. The only thing breaking up the smooth flow of the roofline to the rear of the ELR is a mild molded spoiler that has a huge integrated LED light bar that nearly runs from side to side.

The biggest beauty of the 2014 Cadillac ELR is that General Motors has designed an extended range electric vehicle that doesn’t look like an EV. GM could have just as easily put a “normal” gasoline drivetrain such as the current 3.6L V6 and marketed the ELR is a new compact Caddy coupe but the fact that this is a vehicle that offers the greatest range of any electric luxury model in the US, the ELR is a truly unique piece of luxury machinery. This is a luxury electric vehicle – not an electric vehicle with luxury appointments – and most importantly there is absolutely no chance of anyone accusing GM of simply rebadging a Volt as a Cadillac and slapping it with a big price tag.

“The ELR represents a new dimension of Art & Science, the guiding philosophy of Cadillac,” said Mark Adams, Cadillac design director. “Cadillac’s DNA is innovation, with dramatic and provocative design. ELR delivers this in a luxury coupe that stands alone among major luxury brands globally.”

Inside, the 2014 Cadillac ELR offers a 2+2 seating design that features plush, high end sewn leather with more leather joined by sueded microfibers on the dash and door panels. A touch of chrome here and there coupled with a heavy dose of carbon fiber gives the ELR a sporty yet luxurious look while the Cadillac Cue system featuring a massive touchscreen, a leather wrapped steering wheel with infotainment controls, a standard Bose sound system and power everything completes the interior of this luxurious electric vehicle.

Finally, the key component of the 2014 Cadillac ELR is the Voltec drivetrain that also powers the Chevrolet Volt but the electric drive motor and 1.4L gasoline range extending engine have been tuned specially for the driving dynamics of the ELR. This system delivers 207 combined horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque with that torque figure representing a 12% increase over the output of the aforementioned 3.6L V6 at work in so many other Cadillac models. Best of all, that torque is available from a stop since electric drivetrains deliver instant torque so the acceleration properties of the ELR should make this one fun little EV to drive. More importantly, the ELR will allow drivers a range of roughly 35 miles of 100% emission free electric driving while the range extending gasoline engine brings the total range of the ELR to 300 miles. That is a slight drop in EV mileage from the 38 offered by the Volt while 300 miles of total driving distance with a full tank of fuel being used is a fairly substantial drop from the 380 offered by the Volt but in terms of the luxury market – there is simply nothing that will compete with the efficiency of the new ELR.

The 2014 Cadillac ELR is expected to begin production later this year with the luxury EV hitting the dealership order banks sometime in 2014 in the United States while China and various European markets will receive the ELR shortly after the American deliveries begin.