Cadillac ELR Presents Mixed Messages

Pending a January 2014 launch, Cadillac’s Volt-based ELR was shown to the media this week, and its spec sheet reveals modest performance and superlative luxury for the Tesla-priced car.

Not unlike the now-extinct Fisker Karma, the ELR offers mixed messages in that to most observers, it looks super cool, but its 0-60 mph time is best with the gas generator running – 7.8 seconds, according to GM.

In EV-only mode, the extended-range electric car is said to muster 8.8 seconds, around the same as the Volt from which its powertrain is borrowed, but which Cadillac’s marketers have resisted mentioning as they seek a unique brand identity for the tech halo.

GM has gone so far as to say it is not a “Voltec” in some interviews, while at other times letting the V word slip, but the car is pretty unique, competing also with German automakers which – except now for Porsche – don’t have anything quite like the plug-in Caddy.

And, to GM’s credit, the ELR’s stylists were not ordered to deviate far from the lines of the head-turning 2009 Converj concept, upon which its exterior and interior design is based.

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Undoubtedly it is distinct from the Fisker Karma also in that it will have benefitted from GM’s extensive engineering capabilities and will receive white glove customer service.

Like a Fisker however, its back seat, albeit beautifully appointed with rich materials, is an afterthought space-wise, and best suited for smaller statured folks, or children.

But while alternative energy car fans are ripping it apart for being slow and priced like a Tesla Model S at $75,995, GM probably is not sweating it and says it intends to sell perhaps 3,000 units in North America per annum.

That is perhaps one-seventh of the Volt’s volume, itself not a source of bread and butter for the global automaker.

“It’s really meant to be a design and technology statement for the brand,” said Pam Fletcher, executive chief engineer for GM’s electrified vehicles.

And, according to Automotive News, the car does offer value and “puts to rest the notion that the coupe is a tarted up Volt” with superb luxury and a better driving experience.

But for car people who care, other notable metrics are it weighs 4,050 pounds, compared to the Volt at 3,785, it’s 9-inches longer at 186 inches, 2-inches wider at 72.7-inches across.

Oh, and its mileage is 33 mpg on premium gas versus 37 for the Volt, and MPGe is estimated at 82 versus the Volt’s 98. Top speed is increased also to 106 mph over 100.

Fisker Karma.

Fisker Karma.

People will say what they will, but coming back to comparisons with the Fisker Karma – its looks – perceptibly sleek to many, if not all – may help.

When we had the Karma for a week, it was not quite like the paparazzi were after us, but it was like living in a rarified air in a world where people do judge things (and people) by their looks.

Profiling in the Karma, we were approached by people to the point that we once drew a crowd, had hipsters on single-speed bikes stop, turn around and come back to gawk and query; we were also tracked down in a dark parking lot by a female car fan who stopped her Audi jumped out to ask 20 questions, talk shop, and snap pictures on her iPhone.

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The point? Looks go a long way at this level; if it looks fast and sleek, that is more than half the game for some people, especially in a country with modest speed limits, and where actually testing super performance can get you some paired chrome bracelets and a free ride in a police car.

And whether the ELR can muster as much cachet does remain to be seen, given the Karma was not quite like anything else. The Karma was flawed but its design was an undiluted expression from one who’d penned two James Bond cars. Many agree the Caddy is pretty, but it shares family elements and eventually the wow-factor wears off even the most chic designs.

If you pass on the ELR, you won’t be the only one. For folks looking for a neat looking electric car that is not all show and no go, there is the Tesla Model S.

Tesla is in business to make its car the first of a new line of performance sedans and it does want to sell as many as it can build.

It’s been selling as many units as the Volt month after month though it costs twice as much, but don’t make the mistake of thinking GM is fretting overly much.

GM has said its sales expectations are exceedingly low, so the ELR is what it is, like it or not.