Google+

BBC Autos

Cadillac luxury, recharged

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.

HIDE CAPTION

The Cadillac ELR may prove to be a high-water mark for plug-in hybrids, or another false start.

When the Chevrolet Volt, the ELR’s commoner cousin at General Motors, began a staggered sales roll-out across the United States in 2010, demand was so fierce that some dealers charged thousands of dollars over the car’s suggested $41,000 price.

Fast forward to summer 2012, when the average price for gasoline in the US was lower than it was in 2010, and those same dealers were offering rebates to clear languishing Volts from their lots.

Early Volt adopters purchased a technological marvel that looked little better than a pre-bankruptcy GM economy car. But those who awaited a reconciliation between high style and high technology have now been rewarded with what could be the hybrid of their dreams.

The ELR begins with the powertrain principle of the Chevrolet Volt. A 16.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack gives the dashing wedge of Michigan machinery enough power to travel 35 miles on electricity alone. When the batteries are depleted, a 1.4-litre gasoline motor kicks in to recharge them, buying the driver an additional 300 miles of travel.

To this, Cadillac adds a hand-sewn leather interior, chrome brightwork, LEDs and a body seemingly fashioned from stone. The ELR is a looker.

What Cadillac does not add is urgency. During its official introduction at the Detroit auto show on 15 January, Bob Ferguson, Cadillac’s global vice president, said GM would begin producing the ELR for the North American market late this year, with a targeted sale window of early 2014. European admirers must wait even longer, perhaps more than a year after US sales begin, much as they did for the Vauxhall-Opel Ampera, the European equivalent of the Volt.

Given the ELR is based on a four-year-old concept vehicle called the Converj, the delay is as surprising as it is disheartening.

Another red flag is the ELR’s as yet unknown price. A premium of $20,000 over the Volt would not be unexpected, given the Cadillac’s superior breeding. Even for plug-in converts, that may prove too dear a tithe to extract – regardless of what gas stations may be extracting from us in a year’s time.

Until then the ELR remains a glinting bauble of virtue, waiting for its moment to be loved or spurned.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.